As a copy editor myself, of course I enjoyed this piece by Thomas Vinciguerra, which begins:
Backed by the cheery fiddle and guitar of Tom Moss’s “Gypsy Night Dance,” the bespectacled white-haired gentleman in a blue blazer, striped bow tie, and pocket square is holding forth on the language issue of the day.
“I’m sometimes asked,” he tells the camera, speaking patiently but gesturing intensely, “‘Is “data” singular or plural?’ The answer is yes.”
As soon as I read the description of the bespectacled white-haired gentleman, I knew it was John E. McIntyre, whom I have featured repeatedly here at LH (2010, 2013 [257 comments!], 2014); after introducing him, it continues:
McIntyre, the night content production manager at the Baltimore Sun, is one of an increasingly visible and robust breed of public masters of style and usage who have parlayed journalistic copy-desk expertise into an enthusiastic online following. In an age of texting and tweeting, these folks are trying to keep the mother tongue healthy, and their presence constitutes a refreshing renaissance for a profession that is generally underappreciated and rarely noticed—until, of course, a mistake shows up in print.
The thing about McIntyre, of course, is that he has an understanding of language informed by linguistic science, which is as rare among copyeditors as in the population at large; the article goes on to celebrate Mary Norris of the New Yorker, who has consistently irritated me with her stubborn insistence on every bit of peevery that has encrusted the magazine over the years, but heigh-ho. It’s all worth it for the end, which returns to McIntyre:
Admittedly, the copy editor’s lot generally remains a lonely one; whether working in graphite or keystroke, practitioners don’t often endear themselves to their writers. Ask John McIntyre, who served two terms as president of ACES [the American Copy Editors Society] from 2001 to 2005. Recently, he recalled the organization’s first conference 20 years ago in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for CJR.
“There were maybe 300 people,” he says, “and someone said that was probably the largest gathering of copy editors in one place in history. I came back and told that to my wife. And she said, ‘Except in hell.’”