Question and Answer of the Afternoon

From this month’s Q&A from the Chicago Manual of Style:

Q. I am confused about the capitalization of giclée, which is a type of computer-generated art print. I see it both ways. It isn’t a proper noun or anyone’s name, so I don’t see why anyone would capitalize it. Can you weigh in? It is not in my dictionary.

A. People probably cap giclée for the same reason they cap president, chapter, or impressionism. We don’t know what that reason would be, so we lowercase it.

The Pointless Passive

I just came across a new (to me, anyway) irritating misuse of language. Until such time as I discover an earlier name for it, I’m calling it the Pointless Passive.

Here is the sentence (slightly modified to protect the guilty) that set my teeth on edge:

The association requires candidates to have attained a certain level of professional experience before being permitted to apply for membership.

The passive being permitted lets you omit the subject of the verb, and yet the subject, the association, is already right there in the freaking sentence, so what’s the point? Change being permitted to permitting them.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a cup of coffee before work is returned to.

Games Copy Editors Play: Find the Antecedant

From the back of a package of raisins:

For generations, Sun-Maid has been America’s favorite raisin. That’s because we are committed to bringing you the best that nature has to offer. They’re 100% natural.

What plural noun does they refer back to, exactly?

Fortunately, in the very next line there are not one but two clues:

Just grapes and sunshine is all we put in them.

One clue is the ingredient list; the other is the choice of verb, which nobody involved in the writing, editing, or approval of this copy had a problem with.

Two Quotes About Editing

Two good quotes about editing from the Chicago Manual of Style‘s monthly Q&A column for October:

The decision, like so many others in writing and editing, should not be made according to some idea of what is “correct”. Rather, it must be made according to what is logical and helpful.


It’s good to remember that even nonsense can be grammatically correct.

Both old truths, but easy to lose sight of.