Can a Movie Be Entitled?
Posted by June on December 17, 2018

A copy editor recently posed an interesting question to colleagues on social media: Should he continue trying to maintain a distinction between “entitled” and “titled”? Or should he start allowing “entitled” to refer to the name of a book, movie or other work?

It’s an esoteric issue, to say the least — rooted in a disparity between editing styles.

The Associated Press Stylebook has, for decades, issued this simple and clear advice regarding the word “entitled”: “Use it to mean a right to do or have something. Do not use it to mean titled. AP’s examples of correct usage: “She was entitled to the promotion” and “The book was titled ‘Gone With the Wind.’”

Pretty straightforward stuff, provided you don’t follow the Chicago Manual of Style. This guide, which is used by most book publishers, doesn’t register an opinion one way or the other.

So what's a conscientious writer to do? I tackle that in this recent column.



How to write holidays all year long
Posted by June on December 10, 2018
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Is it Mother’s Day, as in one mother, or does the name recognize that the day belongs to all of them, making it Mothers’ Day?

Do veterans really own their day, which would make it Veterans’ Day, or are they recognized in a more adjectival fashion, which would make it Veterans Day?

And what might St. Patrick and St. Valentine say about all this?

The proper way to write holidays has little to do with logic or punctuation rules. Instead, holiday names like Valentine's Day and Presidents Day are written as they are simply because that's how people have written them. Here's a quick rundown  of the proper holiday names to use all year long.

5 Very Useful Grammar Terms
Posted by June on December 3, 2018
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As we saw recently, some language terms are fun to learn. Squinting modifier. Dummy operator. Eggcorn.

Others, not so much. Grammar is famous for its unfriendly jargon. But some of these less-fun-to-learn terms are very useful. They convey concepts that help you use the language better. My picks for the terms most worth learning: object pronoun, copular verb, adverbial, modal auxiliary and restrictive. If you don't have a full grasp of all these terms, this quick overview  will be well worth your time.

Who and Whom as Explained by a Comma Queen
Posted by June on November 26, 2018


"Copy editors never get credit for the sentences we get right, but confuse 'who' and 'whom' and you are sure to be the center of attention, at least briefly," writes Mary Norris, author of "Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen," in this week's New Yorker.

She's right, on several points. Yes, copy editing goes completely unnoticed when done well. Yes, the copy editor's work is cast into the spotlight only when she slips up. And yes, anyone can mess up who and whom, even a copy editor.

Norris, the longtime New Yorker copy editor who stepped down a few years ago, has some excellent advice for getting "whom" right.
"My test for the correct use of 'who' or 'whom' in a relative clause—'who I know will use it judiciously'—is to recast the clause as a complete sentence, assigning a temporary personal pronoun to the relative pronoun 'who/whom.' 'I know she will use it'? Or 'I know her will use it'?" Here's Norris's complete explanation.