- May 2019
If we’re speaking of garden-variety errors, the most common error I’ve observed that manages to get past any number of sets of expert eyes and wind up printed in books is the use of “lead” where “led” is meant—that is, the past tense of the verb “to lead.”
I still firmly believe that copy editors need only enough grammar to get them through the demands of their particular manuscripts; being a grammarian is entirely beside the point. Or to put it another way, grammar is part of what you do as a copy editor, but only a part. That said, it’s fun to know about the subjunctive, so I’ll concede that particular pleasure.
Copyediting vs grammar knowledge. Or, and grammar knowledge.
- Apr 2019
“But beyond the pleasure of Dreyer’s prose and authorial tone, I think there is something else at play with the popularity of his book,” he explained. “To put it as simply as possible, the man cares, and we need people who care right now.”
I believe that the main reason why Benjamin Dreyer's Dreyer's English: an Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style is so well-read, is that he's funny.
The humor is dry as a paper board, for example:
The NSA may be reading your emails and texts, but I’m not. If you prefer “Hi John” to “Hi, John,” you go right ahead.
For the sake of clarity, we use hyphens to helpfully link up a pair or passel of words preceding and modifying a noun, as in: first-rate movie fifth-floor apartment middle-class morality nasty-looking restaurant all-you-can-eat buffet However, convention (a.k.a. tradition, a.k.a. consensus, a.k.a. it’s simply how it’s done, so don’t argue with it) allows for exceptions in some cases in which a misreading is unlikely, as in, say: real estate agent high school students And though you may, now that you’re staring at these constructions, wonder worryingly about the reality of that estate agent or the sobriety of those school students, I’d urge you to stop staring and move on. (Staring at words is always a bad idea. Stare at the word “the” for more than ten seconds and reality begins to recede.)
Another thing, Dreyer is both funny and witty. Here's a bonus example of this:
As a lexicographer friend once confided over sushi, the dictionary takes its cues from use: If writers don’t change things, the dictionary doesn’t change things. If you want your best-seller to be a bestseller, you have to help make that happen. If you want to play videogames rather than video games, go for it. I hope that makes you feel powerful. It should.