Saturday, February 23, 2013

'The Old Editor' is well worth listening to

As more and more newspaper copy editors are forced to walk the plank, John E. McIntyre, in "The Old Editor Says," makes it clear that he, for one, is not about to give up the ship -- especially when there are so many verbal barnacles to be dealt with. (And he will defend to the death your right to end a sentence with "with.")

McIntyre, who works at The Baltimore Sun, also has a blog, "You Don't Say," which has long been a mainstay of my blogroll.

You might say that "The Old Editor Says" is McIntyre's magnum opus -- if you can say that about a book that is only 67 pages long. But the description fits, for within these pages he has distilled more than 30 years of editorial experience into a collection of pithy maxims (his own and others'), each followed by a commentary delivered in the endearingly crusty tone that is familiar to anyone who has attended one of his presentations. (Or, as he prefers to call them, "seances.")

"If you can't tell me in one sentence what your story says, you don't know what your story says."

"If you are not possessed of a perpetually filthy mind, you are ill-equipped to edit."

"Edit to live; don't live to edit."

If you're a writer or editor, there's a good chance you'll learn at least a little something from this book.

And as I navigate the often troubled waters of contemporary prose, it heartens me to know that John E. McIntyre, battered but never unbowed, remains standing at the ship's bridge.

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