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Some assembly required

Checking out these links may be worth your while.

From Britain, Nick Cohen’s “Love me, love my sub,” on the importance of copy editors, known in Britain as sub-editors or subs.

Tom Scott’s “Journalism Warning Labels”: If you’re in the paragraph game, or a reasonably astute reader, you can already tell when a story has been transcribed from a press release, or cribbed from Wikipedia, or any of the other dodges that lazy journalists practice. If newspapers, magazines, and the Internet had truth-in-packaging requirements ...

Doug Fisher, who finds, like most journalism professors, that he has to teach writers how to edit their own work, since precious few of them will ever have the experience of working with an honest-to-God editor, writes in “Missing in plain sight” about some of the obvious omissions that writers overlook in their own work.

Professor Pullum carries on—you know how he gets—at Language Log about yet another eejit who thinks that the passive voice includes active-voice auxiliary verbs with participles. Teach your children to stay away from drugs and people who go on about avoiding the passive voice.

On Twitter @dsorbara asked, “Has anyone written against the use of "sleepy" in article to define a location? I'm thinking about going on a crusade at work.”

I advised him that it’s a good idea to excise sleepy, gritty, and hardscrabble, among the more notable condescending adjectives that writers use for exotic places like small towns and poor neighborhoods. And I’ve carried on some about stately homes and leafy suburbs in stories about places where reporters would live if they had been smart enough to go into a trade that pays better than journalism. Shall we catalogue both the snotty and the servile adjectives for the benefit of the writer who would prefer not to look like a prat?



Posted by John McIntyre at 1:55 PM | | Comments (6)


Crime is all the more shocking when it happens on a "quiet street of well-kept homes."

I'm reminded of Linda Ellerbee's ironic reference to "plucky little Belize" in her first memoir.

In the local press, print and television, when a crime is committed in a dreadful neighborhood where crimes are common, no one points out how terrible those neighborhoods can be. Why, then, the snide references to "leafy suburbs?" Is there something incorrect about pleasant places to live, whether city or suburb? I think this is just the usual class nonsense, so beloved of too many reporters.

"manicured lawns"

Oops. The trailing 4 snuck out of your link to Professor Pullum's passive post.

Ah. I wondered how we wound up in Equatorial Guinea.

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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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