Monday, March 7, 2011

An A to Z of Editorial Peeves: A

The continuing saga of a copy editor’s attempts to preempt his own rage. It starts here.Check back every Monday for a new letter's worth of ranting.

Want to keep your editor (or at least me) happy? Avoid these problems:


When is it all right to write alright. Never! Even if you’re on Twitter and trying to save some characters, instead of using alright, show your followers that you know that what you’re doing is wrong by going whole-hog with alrite.

Because no one would think you’re that clueless.

Altogether vs. all together

Altogether means “wholly or completely.” (And I just discovered that, as a noun, it has been used to mean “nude,” as in “posed in the altogether.”) All together means “everyone at the same time” or “everyone in the same place.”

The Beatles sang “All together now!” not “Altogether now!”

In “The Gettysburg Address,” Lincoln said, “We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”


Blogs have popped up around the idea of misplaced apostrophes in public signs. There's an entire group on Flickr called, ironically, The Atrocious Apostrophe's that collects inappropriate apostrophication, and they have almost 3,000 photos like this one:
Bed's from £45
If you’re thinking of adding an apostrophe-s to make a word plural, think twice. Pluralizing a word with apostrophe-s is correct in only a very, very, very very veryveryvery few instances. In fact, I can think of only one instance off the top of my head: do’s and don’ts.

To make an acronym or initialism plural, just add a lowercase -s or -es to the word based on how you would pronounce it: EKGs, PACs, ROUSes.

Check out this example: Farmer Brown’s six rabbits were on several of the IRS’s repo lists until Farmer Brown’s 1040s were discovered under several barrels of Brussel’s sprouts.