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How we talk here

Different places have different levels of decorum: We don’t behave at church or synagogue or mosque as we would in the ballpark, and the way we talk to friends in a bar is not the way we would talk to our grandparents (well, probably not). My late brush with Farkers suggests that it would be good to point out what the decorum is here.*

Comments at You Don’t Say are subject to approval — my approval — and while a wide range of opinions and forms of expression is permitted, there are limits.

1. Corrections of point of fact, of errors in grammar and usage, and of typos and other slips are welcome and appreciated. They relieve me of the burden of omnipotence.

2. You can speak freely in criticism of my views, my syntax, my diction, my wardrobe or just about anything you like, but childish name-calling and ad hominem abuse are tiresome and pointless; the latter will not be published.

3. You may criticize the opinions of other commenters, but mere abuse directed at them will not be published.

4. Defamatory and potentially libelous statements will not be published.

5. While this blog is somewhat looser and more indulgent than the print edition, vulgar, tasteless and offensive language is unlikely to be published.

This blog is intended for a grown-up audience. While we may sometimes grow sharp, we generally manage to remain civil. If civility bores you, strikes you as stuffy and archaic, then you are welcome to avail yourself of the many other venues the Internet affords for uncivil outbursts.


*Elizabeth Large has also found it necessary to establish ground rules for commenters at her blog on dining.



Posted by John McIntyre at 12:48 PM | | Comments (7)


but childish name-calling and ad hominem abuse are tiresome and pointless; the latter will not be published.

What's the cut-off point for allowable childish name-calling? 12 years old? When does it morph into ad hominem, which is a French word for adult name calling.

JEM: A subtle point, since so many continue childishness into adulthood. Perhaps more of a continuum than defined stages.

Perhaps Stephen Jones is just pulling our legs, but the term ad hominem is of course Latin for "to the man" — or "to the person" in contemporary stylings.

A case of ad hom, properly speaking, is not just a euphemism for name-calling, but a form of fallacious argument, and it qualifies as that only when the ad hominator invokes a mark of the ad hominee that is irrelevant to the point in question.

There are enough borderline cases to split the ends of whatever hair we have left.

For example, if a person is known to be a constant liar, does it constitute an ad hom of the fallacious kind to mention that fact in the course of disputing that person's claims?

It's ad hom to say "This argument is wrong because you're a proven liar"; it's not to say "This argument is wrong, and you're a proven liar." The latter is insulting and possibly childish name-calling, but it's not ad hominem.

Now that I've had comments published, then censored down the Memory Hole, at the following venues:

The Guardian

Yahoo! Answers

iMediaConnection is refreshing to see an Internet post-and-response forum with a leader intelligent enough to outline a set of playing field rules. I only wish the Guardian, Yahoo, and that ridiculous PR rag that I can't even bring myself to name again, were so enlightened.

Let me say that when I visit Wordville, I feel like I should be dressed, if not in a coat and tie, at least in long pants and wearing shoes and socks.

This is a civilized blog and while about 75% of the posts and resulting comments go right over my head, I feel smarter just having been in the same blog with them.

Stand your ground, Prof. McIntyre.

Aw, Bucky, you're just being humble. (But you don't blog wearing shorts--do you? )

McIntyre who?

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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