I drink out of Mason jars. It's not just due to the barefoot, lemonade-sipping Southern influence that was part of my Central Florida upbringing. It's because I break things. A lot. I'm clumsy. A drinking glass in my house has a life expectancy of about four months. Mason jars, I've discovered, are a lot more resilient. Plus, they're a renewable resource, meaning I get them free when I buy spaghetti sauce.
It took me years to make peace with my clumsy, breaking-things nature. My denial sent me back to the housewares section again and again to buy drinking glasses that, let's face it, were doomed the minute I took them off the shelf.
But in the last few years, I've made peace with a part of me that I had spent years trying to deny. I've come to accept that I'm a person who breaks things.
What brought on this newfound self-acceptance? Well, I've been doing a lot of copy editing in the last year or two. It's a job that involves fixing things â€” that is, fixing mistakes in other people's writing. It can be very satisfying. Plus, fixing things can be a big self-esteem builder for someone who, like me, is a lifelong breaker of things.
Here are some of my more satisfying recent fixes, which I hope can be at least half as helpful to you as they were to me.
?â€œIt harkens back to the days of malt shops and poodle skirts.â€ I changed that to â€œhearkens.â€ Some dictionaries allow â€œharkens,â€ but call it a â€œvariant spelling.â€
?â€œThe new color palette is the work of Johnson Co. Principle Designer Steve Bean.â€ This one got past two other copy editors. The reason: â€œPrinciple Designerâ€ was capitalized, meaning it was being treated as a formal title, meaning it could not be changed. When I pointed out the spelling problem, a colleague started doing Google searches on the guy to try to discern whether this was his real title. Me, I doubted that the guy's title contained a typo. But I saw it as a moot point. We could just as easily use our own words to describe the guy â€” even if his title truly were â€œPrinciple Designer,â€ I'm still at liberty to say he's a â€œprincipal designer.â€ Why distract the reader with misspellings when you can find a more flowing, less distracting alternative? So I changed this to â€œJohnson Co.'s principal designer, Steve Bean.â€
Regarding capitalization of titles, the â€œAssociated Press Stylebookâ€ says you capitalize â€œformal titles used directly before an individual's name.â€ This rule does not apply, however, when the title is set off with commas. For example, you'd write â€œCongressman Adam Schiff and General David Petraeus,â€ but, â€œMy congressman, Adam Schiff, met with the general.â€ Many copy editors agree that AP's rule could be interpreted too broadly: No one I know would capitalize Columnist Barbara Wallraff or Comedian Jay Leno or Dishwasher June Casagrande.
A common but unspoken guideline in the biz is to capitalize only the titles important enough that they get attached to names in common speech. â€œPresident Bushâ€ but â€œdishwasher Casagrande.â€
?â€œThe paddle boats gave my legs quite a workout as I peddled around the bay.â€ This should have been â€œpedaled.â€ â€œPaddledâ€ might have been OK, too.
?Last but not least: â€œLisa met John at the entrance of the museum, and he lead her through its many halls and wonderful exhibits.â€ Here, â€œleadâ€ should have been â€œled.â€ You want the past tense of the verb, not the metal that always makes me think of â€œlead crystal,â€ which, tragically, I'll never own.
?JUNE CASAGRANDE is a freelance writer and author of â€œGrammar Snobs Are Great Big Meaniesâ€ and â€œMortal Syntax: 101 Language Choices That Will Get You Clobbered by the Grammar Snobs â€” Even If You're Right.â€ She may be reached at JuneTCN@aol.com.