The Curmudgeon's stylebook

Subject: The Curmudgeon's stylebook
From: Marika Chalupa <iamarika -at- EROLS -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 10 Nov 1996 15:50:07 -0800

Dear Techwriters,

From the pages of the Cumudgeon's stylebook:


"Show your true colours as a subeditor, go over every dispatch as though
you were kicking the tyres of a
superannuated lorry with your grey plimsolls, and translate Reuters,
Agence France-Presse and Deutsche
Presse Agentur stories from British into English. Here are just a few

"Sabre-rattling": Make it saber rattling (e before r, no hyphen
unless it's a modifier).

Name-"call"ing: Note the Britishism in the following Reuters passage:

The Iranian newspaper Kayhan said a Texan called Mary Jones, 35, was
arrested in a Tehran square
and brought to a police station with her dog two weeks ago. In the
U.S. of A., the woman is named Mary
Jones. She may be called Jonesy or Mare-Mare or M.J. or "that woman,"
but in American English she is
named Mary Jones.

"Pensioner": It means retiree.

Borderline correct: Change the British word "frontier" to its
American equivalent, "border." On this side of
the Atlantic, frontier refers to Davy Crockett stuff.

"Pyjamas": If you don't know it's "pajamas," you deserve a spanking.

Lt.-Gen., Maj.-Gen., Lt.-Col.: Brits hyphenate such ranks; Americans

"Stopping him doing" or "preventing him doing": In American English,
we use the word "from" before

"Transport": The noun is a nice space saver, but it is a British
usage and not an American one. Stick
with "transportation."

"Council flats": Public housing.

"Shop": The standard American word for store is "store." The British
word, also sometimes used in
American, is "shop." Since Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Deutsche
Presse Agentur all write in
British, we see way too many shops in copy. It's fine to say butcher
shop and other common usages, but
the word by itself denotes cutesy little curio emporiums and the
like, as in "Old Town Alexandria caters
to tourists with its many restaurants and shops."

"Scheme": The word carries a nefarious connotation in American
English, whereas the British use it
willy-nilly to mean "plan" or "program."

A note to my Commonwealth readers: Any demeaning remarks I make about
British English are solely in
frustration with American editors who don't bother to edit in their own
language. If I were editing for a British
publication, I'd be snotty in the same way about American English. (That
is, unless I happened to be at The
Economist, which writes in American.). "

FOR MORE CHECK The Cumudgeon stylebook by Bill Walsh

Marika Chalupa
Drexel student

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