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Friday, April 10, 2015

Just between ... the two of us

“How do you become a good user of English?  Well, a person should read. And read, and read. Preferably good things. I might suggest The New Yorker, for instance.” – Mary Norris  

Mary Norris is a longtime copy editor at The New Yorker, a magazine justly famous for the care it takes with words.  As noted on a recent interview on National Public Radio, the work of very well-known authors has felt the authoritative pressure of Norris’s editing pen, and now after a lifetime of improving the words of others, she has written her own book, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.

The title, she told NPR's Linda Wertheimer, comments on a common mistake, "using 'I' instead of 'me' in phrases such as 'between you and me,' after any preposition or as the object of a verb." How can you tell when you're messing it up? Put the "I" first. "You might make a mistake — I hope not — and say 'between you and I,'" Norris says, "but you would never make the mistake of saying 'between I and you.'"

Mary Norris

Norris began working at The New Yorker in 1978, and said that over her many years there she’s worked with all kinds of writers, great and small, but one of the easiest was the wonderful John Updike.

“John Updike was very careful in his prose and very attuned to details. The only danger there was that it was so slick, your pencil would slide off the page! It was really beautifully done.”

For a great read on editing and her life in the business go to this link http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/23/holy-writ
Happy (and correct) writing!

P.S.  Thanks to Danielle Yeager for the idea for this post.

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