The Copyeditor’s Code

Proust MS

Marcel Proust, original ms. “Du côté de chez Swann,” public domain

The Copyediting blog recently posted a graphic based on editor Erin Brenner’s earlier article, “The Typographic Oath” (with a nod to Stan Carey for the borrowed title). The original piece was the final installment in a three-part series. The text, which is laid out on a background of weathered parchment, constitutes the copyeditor’s ten commandments. Brenner notes that she’s riffing on a couple of similar lists as well as feedback sparked by her series, and readily acknowledges that the collection is not complete (“It is a copyeditor’s set of commandments, after all,” she jibes).

Now I realize that her title is offered with tongue planted firmly in cheek; still, I’m a little uncomfortable calling these collective tenets an “oath.” As copyeditors, we’re all about le mot juste, and here’s how M-W 11 defines “oath”:

1 a (1) : a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says (2) : a solemn attestation of the truth or inviolability of one’s words.

Pretty heavy stuff. I prefer the more secular term “code,” which according to Merriam-Webster is “a set of ideas or rules about how to behave”—as in an “ethical code” or the “Digital Warrior-Poet’s Code.” I view it as a kind of philosophical framework that informs my approach to the craft.

So with a tip of the editor’s visor to Ms. Brenner and a frank admission that none of the following is original by any means, I offer you the current manifestation of my Copyeditor’s Code.

  • Do no harm. The copyeditor’s Golden Rule. Minimize your footprint and like a conscientious camper, leave no trace (er, other than those messy Tracked Changes, that is). Apply textual triage first; only resort to major surgery where absolutely necessary to save the patient. You may find it helpful to chant this mantra: “It’s not my book, it’s not my book, it’s not my book…”
  • Seek clarity. This, my friends, is the storyteller’s Holy Grail.
  • Stet! Let it stand. The client wields the veto power and reserves the right to ignore your changes. This is his prerogative, so long as the check’s good. If seeing your lovely work undone causes you grief, see mantra above.
  • Be as a green twig, Grasshopper. Breathe. Stay flexible, nimble, and intellectually open. After all, there’s an outside chance that the client who stetted your well-intended edit just might be right.
  • Be an advocate and an ally. Assure your client that you are partners in the pursuit of excellence. The copyeditor bears the dual responsibility of being the reader’s advocate and the writer’s best friend.
  • Don’t condescend. This is a corollary to the point above. Always be professional and collegial. Treat your client as you would like to be treated: be respectful, be diplomatic, be empathetic. Never chivvy, deride, or browbeat. Do your best to instruct and inspire through the medium of editing. Share the love.
  • Collaborate with your client in the service of the reader. Don’t forget for a New York second that the most important member of the storytelling triumvirate is the reader. After all, where would we be without engaged and delighted readers? A truly great editor is a shapeshifter, capable of projecting himself into the psyche of the reader and kenning exactly what will effect that magical connection we so highly prize.
  • Don’t be a prescriptivist. Rule #1: There are no rules. There are only conventions, shibboleths, personal preferences, and pet peeves. Language is perpetually evolving, and you must strive to improve your understanding of the currently accepted guidelines regarding grammar, usage, and style. Study, rinse, repeat. Read good writing—lots of it. Then, with supreme confidence in your mastery of the conventions, acknowledge the universal truth that they are transitory and may be safely ignored to achieve the desired ends of clarity and consistency. Copyediting is a subjective craft; rather than being the pedantic determination of right or wrong, editing is often a choice between good, better, or best. This is the art of editing. This is what distinguishes great editors from good ones. When you can manage this feat without altering the author’s “voice,” you are serving your client well. Sometimes doing nothing is doing something. Yes, it is kinda Zen…
  • Think. Have a sensible, justifiable reason for every change you make—and verify, verify, verify!
  • Trust your editorial intuition. You’ve invested a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears in fine-tuning it, so listen to your inner editor. If something just doesn’t feel quite right, it probably isn’t.
  • Fear not the large vocabulary. There is a time for concision, and a time for indulging in luxurious language (turn, turn, turn). Edit with your heart as well as your head. As a copyeditor, you must be vigilant and fight the Strunk & White curse. Don’t be afraid to allow a difficult word to remain unscathed—even if it has several syllables. Never disrespect your reader by underestimating her intellect. Elegant prose is an endangered species; be a conservationist of succulent verbiage.
  • Strive for efficiency. Time is money. Utilize every trick in the book to streamline your editorial process and workflow, but never let technology trump your education, experience, and common sense.
  • When in doubt, query. Never hesitate to seek clarification—diplomatically, of course.
  • The style sheet is your friend. Don’t depend upon memory, write it down. Aim for consistency. A good style sheet will save your sanity. Tedious? Yes. Indispensable? Absolutely.
  • Never promise “perfect.” As a mere mortal, you will never achieve perfection, and promising your client otherwise can only lead to dark places (see Muphry’s Law). Ernest Hemingway sagely counseled, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one becomes a master” (and Papa knew from dark places). Whether he was referring to writing or life matters not; they are one and the same.

Do you keep a list of editorial do’s and don’ts? Please share! What would you add or delete?

the DW-P

Aden Nichols is an independent editor and writer. He is available for print and digital projects: books (academic, narrative/creative nonfiction, memoir, speculative/alternate history, etc.), websites/social media, and business communications. Visit his website (www.LittleFireEditorial.com) or email him at: Aden[at]LittleFireEditorial[dot]com.

Technology & Culture Update 5/20/13

Down Survey MapEthnic cleansing, ca. 1653: Last week we took a peek at the emerging discipline of GIS, and there’s more cool map-related news to report today. Following his conquest of Ireland, Oliver Cromwell doled out confiscated land to his soldiers in lieu of pay and transported the hapless Irish, either into slavery in distant lands or banishment to the barrens of Connacht (those who refused to go quietly were summarily executed). The story produces haunting echoes of Hitler’s landgrab and pogroms.

Digital humanities scholars at Trinity College Dublin have now assembled and digitized an atlas of remarkably accurate survey maps drafted by Cromwell’s minions (called the “Down Survey”) and georeferenced them with 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps, Google Maps, and satellite imagery. Accurate down to the parish level, the maps enable historians to identify the original owners of the purloined lands (no reparations are anticipated…). Needless to say, this amazing digital repository has proven a boon to researchers, genealogists, and students of Irish history—and the maps are beautiful works of art in their own right.

Dangerous obsessions: In The Lost City of Z, journalist David Grann plumbs the depths of the Brazilian Amazon jungle following in the wake of Percy Fawcett’s final—and fatal—1925 expedition to locate the storied city of El Dorado, the “City of Gold” (also know as Ciudad Blanca, the White City). Grann concludes that there is indeed evidence of such an ancient citadel (many, actually, according to anthropologist Michael Heckenberger) but the tantalizing theory has yet to be validated. Armed with an innovative digital mapping technology called LiDAR, cinematographer Stephen Elkins believes he’s struck paydirt—but in Honduras rather than Brazil.

LiDAR uses laser pulses to map terrain, enabling it to “see” through the triple canopy jungle and construct a 3D digital image of the elusive topography. Working over a 60-square-mile patch of jungle, engineers of the National Science Foundation (contracted by Elkins to perform the aerial data collection) found evidence of man-made structures (one doesn’t normally see straight lines in nature). But the jungle may well have swallowed a good many ancient cities and towns—could this really be the famed Ciudad Blanca? Archeologists scoff while Elkins prepares to head into the bush on foot to find out…

Geo-economics lesson: Though perhaps not imbued with that Indiana Jones cachet, another GIS project worthy of your consideration is an interactive map of global trade published on the Smithsonian’s website. “Interactive: The 50 Largest Ports in the World” is a really interesting example of how the combination of maps and data can be combined to relate a compelling story. Factoid: Six of the 10 busiest ports in the world are located on China’s mainland coast.

Grammar on the brain: According to a study performed by neuroscientists at the University of Oregon, our brains are hardwired to detect—and correct—grammar errors without our conscious intervention. It’s kind of like having a spell-check chip embedded in your head. Pretty cool, huh? The study, which was conducted using electroencephalography, included native English-speaking subjects between the ages of 18 and 30. Sounds intriguing, but the article didn’t mention anything at all about the subjects—their socioeconomic status or educational level, for example. I’ve got to wonder whether the amount of prior education in language skills isn’t a very critical factor here. Further, even with substantial grounding in the fundamentals, I’ve seen some atrocious writing produced by folks with graduate-level educations, so how is it these scholars’ brains aren’t autocorrecting as this study indicates they should?

While this study may establish that your brain parses grammar and syntactic data so quickly that it appears to be unconscious or intuitive, I would think the capability to perform this process would be contingent on how well you know the grammar and syntax rules to begin with. Your brain has to have that database to draw on. As a paratrooper, I was drilled (and drilled, and drilled) on how to react in the event of a malfunction; so well-drilled, in fact, that the response seemed automatic. It wasn’t, of course. Without that prior training, I’d have been in a world of hurt.

Wikipedia editing in real time: And here’s one more installment of visualization coolness for you—if you’ve ever wondered who’s doing all that crowd-sourced editing for Wikipedia, now you can see it happening geographically in real time. The site developers explain, “When an unregistered user edits Wikipedia, he or she is identified by his or her IP address. These IP addresses are translated to users’ approximate geographic location.” Only 15 percent of the edits come from unregistered users, but it’s still an amazing process to watch unfolding before your very eyes.

Dan Brown, man of letters: This lampoon of incredibly wealthy, renowned fiction scribe Dan Brown’s latest sure-to-be-best-seller will have you rolling on your highly polished antique heartwood pine floor, with the lemony scent of the polish in your nostrils, and snorting like a coke fiend who just won the lottery…

Spaced out: Let’s wrap up this week’s installment with a tribute to that bona fide space cowboy, Canadian astronaut and cosmic troubadour, Chris Hadfield. In case you’re not one of the 14 million people who’ve viewed the self-produced video of Chris crooning “Space Oddity” in orbit, I’ve posted it here:

You’re welcome. That’s one small step for Ziggy…

It is truly a memorable milestone in the history of rock, but we must also recall that just last summer, Mark Kelly, commander of the International Space Station and husband of Gabrielle Giffords, was beamed (from space) onto the jumbotron at a U2 concert to introduce the song “Beautiful Day” quipping, “Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows.” Could this have possibly provided Chris with inspiration? I don’t think he should quit his day job, but it was pretty cool. Nicely done, Commander Hadfield!

the DW-P

Aden Nichols is an independent editor and writer. He is available for print and digital projects: books (academic, narrative/creative nonfiction, memoir, speculative/alternate history, etc.), websites/social media, and business communications. Visit his website (www.LittleFireEditorial.com) or email him at: Aden@LittleFireEditorial.com.

Technology & Culture Update 4/19/13

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scanBefore I get into the update, I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the tragedies in Boston and West, Texas. You are all in my prayers.

The horrific incident at the Boston Marathon quite naturally put the gala opening ceremonies of the Digital Public Library of America on hold (see earlier post), as the organization is physically located in Boston. But the DPLA opened its digital doors at noon yesterday, right on schedule.

And on the other end of the spectrum, I regret to report that the US House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) yesterday. This draconian measure is aimed at increasing governmental curtailment of civil liberties in the name of “security,” a là Department of Homeland Security.

US_Department_of_Homeland_Security_Seal.svgOne politician, Mike McCaul (R-Texas), actually linked CISPA to the terrorist attack: “Recent events in Boston demonstrate that we have to come together as Republicans and Democrats to get this done. In the case of Boston there were real bombs. In this case, they are digital bombs.” Then he issued a dire warning: “These digital bombs are on their way.” Fear is a powerful motivator and fomenting paranoia is a disgusting (but time-honored) political tactic. Hitler and his cronies found it to be very useful in terrifying and pacifying the German people: Only the apparatus of the state security services can protect you. Trust us.

Fortunately for those who love freedom, the virtual genie is out of the bottle and no bureaucratic cabal can put it back. The free flow of information is on the march — knowledge is power. Here’s just a taste of the many open access initiatives that are making news this week:

Let’s start with the DPLA: This ambitious project will make voluminous assets housed in libraries, archival repositories, and museums freely available to the public-at-large. Thus far, the DPLA has partnered with half a dozen state and regional digital libraries, many university libraries, and large cultural heritage institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives and Records Administration.

In addition to its own homegrown search tools, the DPLA can be navigated with apps crafted by outside developers, such as Harvard Library Innovation Lab’s “Stacklife DPLA.” This tool gives users access to a variety of digital collections, including the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the HathiTrust, and Internet Archive’s Open Library. Let the research begin!

Internet Archive has also teamed with JSTOR to make 450,000 articles from the JSTOR Early Journal Content collection freely available. The wide-ranging interdisciplinary offerings cover the humanities, economics, politics, and the STEM fields dating from before 1923 in the US and 1870 elsewhere. The JSTOR Data for Research site offers full-text OCR as well as article and title-level metadata to facilitate text mining and analysis.

The Association of College Research Libraries (ACRL) announced that it has granted digital manumission to the full archive of its scholarly research journal, College & Research Libraries (C&RL). All issues from the journal’s origin in 1939 through the current issue are now available online for free!

Porträtt, karikatyr, from Skoklosters slott museum

Porträtt, karikatyr, from Skoklosters slott museum

In what is being termed the “Open Image Archive” project, LSH (a national Swedish triumvirate comprising The Royal Armoury, Skokloster Castle, and the Hallwyl Museum) is endeavoring to make its entire holdings openly available online. Of the 40,000 images, about a third have been scanned in high resolution.

So you see, we have much to be grateful for! Rather than falling prey to the fearmongers, let’s celebrate our unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and the open exchange of ideas that makes it possible.

the DW-P

Aden Nichols is an independent editor and writer. He is available for print & digital projects: books (academic, narrative/creative nonfiction, memoir, speculative/alternate history, etc.), websites/social media, and business communications. Visit his website (www.LittleFireEditorial.com) or email him at: Aden@LittleFireEditorial.com.

Technology & Culture Update 4/5/13

Image from the Book of KellsTrinity College Dublin recently posted individual hi-def images of every page (all 667 of ’em) of the justly famous illuminated manuscript known as the Book of KellsWhat a wondrous orgy of color, calligraphy and ornamental design! The circa eighth-century masterpiece recently served as the inspiration for the highly acclaimed animated film, The Secret of Kells, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2010. This is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished when technology influences culture in a good way.

Like the country itself, our language is seasoned with the polyglot contributions of an array of cultures. And that doesn’t even include the home-grown slang that is uniquely American. So how do you find the perfect word when you’re nowhere near your reference shelf or computer? Thesaurus Rex for the iOS to the rescue! More than a static e-book, T-Rex is an iPhone app that engages the power of digital technology to help you refine your searches. According to its developers’ marketing hyperbole, “Thesaurus Rex has revolutionized that ‘list of synonyms’ into a dynamic experience that sorts and filters words by their senses, relevance, complexity, and length.” I plan to give it a test drive; I welcome every tool that helps me write better.

As the academy struggles with the changing definitions of scholarly publishing in a digital world, Nature magazine offers a special issue devoted exclusively to the subject. Not surprisingly, the Open Access movement is an overarching theme: from OA’s influence on publishing costs and copyright issues to the explosion of shady operators usuing bogus journals to fleece unwitting scholars. There’s also a piece about the awesome Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) initiative — about which more below.

The DPLA is envisioned to be “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in the current and future generations.” Think of it as the great Library of Alexandria rising Phoenix-like from its own ashes. You can read an excellent backgrounder on the project here.

And I’ll take this opportunity to note that my friend and colleague Dan Cohen has been tapped to take the helm as the inaugural executive director of the DPLA, so the program’s in very good hands. Dan was instrumental in the development of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University, which serves as a polestar of the digital humanities movement. There’s already lots of interesting stuff at the DPLA website (so go have a look!), but the official launch is scheduled for April 18. This is history in the making, kidz — the DPLA will be the virtual house that we built.

Hands-free books? Publishing pundit Nathan Bransford philosophizes about how Google’s “Project Glass” might affect our reading habits. However, the cutting-edge specs are already being cloned in China, and an American firm (Vergence Labs) is offering its own iteration of the technology under the moniker of “Epiphany Eyewear.” Vergence claims its geeky-looking frames are a match for Google’s “smart glasses.” And the beat goes on…

book spine poetryIn celebration of National Poetry Month — you knew it was National Poetry Month, right? — we’d like to draw your attention to a couple of unique genres of that literary medium. The first involves creating poetry by stacking up books (the physical, dead-tree kind) and reading the titles as verse. It’s all the rage on Pinterest and Tumblr. Go ahead, give it a try! In a somewhat higher-tech (though equally arbitrary) approach, techno-geeksters Sampsa Nuotio and Raisa Omaheimo harness the autocomplete feature in Google search to generate “Google Poetics.” You can see the results posted on their Tumblr page. Yes, you can join in the fun, and fear naught, the Mighty Google won’t pull the plug on this project.

The embarrassment of riches offered by the mass of information easily accessed on teh webz offers the temptation to indulge in sloppy scholarship and cut ‘n paste research methods. But beware: failure to attribute sources can ruin your weekend. Benjamin A. Neil, a legal affairs prof (truth!) at Towson University, was busted for serial plagiarism and felt obliged to resign his position as head of the local school system’s ethics panel as a result. Wise move, Ben. A master of understatement, Neil defended his cadged scholarship saying, “I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. The issue seems to be that I didn’t put things in quotes.” D’oh! Consider this a cautionary tale, boys and girls. Purloin, publish and perish.

And while we’re on the subject: Mark Liberman (contributor at Language Log) commented on a blog post by John McIntyre, who was riffing on Roy Peter Clark’s blog post, who in turn cites Richard Posner’s Little Book of Plagiarism about a particularly abstruse aspect of literary replication Posner calls “self-plagiarism.” Whew! Now you can add the Digital Warrior-Poet to that list of breadcrumbs. And if you’re not seeing tracers yet (gotta love those psychedelics), note that there is a “National Summit on Plagiarism and Fabrication” going on at the American Copy Editor’s Society conference in St. Louis as I upload this post. Is it just me, or does the blog format tend to produce things that resemble the cover of Pink Floyd’s classicUmmagumma album, “Ummagumma”?

Finally, I’d like to note that the humanities lost a staunch evangelist this week with the passing of Roger Ebert. His fearlessness and accessible style brought film criticism out of the realm of literary snootiness and into our everyday lives. He taught us how to appreciate the intricacies of the cinematic medium and he did it with grace, humor and goodwill. In a time when we could really use a few more heroes, we are all the more conscious of our profound loss. Roger has taken a “leave of presence,” as he put it, and we will miss his wit and humanity. His passing stands as a gentle reminder to us all to embrace this day, this moment.

the DW-P

Aden Nichols is an independent editor and writer. He is available for print and digital projects: books (academic, narrative/creative nonfiction, memoir, speculative/alternate history, etc.), websites/social media, and business communications. Visit his website (www.LittleFireEditorial.com) or email him at: Aden@LittleFireEditorial.com.

You Can’t Please Everyone

In my inaugural post, I highlighted 10 Great Grammar Blogs. One of my favorites from that list, DailyWritingTips, recently posted a list of its own entitled, “50 Tips on How to Write Good,” by Mark Nichol (no relation that I’m aware of). Yes, this initially gave me goose bumps, but being familiar with the lighthearted approach that frequently characterizes DWT pieces, I dove right in.

Sure enough, the list was presented with tongue planted firmly in cheek. It evoked memories of my dad’s wit and impatience with pedantry, and it made me laugh out loud. Thanks, Mark!

I suspect that DWT’s devotees are largely well-educated, well-read—dare I say it? Erudite—folks. Apparently a few of these bright lights lived up to the grammarian’s stereotypical tight lip, furrowed brow, and absence of a sense of humor by launching a barrage of critical nasty-grams at Mark (uttered, no doubt, in a Gallic accent: “I fart in your general direction!”).

In a follow-up post this morning, Nichol offered humbly, “The lesson for me is to write what comes naturally—but to realize that, although I have a role in, and some responsibility for, how my writing is received, it is ultimately the individual reader who determines the success or failure of that writing.” There is fundamental truth in this assertion, but I would add that the overarching lesson of this episode is (to paraphrase Lydgate, Lincoln, et al): You can’t please all of your readers all of the time.

The most important decision you will make before putting pen to paper (or cursor to screen) is who is my audience, who am I writing this for? The resulting profile will dictate your word choice, tone, and level of complexity; it will color every word you write, so it had better be good. You should routinely test your prose against this vignette. If you strive to reach every potential reader, you’ll ultimately succeed in connecting with few or none.

While working as an editor for a major specialist periodical, I was frequently set upon by disgruntled freelance writers who complained vehemently, attempting to justify why a given phrase or passage I had deleted “had to be in there.” My response was, “And were you going to personally visit each and every reader to make your case?” Your prose must speak for itself.

As writers and editors, we labor in the service of the reader. How can we accomplish that mission if we can’t clearly articulate who the reader is? There will always be several categories of reader types for any given story, and they will always have something in common; that is, each group can be visualized as the concentric rings of a target (or the overlapping spheres of a Venn diagram). Aim for the bull’s-eye.

If you have accurately identified your target and employed every ounce of authorial skill you can muster to hit it dead center, you’ve done your part.

In this case, Nichol airily posited that he might have prevented the misunderstanding by titling his piece, “50 Funny, Fallacious Tips on How to Write Good (You Know I Meant ‘Well’).” He was just a-joshin’. In reality, he was on firm footing in assuming his core readership would get the joke. Sadly, the humor was lost on a few readers.

Rather than employing a more explicit title, perhaps he should have concluded the list by citing the inimitable Foghorn Leghorn: “That’s a joke, son—I say, a joke!!!

the DW-P

Aden Nichols is an independent editor and writer. He is available for print and digital projects: books (academic, narrative/creative nonfiction, memoir, speculative/alternate history, etc.), websites/social media, and business communications. Visit his website (www.LittleFireEditorial.com) or email him at: Aden@LittleFireEditorial.com.

Seth Godin is wrong; punctuation matters.

In a recent pithy blog post—Assorted tips, hope they help—Seth Godin offered a random smattering of suggestions sure to increase your productivity and improve your life. They run the gamut from “Placebos are underrated by almost everyone” (#4) to “Taking your dog for a walk is usually better than whatever alternative use of your time you were considering” (#12).
I couldn’t agree more.

Now I love Seth like a brother, and I thoroughly enjoy his posts; indeed, I often find myself nodding vigorously in agreement with his trenchant tidbits. But as a bona fide word nerd, I take umbrage at number 5: “It’s almost never necessary to use a semicolon.”

On its face, it sounds like Seth is suggesting that your writing will improve exponentially if you simply banish the semicolon from your textual toolbox, an artifact from another age that’s outlived its usefulness. A more generous, expansive reading might lead you to believe he’s intimating that we just use too darned much punctuation in general—simplify!

Now, I won’t argue that some of the finest penmen in history have been overly enamored of the semicolon (have a gander at my post on Moby-Dick), but yo, I disagree with the current movement to truncate the English language to a series of abbreviated words, phrases and sentences à la twitter (think: Dick and Jane). Sparse prose is a wonderful tool when properly used. But just as the indiscriminate application of the semicolon does not render one’s prose erudite, the elimination of all punctuation coupled with the introduction of terse sentence structure does not necessarily yield a “Hemingway moment.”

Rather than simply excising the semicolon from your writing, why not learn to use it correctly? A semicolon is used to separate independent clauses; it can be employed as a “strong comma” or a “weak period” (see The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn). Punctuation is merely a tool—you wouldn’t grab a maul when the job calls for a pair of needle-nose pliers, would you? So don’t throw your tools out; learn to wield them with grace and ease instead.

“It’s almost never necessary to use a semicolon”—except when it is.

the DW-P

Aden Nichols is a freelance editor and writer. He is available for print & digital projects: books (academic, narrative/creative nonfiction, memoir, speculative/alternate history, etc.), websites/social media, and business communications. You can contact him at: Aden@LittleFireEditorial.com.

10 Great Grammar Blogs

Yes, I am a writer-editor, and no, my blog will not comprise pedantic posts about grammar and usage. But for those of you who are hankerin’ for some down ’n dirty linguistic and neologistic slicin’ ’n dicin’, I offer the following short list of 10 of my favorite word nerd sites. What are your faves? Please share!

Chicago Style Q&A

Carol Fisher Saller, a senior editor at University of Chicago Press, has deftly managed this feisty Q&A since its launch in 1997. One reviewer called her commentary “exquisitely snarky”—I couldn’t have said it better. If you enjoy her pithy delivery, you should also add her diminutive tome, The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice From Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) to your library and peruse her contributions to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog, Lingua Franca.

Daily Writing Tips

Compiled by a group of truly devoted grammarians, this site is a treasure trove of good advice for writers and editors—and anyone interested in expressing themselves clearly and correctly.

Talk Wordy to Me

Very arcane discussions hosted by Brian White, an editor at The Boston Globe. Worth a visit.

Guide to Grammar and Writing

Sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation, this whimsical website is fun as well as informative. Don’t miss the Q&A formatted “Ask Grammar” section—very useful.

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips

Mignon (like the steak–from the French for “cute” or “dainty”) Fogarty has parlayed her geekiness into a very profitable venture. Grammar Girl ™ is an object lesson in how to monetize a blog. Fogarty’s managed to parlay her success into a growing stable of “Quick and Dirty Tips” websites, podcasts and books on everything from nutrition to investing. Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again was a Washington Post bestseller and she’s even been on Oprah. Bright girl, that Mignon…

Fritinancy

OK, not really a grammar blog, but interesting wordplay, nonetheless. Nancy Friedman (a self-described “recovering journalist”—I can relate) runs a business-naming service, and this blog is all about “Names, brands, writing, and the quirks of the English language” (so says Nancy). It’s all about how words and images conspire to create a brand. Very high concept. Check it out and discover what “fritinancy” actually means.

Motivated Grammar

With a tagline like, “Prescriptivism must die!” you can bet this blog won’t be dull. Gabe Doyle, a fourth-year graduate student in Linguistics at the University of California, San Diego, hosts this lively site. This dude is definitely toiling away at the confluence of technology and culture: “I’m a computational psycholinguist, which means that I use computers to model how people think about language. I work primarily on the issue of how people choose how to express the ideas they want to express.” Irreverent and fun.

Sentence first

“An Irishman’s blog about the English language.” The title is taken from a line spoken by the Queen in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.” If an Irishman can’t wax grandiloquent about the English language, who can?

The Word Detective

Online version of a print (gasp!) column penned by Evan Morris. Good for a larf.

The Grammophobia Blog

The authors (Patricia T. O’Connor and Stewart Kellerman) have published five books about the English language; they both have extensive backgrounds in journalism, and (OMG) they’re married—can you imagine? Not a very attractive design IMHO (they’re word nerds, not web designers, after all), but quality content, I can assure you.

I know I said 10 Great Grammar Blogs, but everyone loves a freebie, so here ya go:

Language Corner

This is Merrill Perlman’s delightful blog that’s nested within the Columbia Journalism Review website. Ms. Perlman is a veteran of 25 years as an editor at the New York Times and now serves as an independent consultant (fancy name for “freelancer”) and adjunct professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. ’Nuff said.

Aden Nichols is a freelance editor and writer. He is available for print & digital projects: books (academic, narrative/creative nonfiction, memoir, speculative/alternate history, etc.), websites/social media, and business communications. You can contact him at: Aden@LittleFireEditorial.com.