Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can You Say Wiki?

John McIntyre is occupying his time writing enlightening commentary about style and writing rules, explaining newspaper lingo and other fun language-related stuff (including editor haiku.)

Someone on Facebook suggested to John that there may be a need for an "intervention" against the AP stylebook's errors and hoary rules, which leads me to nominate John to lead (no, I will NEVER say "helm") a kind of Editorpedia (there's already a dead-looking Editpedia) that counters or bolsters AP and other stylebooks.

I would defend the AP stylebook to an extent--at a time when our skills as editors are valued about as much as those of old-time elevator operators, I'm reluctant to trash anything that makes people think even a little bit about how to write, employ some decent grammar, etc. And I continue to wonder why we now reject rules we all grew up with as wrong or off track when there's no academy of language that says this is right, this is not. What's the starting point, folks? Who's the authority? I know, I know, there's always a pre-Shakespeare source to cite.

And, as far as the commentary going around about a Twitterer who treasures the AP stylebook--yes, it might be a little sad if that's all the person knows. But as someone who started in newspapers at 16 and in possession of as little knowledge of the world as you might infer from that, I found the AP stylebook to be a little treasure trove of information. I mean, who else knew why some countries' leaders were called prime ministers, while others were called premiers? Or offer a quick explanation of the world's major religions?

Yes, I've gone well beyond that, but I still page the stylebook just for fun, though not nearly as much as the gorgeous pages of a new American Heritage dictionary. And there are many great alternative sources of language rules and suggestions. But few serve so many people and publications and offer a common, basic approach that encourages at least some literacy and logic.

Now, if they'd just get rid of that damned no-split-infinitives rule...

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