On editing discussion boards, the personal peeves of various editors inevitably bubble to the surface. A recurring peeve is the use of require for need. This is one particular bugaboo that I’ve never sweated (note to pedants: sweat would be fine here, too. That’s right: both sweat and sweated are acceptable as past tense and past participle of sweat), but it sure raises the ire of some. This week, the issue was raised again on LinkedIn, so I had to haul out the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. (Who am I kidding — the COD is always at hand.)
Here are the definitions:
- need: require
- require: need
That’s right, folks. I declare this debate officially over.
Okay, maybe there’s a bit more to discuss. Sure, require is the better choice in some instances:
To clear security, a passport is required (in other words, nothing but a passport will do the trick).
And need is the better choice in others:
This thesis needs a good editor (not a requirement, but a damn good suggestion).
But if the Canadian Oxford isn’t dying on this hill, neither am I.
Now, can we all get back to more important things — like duking it out over the Oxford comma!
I came across a post by Grammar Girl today, which discussed the use of two pairs of words:
preventive vs. preventative
orient vs. orientate
Grammar Girl says they’re both correct, but for Americans the shorter words preventive and orient are more common. I’d concur for Canadians — COD equates the words. CP style, however, stipulates that preventative not be used — probably a space-saving measure.
By the way, there’s still time — eight more days — to contribute to Grammar Girl’s Peeve Wars fundraiser. And a heads up: March 4 is Grammar Day. How do you plan to celebrate?
Compound words often have me reaching for the dictionary to confirm I’ve spelled them correctly. The Chicago Manual of Style confirms that compound spellings are indeed the most common spelling questions for writers and editors. Is the compound in question two words, hyphenated, or closed up as a single word? Non member, non-member, or nonmember? Complicating matters is that the answer can be different depending on whether you’re using Canadian or American spelling. (Chicago specifies nonmember, but the Canadian Oxford Dictionary lists non-member.)
What about those commonly used compounds made with e for electronic? Canadian Press specifies the following spellings:
- ebook (COD lists e-book)
From this list, it’s obvious that the most common words — ebook and email — have, through common usage, become acceptable as closed compounds. With time, the other words will probably become closed as well.
Chicago, a more literary style guide, recommends that hyphens be used with e compounds.
As always, choosing a style and using it consistently is the important thing.
I bet you’ve noticed my new pet peeve a lot lately: the overuse of event by marketers. We used to talk about event venues or about sports events. There was some importance attached to an event, or at least some kind of formal program.
Yes, it’s been a brutal winter, but do I have to keep hearing weather forecasters speak of “snowfall events”? We’re Canadian, yes, but it’s just snow. Does yet another Hollywood movie with no plot but lots of wreckage really constitute an “event” in my life? Hardly.
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines event as “a thing that happens or takes place, especially one of importance.” Okay, that’s not so strict. Technically, an event could be just about anything. But let’s not reduce a word to meaninglessness by attaching it to every marketing campaign going.
There are lots of troublesome words that writers often get mixed up: further/farther, pour/pore, comprise/compose, and so on. I’ve discussed this in a previous post. Copy editors are well aware of these words and do their best to catch such errors of usage.
Today in a tweet, a writer described a list “titled” something-or-other (titled used as an adjective). I thought, shouldn’t that be entitled? Are they synonyms? I wasn’t sure and had to go looking.
According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, title means “give a title to.” Titled is the past tense, of course, but it is also an adjective that means “having a title of nobility or rank.” Entitle means “give a just claim or right” or “give the title of.” So a writer can title her work, and she can also entitle her work? In a word, yes.
I title thee Best Grammarian of Them All!
She titled her essay “The Best Headache Cures in Nature.”
He is a titled tennis player.
Diana Gabaldon’s new book, which will be released on June 10, 2014, is titled Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.
My grandmother will entitle her bucket list “To Do and Die.”
The list is entitled “To Do and Die.”
See these here guns? They entitle us to a little respect around here.
(That last sentence? Sounds like an awesome TV script, huh?)
Some sticklers out there feel that entitle should be restricted to the first definition given above: “give a just claim or right.” That certainly wasn’t my instinct. Thankfully, this is one of those cases where change in common usage over the years has entitled writers to use either title or entitle before the title of a work. I’ll give none other than Grammar Girl the last, succinct word on the subject.
Like every good Canadian editor, I keep the Canadian Oxford Dictionary at hand to confirm spellings and definitions, and the COD spells my profession as copy editor. Ironically, everywhere I look, this term is spelled inconsistently — sometimes as one word and sometimes as two. The Chicago Manual of Style uses copyeditor, and thus so do many American publications. Here’s a good article from the Baltimore Sun that points out that it doesn’t matter how copy editor is spelled because as a profession it’s on its way out — touché!
In the comments section for the article, a reader posts that he calls himself a “content editor,” thus avoiding the controversy altogether and giving the profession a needed update in the process. I’ve described myself similarly on LinkedIn — as someone who transforms content.
I kinda like the fact that the term copy editor has variant spellings. Accepting variations is apt for a profession that should keep abreast of the culture and be flexible with language and style. Instead of being confused about the spelling of copy editor, let the term remind us of the care and adaptability we exemplify as we work with text.
I learned a few things today.
First, I found myself looking up influential. I thought it might have been influencial because that’s how it appeared in an article I was reading. But no, influential it is.
Second, the difference between brought and taken was brought (heh) to my attention. I was perusing the website of The Canadian Press, where the following question was posed: Is an accident victim brought or taken to the hospital?
The Canadian Oxford offers these definitions:
bring: come carrying or leading something or accompanying someone
take: gather into one’s hands or possession
So the victim was taken to the hospital by paramedics, but paramedics brought the victim to the hospital via ambulance.
A subtle difference, which I was heretofore unaware of.
An EAC discussion board on LinkedIn dealt with another point of usage. An editor noted the incorrect use of need when what is meant is should or ought. As someone searching for work, I need to network more — not so much: I should network more.
Finally, I attended a business seminar sponsored by the city. It wasn’t particularly helpful to me, but the speaker urged us to be “congruent” with our clients, to learn to negotiate, and to communicate the value that we will add to the business of our clients. We
need to should keep in mind that situations can be negotiated to be win-win-win; that is, a win for us, for our clients, and for the customers of our clients. How to do this? Creativity, of course. Know what you need but be flexible and open to new ways of doing business.
Filed under spelling, usage