Tuesday, May 03, 2011

This blog is now closed

This blog is now closed, and I've begun moderating comments. Please feel free to email the author at nicole@nicolestockdale.com.

Monday, April 20, 2009

O noes — no O's!

Peeking out of my blogging coffin to share this tidbit with all you overworked copy editors, if schadenfreude's your thing:

The Nationals are making copy-editing (and baseball uniform) news with their latest misstep: Two players were sporting uniforms with the team name spelled "Natinals." (They quickly switched to properly spelled garb, but the damage was done.)

To make matters worse, the spelling gaffe came on the heels of another uniform problem days earlier, when a player wore a jersey with an upside-down N:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two blog posts in one day!

While I'm blogging ... I should also link to another Ask the Editor column I wrote for The Dallas Morning News. This one is about my duties as Sunday opinion editor. And cocktail parties.

My layer of the Onion

An apt description of my editing life can be summed up by this Onion story:

My favorite part: "Experts warn, that if this same, phenomenon, should occur with ellipses… "

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Well, it's not technically blogging ...

But I was asked to write a column for my newspaper's Web site on some copy-editing issues -- when readers complain about errors that aren't. I got to cover some of my favorite topics (including "just deserts" and "the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."

Check it out at The Morning News' Ask the Editor section.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In which I prove I'm not dead by blogging again

Here goes a few belated recaps from the ACES conference sessions. I'll start with Merrill Perlman's great "If I Knew Only" presentation. It was the perfect way to get the conference going, focusing on nuts-and-bolts editing and some bugaboos writers and editors often miss.

Merill had the perfect example about how the placement of "only" can change the meaning of a sentence. Start with "I hit him in the eye yesterday." Add the world only in different places and watch how the emphasis changes:
Only I hit him in the eye yesterday. (No one else hit him.)
I only hit him in the eye yesterday. (I also considered slapping and poking.)
I hit only him in the eye yesterday. (I could have hit plenty of others.)
I hit him only in the eye yesterday. (Not in the nose or the mouth.)
I hit him in the eye only yesterday. (Ah, what a day that was.)
I hit him in the eye yesterday only. (Had it been two days in a row, then you could be mad.)

One thing I love about Merrill's explanations is that she's not afraid to explain rules in terms we can all understand. We don't need to spout off about "pronoun-antecedent agreement errors" in order to know that a company shares its (not their) earnings report.

Bottom line: She won't make you feel like an idiot for using tricks to remember.

Some of the other staples she covered:
  • That vs. which
  • Who vs. whom: "If you can switch the sentence around and replace "who" with "he," the "who" is correct. If "him" fits, you want "whom." For example: "Bob, whom they described as snarky..." would switch to "They described him as snarky." "Whom" is right." Another example: "Bob, who they said was snarky..." would switch to "They said he was snarky." "Who" is right.
  • Due to vs. because of: A "due to" must point to a noun, not a long noun phrase or ve. For example: "Due to snow, school was cancelled." What is due to the snow? Your answer must be a noun: A cancellation, not a cancelled. So "due to" is wrong in that instance.
  • Danglers: You don't want to mislead the reader for even a nanosecond. So even if readers could eventually figure out what the writer meant, that's no reason to lead them down the wrong path. For example: "Fat and sassy, Marlon Brando loves his corgi." Who is fat and sassy -- Brando or his dog? Don't make the reader guess. Another example: "Jennifer said that after picking Brad up for the concert, they went out for ice cream." Who picked Brad up? It wasn't "they." A third example: "The party was called off after running out of food." Who ran out of food? There's no noun here to tell.
  • Ellipses in quotes: They are dishonest to the reader, Merrill says. She's against these more than most editors, I'd say, but it's hard to go wrong if you follow her rule. Remember, she reminded us, not all quotes are good quotes. You can -- and should -- paraphrase.
That last point, about quotes, is probably the most important in this post. You can let a few fine grammatical points through a story without disturbing much. But mess with quotes -- or make a reader start wondering what you left out and why -- and you're messing with readers' trust.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bienvenidos a Miami

I'm in Florida for the ACES conference. Please take the time to say hi if you're here!

Doug Fisher and I will be presenting a session on "blogging for editors" tomorrow afternoon, and I fully expect someone to take me to task for not having blogged lately. I'll try to make up for that by posting here and at the conference blog (which should get going shortly).

Now off for a beer ...


Thursday, March 22, 2007


A look at some posts today in my other blogging job shows the perils of relying on anonymous sources.

Politico.com broke the news that John Edwards was going to announce that his campaign was on hold because his wife's cancer was back.

Headline: Edwards to suspend campaign.

Then Edwards had his news conference, confirmed the cancer news, and said the campaign wouldn't be affected.

Politico's new headline: Edwards to continue campaign.

At least the hed writers have a sense of humor.

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