If someone says eye-licking is causing infections, check it out

I wrote a blog entry for Copyediting about the failure of a reporter and editors at the Guardian to check the sources on a story about a newly popular eye-licking fetish causing an increase in eye infections in Japan. The fetish exists, though it’s hard to tell how prevalent it is.

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Habitat for Humanity house is a fitting tribute to a nice guy

My plan was to drive back to Grand Rapids, Mich., today and spend Saturday pounding nails and raising walls on a Habitat for Humanity home. But I’m not over a stomach bug that has been bothering me for a week now. I can’t risk making someone else sick, so I’ve sent my regrets, bitterly disappointed that I won’t be able to pay such a fitting tribute to my old boss and friend, Andy Angelo.

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More from me at the Copyediting newsletter blog

More from me at the Copyediting newsletter blog

I’ve joined the blog team at Copyediting newsletter, so I’ll be posting there regularly and here maybe not as much. But I’ll try to add a link to those that are of interest, which I hope will be all of them.

Today, I wrote about my lifelong confusion about the rules of cricket and a cricket-related correction in the New York Times.

An excerpt:

I was probably not yet 10 when I told a family friend visiting from England that I could not fathom the rules of cricket. The next 15 minutes were consumed with a detailed explanation of wickets, stumps, overs, and silly mid-offs that made me somewhat the wiser until the waiter brought my chicken and I forgot all that I had learned.

I have since read explanations of the game and watched amateurs play in a park, but what I manage to learn never stays. Cricket confounds my attempts to retain, like a dream just before waking. But I do know just enough about cricket to know I should never assume I know anything about cricket.

See the rest at Copyediting.com.

And please send me suggestions for things you’d like to see in future columns. Today’s is a sort of error-of-the-week format, so I’d love to hear about the brilliant saves or near-saves of other copy editors.

Made-up ‘rules’ may offer a path to clarity

Columnist and language expert Ben Yagoda resorted to all caps in a brief Twitter exchange on the difference (if any) between “since” and “because.”

“There is NEVER confusion,” he said several weeks ago during a chat sponsored by the American Copy Editors Society.

That was in response to my assertion that “because” remains safer than “since” where there may be confusion with a time element.

I tell my copy editing students to beware of absolutes in writing. Absolutes in all caps are especially risky. Yagoda offers a defense of his position in the Lingua Franca column in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

sincebecauseCopy editors, despite their best intentions, can come across as stuffy and pedantic because we sometimes perpetuate standards of English usage that may differ from the way people casually speak and write. “Because” vs. “since” provides a fair example. In the wild, “since” is used for “because” with aplomb and very few bar fights can be attributed to disputes over this usage. The distinction between “since” for time and “since” for cause is not something to fear, but I do think it is something to consider.

Sometimes in the debate between what is a real rule and what is a made-up rule (tricky, as there is no rulebook), we overlook the reality that “rule” can sometimes be shorthand for “good writing.”

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Here are the winning winners in the Tweeted Haiku Contest

Arika Okrent’s 17 syllables captured the hearts of the judges, but there were scores of worthy entries in the National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest. The initial screening of 269 entries down to the top 10 resulted in 17 possibilities, and then judges asked to add another 11 back to the mix.

The five-judge panel then went into seclusion in the virtual grammar conclave for most of Sunday before they emerged with a winner, four runners up, and a mess of honorable mentions.

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arika okrent / the judges loudly proclaim / winning haikuist

Arika Okrent tapped into a universal feeling of realization and dread when she wrote her winning entry for the 2013 National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest:

arika-okrentI am an error
And I will reveal myself
After you press send

Soon after, she tweeted an amendment:

Make that “send”

“It became a self-fulfilling haiku,” Okrent said. “I wish I could say I planned it that way.”

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