The Editorial Apartment


Universal things: Language and communication

The Daily Prompt from The Daily Post, titled Money for Nothing, asks readers to describe their ultimate job: “What is it that you love? What fulfills you?”

I don’t know what my dream job is. I’m still looking for it. I may not really have one. My diverse interests have a common thread of globality, something of importance to everyone across cultures. I’m interested in health and nutrition, in international relations, in languages, in traveling. I like animals and plants; I like the sun and its warmth on my back. I like bringing people together, despite my occasional grumpiness and non–people person behaviors. I like seeing and experiencing new things. I like cooking and making things with my hands. I like foods from other cultures. I love airports. And when at work, I like to keep busy.

My dream job at the moment might involve food and learning how to bake professionally. It might involve learning more in depth about nutrition. In the past, I’ve thought about nursing and wanted to know how to draw blood. I’ve also wanted to take serious sewing classes, so I could understand how my clothes were made.

Right now though, I’m a copy editor of marketing communications. That means I work on all sorts of advertising, including all things digital and all things printed. I am part of a team of creative people who produce those brochures you get at your doctor’s office, or all that information you read on the websites of the companies whose products you buy, or the posts on their blogs.

I edited that billboard you just drove by. I reviewed that newsletter sent by your local hospital, and I copyedited those e-newsletters from businesses whose mailing lists you’ve joined. I was responsible for making sure the posters and banners at that convention center event you went to had a clear message and that the survey you took to win a prize contained questions that made sense. As a copy editor, I am responsible, along with a team of writers, designers, proofreaders, and translators, for helping to ensure messages are clearly communicated.

What is my dream job? Well, one where I’m helping the many and involved in something universal. Thus far, as a freelance copy editor, it’s been about language and communication.


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Reminder: Language changes

The other day, I got in the “10 Items or Fewer” line at my local Trader Joe’s market. The sign said “fewer” and not the more often seen “less.” That’s not a problem, but they didn’t have to change it, according to noted linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. (See the article cited in a previous post about rules of English you can break.) This British comedian agrees:

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Rules of English you can break—or are already breaking


You’ll need some time to read about of few of these rules in this article by Steven Pinker, a linguist who has written several books about language. (His first such book, “The Language Instinct,” is also a long—but humorous—read.)

Many of these so-called grammar rules,* says Pinker, “originated for screwball reasons.” Here’s a few of the issues he comments on:

  • Dangling modifiers – Watch out for them, though not all of them have to be fixed.
  • Like, as, such as – It’s about how formal you want to be.
  • Split infinitives – It’s OK to split them, and sometimes it’s better for adverb placement.
  • Who and whom – “Whom” is declining in use, but it’s a natural choice in some instances, and again, how formal do you want to be?
  • Very unique – This one is best to avoid, but with other constructions, says Pinker, “great writers have been modifying absolute adjectives for centuries.”

*These “grammar rules” have also been called zombie rules, but Pinker doesn’t use the term.