Hard-learned Grammar Lessons

You learn something new every day.

In most professions, that's a good thing. But for copy editors, it's a kick in the pants. It means there's something you should have learned years ago but didn't. It means that, even as you were getting paid to catch errors, you were blind to some. It hurts.

For editors — or anyone who wants to use the language well — humility is key. You have to know when to look up stuff, even if it's stuff you've already looked up a hundred times. And you have to accept that after years or even decades on the job, you can still get sucker-punched by your own ignorance.

Yes, I'm talking about myself.

Here's a column I wrote recently about the discoveries that still sting, including bouillon vs. bullion, compose vs. comprise, and how to spell embarrass.

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