Rosie Right: Confuse(d) Copy Editor 

Confuse (d) Copy Editor

A copy editor's life is sometimes bewildering. All of us know to check spelling and facts, but some other problems are nightmares. For instance, in the December - January issue of Copy Editor newsletter there is a discussion of how many such poor wretches deal with the grammar in sentences like The box contained different-sized ornaments, and bathtub-size (ed?) cake.

The editor of the newsletter tells us "modifiers that appear before nouns and end in ed generally take two forms:

"1. Denominal ... [those] directly derived from nouns, bearded man ...

"2. Participial These ed modifiers are directly derived from verbs damaged car, brewed coffee...."

All right so far, but in many cases the ed has been dropped. Rosie is used to ice tea, but can foods really grates.

The newsletter's accompanying report about its survey of copy editors revealed that 35 percent use different-size ornaments

62 percent chose different-sized ornaments.

58 percent use bathtub size cake

38 percent use bathtub-sized cake

Among the reasons given for the choices was that there should be an ed in "all adjective forms full-sized, round-bottomed. Except in cases like bathtub-size where the word modifies a noun rather than an adjective." (Jane Crosen, copy editor of Wooden Boat magazine)

Still, editors at seven other publications were quoted, and each had a slightly different rationale for his/her choices. Rosie's favorite was Michael Slind, managing editor of the magazine Fast Company, who chose different-size ornaments and bathtub-size cake because of "ease and simplicity."

Talk the Talk:

Halfback: One of a group of retirees who moved to Florida after living in the North and who now are moving part of way back to their previous homes, settling in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. Source: The Atlantic, June 1998

From the e-mailbag:

Jack Turner of Beaverdam, Va., has written to second Rosie's complaint about problems suddenly becoming issues. He partially blames lawyers for their enthusiastic embrace of this trend.

Sanford Terry, a communications engineer, was interested in the discussion about the word esoteric. He defends Rosie by saying that while he "has more than passing knowledge about the how and why of electrons that race through wires, cable and air to convey intelligence. ... My friends understand how to push telephone buttons, turn knobs and send messages via Internet, but have no understanding whatever about happenings within their magic boxes. Esoteric? Yup."

Click here for the full text of the letters.

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825), fax (355-9089), letter 1118 W. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23220) or e-mail (rright@richmond.infi.net)

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