Meet the Guardian of Grammar Who Wants to Help You Be a Better Writer

Sarah Lyall in the New York Times:

With his finely tuned editing ear, Benjamin Dreyer often encounters things so personally horrifying that they register as a kind of torture, the way you might feel if you were an epicure and saw someone standing over the sink, slurping mayonnaise directly from the jar.

There is “manoeuvre,” the British spelling of “maneuver,” for example, whose unpleasant extraneous vowels evoke the sound of “a cat coughing up a hairball,” Dreyer says. There is “reside,” with its unnecessary stuffiness. (“You mean ‘live’?”) There is the use of quotation marks after the term “so-called,” as in “the so-called ‘expert,’” which just looks stupid.

And there are the words Dreyer currently dislikes most, even more than he dislikes “munch” and “nosh” and other distasteful eating-adjacent terms. Sitting recently in his book-crammed office at Penguin Random House, where he is vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief for Random House — a division within the larger company — Dreyer scribbled “smelly” and “stinky” on a card and slid it speedily across the desk, as if the card itself was emitting a foul stench. “I can’t say them out loud,” he said.

More here.

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