Thursday, July 30, 2009

The F-Word

If you like my Word of the Week column, you just might enjoy a new feature called F-Word Of The Day (FWOTD). 

Author Jesse Sheidlower's new book, The F-word, explores the word's history (a long and sordid affair, I imagine) and gives lots of examples. In anticipation of the book's publication in early September, Sheidlower will highlight a different F-word every day: Today's entry is, well, it's an adjective defined as "lacking in sexual activity." (Think, feckless, but different.)

Have F-fun!

(F-word T-shirt is available here.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Largess vs. Largesse

I hope you all had a good week. My week of vacation was spent by the beach and with rainy days filled with reading. 

It's always a pleasure to read, even when it's just a so-so novel. My beach-reading novel this year was The Spanish Bow, by Andromeda Romano-Lax, about a Spanish cellist who meets nearly every European luminary in the first half of the 20th century. The cello is my favorite instrument, though I can't say the unlikely events in the novel make this book my favorite novel. 

I was impressed, however, by the fine copyediting throughout the book. Try as I might, I just can't turn off my copyediting mind even when reading a novel for pleasure. I didn't spot a single copyediting mistake in the entire book--unlike the numerous mistakes I noted in Diane Athill's latest memoir, Somewhere Towards the End. The only questionable spelling was "largess," as in generosity. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary prefers "largesse," but lists "largess" as an alternate spelling. It's not wrong without the ending "e," it just caught my attention. 

How's your summer reading going? Do you have any recommendations or any copyediting tidbits? Leave a comment below.

Above illustration courtesy (click on the link for a definition of largess and an explanation of the illustration and pun).

Friday, July 17, 2009

On Vacation

We're off to the beach for a week! And it's Argos's 11th birthday.

Happy Birthday Argos!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hyphen Trouble

From the Chicago Manual of Style Online: 

Q. I was not able to find this in CMOS anywhere: how do you hyphenate a word that has both a prefix and a suffix? For example, should “seminationwide” have any hyphens?

A. In Chicago style, it would not have hyphens. I should point out, however, that such a word might invite further editorial scrutiny.

(Comic copyright

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Washington Post Regrets

Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander wrote a sobering article in the Sunday edition on increased errors--all due to fewer copy editors. 

In "Fewer Copy Editors, More Errors," Alexander lists a number of recent slips that would make any copy editor's hair stand on end. To wit: "Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter was described as a 'ferocious' (instead of voracious) reader." 

As Alexander points out, "Copy editors are the unsung heroes of newsrooms. Unknown to the public, and often underappreciated by their colleagues, they're the last line of defense against a correction or, worse, a libel suit." That hasn't stopped the suits from slashing copy editors from the staff; roughly half the copy editor positions at the Post have been eliminated since 2005. Bill Walsh, copy desk chief at the Post, says "By definition, you'll see more errors when there's reduced staffing."

Not surprisingly, readers are noticing, and writing in. And the paper's long-standing credibility is quickly crumbling. Ombudsman Alexander encourages readers to write in, but in the face of a major restructuring of copy desks at the paper this week that centralizes the work for print, online, and mobile audiences, he asks for patience and understanding.

Once you give up hope for credibility, patience and understanding are sure to run out as well. 

(Purchase Craig Silverman's Regret the Error at