Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Things to remember as you ring in the new year:

* Watch all those references to "this year" (in addition to "this month") in copy. They'll have to be changed to "last year" or "in 2003."

* 2004 is a leap year, so make sure to factor that in when reporters are counting days. So, as of Jan. 1, there will still be 365 days to break your resolutions.

* And, for good measure, the lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne," with some definitions to make sense of it all.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine
Who knew that was about plucking daisies from the hilltops? Better yet, "Auld lang syne" roughly translates to "Times gone by." (Why don't I know more Scottish song that are good to drink to? Any suggestions?)

Happy New Year's!

Monday, December 29, 2003

A German newspaper publishes only good news for a day.


Sunday, December 28, 2003

Editor & Publisher has a year in review: 2003's most significant press issues.

Even better? takes E&P to task for some truly terrible puns in the article: Embed, Baath and Beyond. Blair Watch. FCC You Later. Lynching Party.
Let's see if I can develop some catchy media puns in response to this Editor & Publisher's "2003 in review" list... Hmmmm. Hey, how about, "Everyone at Editor & Publisher should be shot in the face for editing and publishing this"?

Crap! Failure! I guess making a long list of horrid puns is harder than it looks.
So here's another reason to avoid bad puns when writing headlines: Smart people will hate you and may even plot your murder. (Or would that be justifiable homicide?)

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Finally: More people have now found my blog looking for "stockdale" (25) than they have looking for "shriver" (24). Maria may be disappointed, but I'm thrilled.

Punctuation: It's a craze that's sweeping the nation.

That nation is England, but the phenomenon is no less interesting for Americans, especially since publishers of the new book "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" are pushing for a similar trend in the United States.

At the top of England's best-seller lists, this punctuation guide by Lynne Truss has mysteriously captured a cross-over audience no one expected. Hundreds of thousands of people are snatching it up. Could the book do the same in the United States? Will it? Penguin has bought the rights for a U.S. release next year.

I'll buy it, but I suppose that's a given with quotes like this:
No matter that you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice. If you still persist in writing, "Good food at it’s best," you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave.
About the title: It's from a joke about a panda who walks into a bar, fires a gun and walks toward the door. When the waiter asks what he thinks he's doing, the panda throws him a poorly punctated wildlife book: "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves." Right up my alley (See Santa joke below).

Find a column by the author here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Army plans to start capitalizing "soldier" every time it appears in text, including in base newspapers. The Army chief of staff has decreed it. Officials also contacted AP and dictionaries to ask them to follow suit.
“I don’t see how he could do that,” said Jim Lowe, an editor at Merriam-Webster in Springfield, Mass. “The word (soldier) is already established in the language. It’s a generic word.

“He can capitalize it if he wants to give it emphasis and make it stand out in text. As far as the dictionary is concerned, it’s still a generic word. I don’t think one person’s use of it will change anything in the dictionary.”
Well said.

The Boston Globe gives a tutorial on royal titles. This won't come up for most editors, but it's interesting reading for the dedicated nonetheless.
The men are Sir Mick and Sir Paul and Sir Elton, not because they think it's all a lark (though they may), but because "Sir Firstname" is the proper short form. (Around the table at Camelot, you never heard Sir Lancelot referred to as Sir du Lac.)
And don't even get hard-core British editors started on Princess Di. ...

Monday, December 22, 2003

Holidays are the perfect time to check out the myth- and rumor-debunking Web site

Among the Christmas hoaxes the site puts in their place:
* The Bible says exactly three wise men traveled to visit baby Jesus. (Nope, it doesn't say how many, only that they brought three gifts.)
* The image of Santa as a fluffy, bearded, red-and-white-clad cheerster was invented by Coca Cola. (The image predated the Coca Cola ads by more than 45 years.)
* "Immaculate Conception" refers to the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary, or birth to a woman who has never had sex. (It's actually a Catholic doctrine that says Mary was kept free from original sin, which is the sin you have at conception.)
* Candy canes were created as a symbol of Jesus, in the shape of a J with red streaks to symbolize his blood. (Nope.)
* "Xmas" is a modern abbreviation that is disrespectful for "taking the Christ out of Christmas." (The first letter in the Greek word for Christ is chi, which looks like an X in our alphabet. So, you get Xmas and sometimes even Xian.)
* The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. (There may be more people out, but it certainly isn't when the most money is spent. For the past 10 years, that has always occurred in mid- to late December.)
Fascinating stuff, I think. And I've heard two of these myths purported as fact in the past week alone.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

It's a good time to tell one of my favorite nerd-word jokes:

Q. What does a copy editor call Santa's elves?

A. Subordinate Clauses.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The 2003 version of the AP Stylebook is out. Among the changes: The anti- entry, which was new in 2002, changed back. Is it a mistake?

AP's stylebook editor, Norm Goldstein, says "no."
Bottom line: The 2003 entry on anti- is the one that counts. (We — OK, I — tried to simplify it in the 2002 edition, but some editors found it "more muddled.")

Not to complicate it further, but there'll be some "tweaking" in the 2004 version, too — listing anti-abortion as an exception to Webster's, and deleting anti-Semitic and anti-intellectual from the list, as Webster's has changed!
I think the 2002 change was definitely simplified; I'm not sure how people could argue that it was muddled. However, such words as antiauthoritarianism and even antiterrorism were an eyeful.

So for those of you who never bought a 2002 stylebook, guess you're in luck.