This is the song that never ends
Reported to work for my shift as a foreman at the paragraph factory.
Picked up a story that said that “sympathy cards line the mantle.” Changed mantle to mantel, and if you don’t know why I did, you ought to.
Picked up another and almost immediately encountered a reference to a three-story brick row house as a manse. If it doesn’t have Presbyterian clergy living in it, it’s not a manse. Instead we have a pretentious archaic word for “big house.”
And after that another damn false range, accompanied by adjectives as thick as kudzu. I used to say that copy editors, like surgeons, heal with the knife. But sometimes you need a machete.
A reader asks in an e-mail about another hardy perennial, the verb graduate, specifically whether it’s permissible to say that someone graduated college. In the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, graduating was something the college did, not the student. My grandmother was graduated from the Millersburg Female College in Millersburg, Kentucky. In the twentieth century the usage shifted, and by the latter half of the century it was well established that students graduated from a high school, college, or university. The current evolution of the verb, I graduated college, is still considered colloquial, and to some ears may cast doubt on the accuracy of the statement.
But while someone else will surely be dealing with mantel/mantle and manse when I have taken to my rocking chair on the porch at the Old Editors’ Home, I am not entirely discouraged about the rising generation of editors. Sarah Morayati, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has published an essay on the importance of editing. A key sentence: “Editing isn’t suddenly less important when you replace ink with pixels. It’s more important.” I commend her entire article to you. It is clear, well-reasoned, articulate, and persuasive. Someone should be on the alert for her when Chapel Hill graduates her.