usingtherightwords

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The New Yorker also got it Right


When I was a teenager, I recall seeing a commercial for the magazine The New Yorker that raved, “The New Yorker is the best magazine in the world today, possibly the best magazine of all time.” Or something like that. Regardless, it is a highly respected publication.

Wikipedia’s entry about The New Yorker says it’s known for, among many things, “its rigorous fact checking and copyediting.” Even if “copyediting” is two words.

So, imagine my surprise when a networker showed me a copy of the April 24, 2017 issue. On page 72, the sixth page of an article about a South Carolina family that has a tradition of barbecue and white supremacy, a sentence reads, “He explained that he’d got into barbecue as a challenge.”

Whoa. He’d got? Does New York have different rules regarding past participles? It’s he’d gotten.

Or is it?

I typed the sentence into an online grammar check. It came back error-free, but it also flagged it for plagiarism. Funny. It also didn’t flag copyediting as wrong.

I went to grammarist.com and looked up got vs. gotten. It said that gotten is correct in American and Canadian usage, but in England the past participle is usually got.

It continues, “That gotten is primarily used in North America has given rise to the mistaken belief that it is American in origin and hence new and inferior. But gotten is in fact an old form, predating the United States and Canada by several centuries.”

So, I’m right. The New Yorker is right. I can live with that.

Thanks to Richard C. for the idea.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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May 29, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Interference and Editorial Independence


As a reporter, stories I write often get held for a variety of reasons. The most common are because either the editor/publisher wants me to do more work on it or because there isn’t enough space in the publication.

But occasionally, a story I have written of which I am particularly proud gets held for another reason: interference.

It’s common for the editorial and business sides of a newspaper/magazine/website to butt heads, but thanks to the First Amendment, editorial independence exists and, for the most part, is respected.

Until it’s not.

Case in point: A story on a local chamber of commerce I worked hard on has been held by my publisher as a favor to the publisher of the publication that is partnered with my publication (I know this might not make sense, but I don’t want to bore you with too many details).

The reason: The publisher asked my publisher to hold it as a favor while he completes a business deal that involves said chamber. He fears that this article would derail his deal, but if the deal was complete, the article’s controversy would be moot.

My publisher showed him the story; he found it fair and balanced, and gave my publisher a choice: run it or hold it. If my publisher chose to run it, the other publisher would support it, deal be damned.

I wasn’t the only one who wanted it to run: His wife, who’s also advertising director, and my editor also strongly disagreed with his decision.

I tried to tell my publisher that this is an example of interference at the cost of editorial independence. While I didn’t break out the dictionary when talking to him, I will here because that’s what I do with this blog.

To interfere is to “interpose in a way that hinders or impedes” and “act so as to augment, diminish or otherwise affect another.”

This is exactly what my publisher has done. I can’t convince him. Last week, he told me, “I hope you will one day understand.”

I doubt it. The story has held for two weeks and counting.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

March 21, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stick to Medicine, Doc


Among my many jobs, I edit magazines. In one issue that will publish next month, a doctor of emergency medicine declares that injuries caused by “accident” aren’t really accidents because these injuries are almost always preventable.

That got me thinking about the word accident. I know we often say we are in an accident when our car crashes or collides with something or someone. Is that really an accident?

The word has five definitions. The relevant one is the third: “an unfortunate event resulting from especially from carelessness or ignorance.”

The accident the doctor mentioned referred to a 9-year-old who tried skateboarding down some stairs resulting in an elbow fractured in a way that required a surgical repair with metal pins, and a cut across the middle of his forehead that required plastic surgery.

Sounds like an accident to me.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is out and available on Amazon. Order now for just $14.95. Contact me on my website to reserve your copy or Order here.

leebarnathan.com

February 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Fool and His Hearty …


I have been editing a magazine in which the bad writing drives me nuts. The writers don’t try and get better, they make the same mistakes, the editor/publisher doesn’t send my criticisms on to the writers, no one knows how to use an ampersand, no one checks basic facts, and no on seems to understand proper capitalization.

There are, however, a few pieces each month that are well written. One such example is a financial advisor (he prefers the term wealth manager). He’s very coherent and intelligent, but sometimes I wonder if he isn’t writing over everybody’s heads, or if he knows this.

Anyway, he wrote about how investors’ emotions, such as regret, get in the way of making smart choices.

Fear of regret inspires investors to make fool hearty investment decisions that conform with a preconceived personal ‘smart’ self-image or maybe drive a desire to live up to their friends’ expectations, and then with peer pressure, remain detached with ‘paper losses’ allowing the investments to disintegrate.

I wonder which version of the hearty fool he refers? Is it a fool who 1) gives unqualified support for his investments, 2) who exhibits vigorously good health in his investments, 3) who has abundant investments, or 4) who has nourishing investments? Or does he mean foolishly hearty investments?

The correct word, of course, is foolhardy, meaning “foolishly adventurous or bold.”

Incidentally, I’m quitting this magazine after this issue. I’m no fool.

Until next time! Use the right words!
leebarnathan.com

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment