Critical word for writers and editors: Why?

As an editor, I like to know that writers use their words deliberately.

If I know that the writer picked her words intentionally rather than carelessly, I can do a better job of editing.

question-mark-2123969_1280Many sentences that I encounter employ words in a way that my high school English teachers would have considered incorrect, ungrammatical or even immoral (I’m not kidding).

A stickler by nature and training, I revise or suggest improvements to stuff that other people write. More and more frequently, I ask a question that other editors and writers might find useful: Why?

Why did you choose present tense rather than past?

Why did you spell “colour” that way?

Why can’t I find a verb in what you’re trying to pass off as a sentence?

Did you really mean “their pronouns” or should it be “my pronouns”?

Present tense might be the preferred style, depending on the context. “Colour” may or may not be a typo. The missing verb? A quirk, maybe, or a simple mistake.

Pronouns are more complicated than you might think, as I’ve learned in recent years. My pronouns, for example: he/his/him. Few of my readers need to know that, but the concept of gender-neutral pronouns and inclusive language can be critical in some writing and conversation.

“Why?” can help the writer improve. The answers can be surprising and even educational, for writer and editor.


  • Writers: Choose your words carefully.
  • Editors: Ask why.

A headline word that’s been used to death

Pronounce something dead and people will click.

I don’t know that for a fact, but I suppose it’s why so many inanimate things have died in the past few years—at least in the minds of headline writers throughout the vastness of cyberspace. (Is cyberspace still a thing, or is that dead, too?)

May the overused “death” headline die soon, lonely and forever again unused.

And now I read that a cute little three-letter word has died before I ever had a chance to use or misuse it. Click the bait for an article from The Atlantic about its last few gasps.


Supermoons right on “schedule”

The sight of a rather large moon over the Flatirons this morning reminded me of a Sunday evening news report about the supermoon on Saturday night.

Two more are “scheduled,” the news reader said, one in August and another in September, leaving me wondering who is in charge of supermoon scheduling.

We should have them more often.

English: A supermoon is a perigee-syzygy, a ne...
English: A supermoon is a perigee-syzygy, a new or full moon (syzygy) which occurs when the Moon is at 90% or greater of its mean closest approach to Earth (perigee). The March 19, 2011 supermoon is just 221,566 miles (356,577 kilometers) away from Earth. The last time the full moon approached so close to Earth was in 1993, according to NASA. it is about 20 percent brighter and 15 percent bigger than a regular full moon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




No more harshing over “words” people use

Impacted Wisdom teeth
Impacted Wisdom teeth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a time when words such as webinar, impacted (except when referring to wisdom teeth), incentivize and irregardless made me cringe.

I’m mostly over that after tiring of online gripe fests rife with harshing the alleged destroyers of modern American English.

This TED talk pretty much cured me of all that, except that impactful still makes me want to puke.

That’s the editor in me.

Deceased doctors autopsy wrestling icon

A week after collapsing in a parking lot and dying, doctors have determined the cause of death for World Wrestling Entertainment icon Ultimate Warrior.

via Ultimate Warrior cause of death revealed |

It says the UW died of natural causes, but what the hell killed those doctors who collapsed in the parking lot a week before they did the autopsy?