When the San Francisco Examiner opted to accept “they” and “their” as singular pronouns, Editor Michael Howerton explained the decision in terms of respect:
San Francisco Examiner reporters are now adding another question to the basic details we ask of people we talk with: their preferred pronoun. Whether someone wishes to be known as “he,” “she” or “they,” it will be up to us to ask them, not for the reporter to assume.
This is a small change in our daily routine as reporters, but the significance is immense. It will allow our coverage to better reflect the breadth of gender expression and gender identity and present that diversity with a deserved dignity.
The Washington Post’s copy editor Bill Walsh made a similar announcement in 2015: “What finally pushed me from acceptance to action on gender-neutral pronouns was the increasing visibility of gender-neutral people. … [S]imply allowing they for a gender-nonconforming person is a no-brainer.”
That was also the official reason for the American Dialect Society’s choosing “they” as the 2015 Word of the Year: “for its emerging use as a pronoun to refer to a known person, often as a conscious choice by a person rejecting the traditional gender binary of he and she.”
But I don’t think awareness is the only reason for the shift. Consider the case of Curt Schilling, who ironically (and probably unwittingly) used inclusive language in the transphobic Facebook comment that got him fired from ESPN: “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much.”
Common use of singular they predates Caitlyn Jenner and the show Transparent by many years. Widespread acceptance of this change is probably one part growing awareness of gender identity issues (a good thing), and two parts disregard for agreement in sentences (very, very bad).
Content editing focuses on the story — characters, plot, tone, continuity, etc. Line editing consists of detailed notes on the writing, everything from word choices to sentence structure to paragraphs or entire sections that need attention. Copyediting, which is focused on grammar, punctuation and spelling. (More on the differences here.)
Editing should never involve wresting control of the work from the writer. As John McIntyre of the The Baltimore Sun says: “Editors, generally, are introverts. We work in anonymity, not being actuated by a vulgar craving for public notice. … Because we are not driven by desire for glory, we are happy to share what we know of the craft: to consult, to advise, to train, to mentor.”
When I read a manuscript, these are the main things I’m looking for.
Does the story begin “as close to the end as possible”, as Kurt Vonnegut advised? Does the narrative progress in a coherent way? Does it move at a pace that will hold a reader’s interest while also providing the details and background that bring the characters and setting to life? Is there a discernible beginning, middle and end? Are there peaks and valleys in the action that trend upward toward the climax? Continue reading →
Irish author Roddy Doyle fills his Facebook page with brief, humorous and sometimes profane exchanges between two unnamed men in a pub. Their chats are often topical, and they resonate — his post on Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum was shared more than 16,000 times. These posts are like little gifts to his fans. And I hope he wouldn’t find it too crass for me to suggest that they’re also a form of content marketing.
The challenge and opportunity of content marketing is that you’re free to define what qualifies. Generally speaking, if it informs or entertains (or both), then it’s content; every other detail is open for discussion. In fact the more unique your content is, the more likely it will be heard above the endless noise of the Internet.
To be effective, your content needs to be:
In my first meeting with one of my clients, an IT company serving small to mid-size businesses, the owner talked about his business. IT is complex work, and he will put his staff’s expertise against anyone’s. But at the most fundamental level, he explained, “We sell convenience. You turn your computer on and it works, every time. That’s what people care about.” His ability to explain his business philosophy in clear, jargon-free terms set the tone for everything I’ve written for them. Their content reflects their brand.