Punctuation Infatuation

Friday, April 24, 2009


All the blame and none of the glory – that’s the life of a newspaper copy editor. So why become one? Let former New York Times chief copy editor Merrill Perlman count the reasons.

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Comments [11]


It's interesting that those of you commenting that the guest needs to "get it right" (because she purportedly misused words) also erred in your assertions. Check a dictionary before you castigate someone, folks.

And Kristin, I agree with your point about word choice in a daytime NPR piece.

Apr. 29 2009 11:33 AM

Very good piece! I enjoyed it thoroughly!


Apr. 28 2009 09:49 PM
Finnbarr Dunphy from Columbia, SC

It was ironic that Merril Perlman, while putting the world right grammatically, used the word "aggravate" wrongly. She said, "Don't 'aggravate' the reader..." She should have used the word "irritate," not "aggravate." You aggravate a situation, not a person. The Latin "gravis" means "heavy," "weighty," "burdensome." "Aggravate" is derived from "gravis," "gravitas," etc. Hence, it applies to situations, not people. Get it right, Merril. If the salt loseth its savor....

Apr. 28 2009 08:24 AM

Merrill needs to hone her grammar skills; one should not find additional mistakes in "his" copy after the copy has been edited. The use of the possessive "their" is inexcusable, as is the use of "aggravate" instead of "irritate".

Apr. 27 2009 02:01 PM
Steven H

It should be 'home in' not 'hone in'. Just googling for the anwer to see which is most popular won't if most people get it wrong.

Apr. 27 2009 10:04 AM
martin sweet from alameda,ca

Well I would have to agree with Ricks comment but with a clarification that caused me to mire through the NPR website to even find this comment area.
That is "to hone" means to polish to a fine point, way past the norm of a typical sharpening; a valid and yet very different meaning than "to home in" like a missile or bloodhound.
Another idiot editor! whats wrong with meaning what you say??

Apr. 26 2009 05:52 PM
Kristin Peska from Chicago Illinois

As an English major and lover of language, I was surprised to hear the words "bitch" and "sorry ass" during this otherwise interesting story broadcast in the middle of this rainy Sunday afternoon. It's tradition in our house to spend Sunday afternoons in the kitchen cooking and listening to NPR while my 3 year old grandson plays on the floor with his train set. I'd love for him to grow up enjoying and appreciating NPR and the news and perspective it offers, but in my opinion, this story could have used some copy editing!

Apr. 26 2009 04:57 PM
Ann from Minnesota

Yes, HONE in means to focus your attention intently, so your guest is wrong.

BTW, the Star Trek intro is "To Boldly Go" not "Boldly To Go" as the guest said.

She would do herself a favor to know what she's talking about before speaking.


Apr. 26 2009 04:42 PM
Rick Evans from Lon -71° 05' Lat +42° 11'

While listening to the segment I couldn't resist Googling "hone in on" and "home in on" in Google News.

"Hone in on" soundly trounced "home in on" 254 to 108. "Honed in" easily took "homed in" 164 to 85.
Google even suggested "Homes in" for homed in.

Apr. 26 2009 07:01 AM
chuck thompson from Anchorage AK

Not to quibble over a point -- and, worse, to violate my own rule about NOT commenting on other peoples' comments unless they comment on mine -- I must say that the second definition of "aggravate" (in MY dictionary, at least) is: "to exasperate or irritate" which would, then, fit the context of Merrill's remark.

I will now do penance for violating my own rule by standing in the corner for twenty minutes.

Apr. 25 2009 11:19 PM

Merrill used the phrase "don't aggravate people." Have we given up on the proper definition of aggravate: make a situation worse?

Apr. 24 2009 09:42 PM

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