Adviser Update Adviser Update Spring 2017 | Page 4
Professor cheers for grammar and the joy of editing
By Linda Shockley
I was eating lunch alone at the
American Copy Editors Society
conference in St. Petersburg,
Florida, when I overheard
two couples at the next table
wondering what ACES was. I started to
blurt out, but one of these jazzy senior
citizens left their table strolled down the
hall and came back to report: “They are
proofreaders.” conflict,” she said.
Then they launched into a critique of
how typos litter newspapers, magazines
and our ubiquitous screens: mobile, TV
or laptop. Somebody hold me down.
Copy editors do much more than
proofread. They fact check and perform
ever-increasing and more vital duties
in a digital age. They are the last line
of defense against errors of all kinds
that would (and do) undermine media
credibility. “Once enough users move something,
it’s moved,” she said. “It may take the
standards people a while to come over,
but they have to.”
Lisa McLendon is not a comma queen
or grammar cop; she smiles and laughs
way too much for that. She is not an
old-school grammarian, either, though
she knows a few tricks of the lost art of
“I am a grammar cheerleader,” she said.
“I have said before I hate grammar Nazis.
First, it trivializes the Holocaust, and,
nobody wants to aspire to be a Nazi.”
She said she is on a campaign to
demystify grammar and make it fun.
Seriously, cheery demeanor aside, she
thinks grammar is fun, even exciting.
She just published a book, The Perfect
English Grammar Workbook: Simples
Rules and Quizzes to Master Today’s
English. It’s intentionally affordable
in print and online and good for high
school upperclassmen, college students
As an editor, she knows there are sets of
standards, but that they will change as
you strive to be professional.
She won’t get her “knickers in a twist”
about “over versus more than” or using
“they” as a singular pronoun because
language and usage evolve.
and professionals who need a refresher.
Explaining why we need grammar, she
wrote: “You’re not deliberately wasting
breath or ink or bytes, but if you’re not
being clear, you might as well be. And
that’s why grammar is important: It
makes language work. . . Use grammar
as your tool to control language and
make it work exactly how you want it to.”
Wait, did she just end a sentence with
a preposition? Glad you asked. She lists
this among several grammar myths.
“Prepositions in English often work as
adverbs or pair with verbs, which means
they may end a sentence naturally. But
even true prepositions don’t always
have to be followed by their objects.
Write however it sounds most natural
and is clearest to the reader.”
This refreshing perspective comes from
having studied language and worked as
a copy editor.
“Being a linguist and an editor has
helped balance out the prescriptiveness
“I like to think about useful changes. It
helps to make our language clearer and
stronger,” she said.
Though she coordinates the Bremner
Editing Center at the University of
Kansas’ William Allen White School of
Journalism and Mass Communications,
she won’t be confused with the gruff
persona Professor John Bremner
projected in seminars with professional
journalists who should have known
their “p’s and q’s,” but evidently didn’t.
McLendon is the kindly coach, mentor
and professor who said she wants
to rid students of grammar aversion,
particularly those who had a bad
experience, so that they are less anxious
about it. As with North Carolina and
Syracuse’s journalism schools, students
at Kansas have to get grammar right
before they can advance. She doesn’t
believe that making people feel stupid is
a good way to teach.
McLendon enticed 100 ACES
conventioneers into a session on
diagramming sentences when they
could have been out enjoying Tampa