The Promise and Peril of Editing in Proof

Which method of editing is the most effective one? Which content formats should be employed, and how many iterations are necessary? Ultimately, what works for the publisher is the best approach, but consider that what is most expedient is often at odds with what is best. Until a generation ago, typewritten manuscripts were edited on … Read more

More Hyphenation of Phrasal Adjectives

Three types of phrasal adjectives are treated according to the same basic rules, as shown in the following (erroneous) examples, which are discussed and revised below each sentence. First, a definition: A phrasal adjective is a phrase consisting of two or more words that, when combined, constitute a single expression of modification of a noun. … Read more

Words That Turn on the Root “Vert”

The Latin verb vertere, meaning “turn,” is the source of a number of English words that pertain to shifting one’s position from the status quo. The list below defines many of these terms (those with prefixes, and their various grammatical forms); a subsequent post will continue the discussion of additional words in the vertere family: … Read more

The Meanings and Variations of “Brother”

Brother, from the Old English word brothor and cognate with the Latin term frater and the Greek word phrater (both of which mean “fellow clan member”), means not only “a male with one or more parents in common” but has also come, by extension, to refer to a man with whom one has a bond … Read more

Style Quiz #9: Geographical and Geopolitical Names

All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect style for capitalization of place names according to The Chicago Manual of Style and other writing guides; revise as necessary: 1. The Atlantic ocean separates the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. 2. Political tensions have abated around the Gulf. 3. Nashville is a Mecca for aficionados of … Read more

3 Clumsy Compositions

In each of the sentences below, awkward syntax results in a distractingly clunky flow that obstructs comprehension. Discussion and revision of each example tells and shows how to make the statements flow more smoothly. 1. They wanted to evolve the organization beyond its roots as a traditional hospital network with success measured by occupancy, or … Read more

French Words with New Meanings in English

Thanks to the Norman Conquest, and to the long dominance of France in European culture and politics, almost half the words and phrases in the English lexicon (including that of its American variety) are derived from French. The list below consists of words used in American English that acquired one or more senses distinct from … Read more

3 Cases of Faulty Organization of In-Line Lists

An in-line list is a list of related words or phrases within a sentence, as opposed to a vertical list, the items of which are formatted on separate lines, often highlighted by a number or a bullet. Often, writers mistakenly organize in-line lists, erroneously assuming that an additional but syntactically distinct item is part of … Read more

Words in the “Struct” Family

The Latin source of the element struct, the basis of structure and other words pertaining to literal and figurative building and unbuilding, is also the root of a couple of unexpected words. The root word in common is struere, meaning “arrange,” “build,” or “pile.” Words based on structure, which functions both as a noun meaning … Read more

The Meanings and Variations of “Mother”

Mother derives from the Old English term modor, which is cognate with the Latin word mater and the Greek word meter. (From the Latin term such words as maternal and maternity are derived.) The term refers not only to a female parent but also to a woman in authority, such as the head of a … Read more

Punctuation Quiz #11: Appositives

All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect style for punctuation of appositives; revise the sentences as necessary: 1. My friend, John, is coming over today. 2. He was compared to WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who has been provided asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. 3. The first mate, Smith, greeted the passenger. … Read more

5 More Sentences Rendered More Concise

Each of the examples below illustrates a distinct strategy for shortening and simplifying sentences. A discussion and a revision follows each example. 1. You can go ahead and turn off the valve. The phrase “go ahead and” is a classic example of an extraneous phrase, preceding a verb, likely to turn up in speech when … Read more