Editing with a mission

You may have heard about the Wikipedia user who has spent many a Saturday night doing just one thing: changing all cases of ‘comprised of’ on Wikipedia to ‘consists of’ or ‘composed of’. To date, he has edited thousands of cases and virtually eliminated the phrase from the website, except in quotations. He’s refined the process to the point that he can catch all new instances of ‘comprised’ of within two weeks or so of their appearance on Wikipedia, which he estimates is around 70 per week.

This may sound like the work of a madman, or a super-pedant at the least. But then again, we all have our little obsessions. Oxford comma – yes or no? ‘Try and’ or ‘try to’? You see, all of these – including ‘comprised of’ – are acceptable to a degree. Every language has a grammatical grey zone, and it’s precisely the ambiguity of language that adds to its beauty. When we write, translate or edit, we are making little judgement calls with each choice of word, every turn of phrase. And whether you prefer ‘who’ to ‘whom’, or ‘happy’ to ‘pleased’, is a reflection of your personality and voice. For all of Giraffedata efforts, I firmly believe we should embrace this.

Grammar pedantry syndrome

There are, of course, grammar rules that should be followed. The grammar vigilantes generally do good work, like these travelling editors and this Facebook page. But there are also many out there that insist their preferences are the law, overruling style guides and tone of voice guidelines. Like Giraffedata’s 6,000-word essay on the subject of ‘comprised of’, perfectly nice people can become prudish, snobby and pessimistic about the future of mankind when they start talking about say, whether ‘disinterested’ or ‘irregardless’ is a word.

Guilty as charged

Supertext is, in fact, a breeding ground of super-pendants. Aside from writing and translating, we read and proofread diligently, each with a mission to not only iron out mistakes, but also to stamp out what we perceive as ‘incorrect’. ‘Can not’ rather than ‘cannot’. Prepositions at the end of sentences. ‘And’ at the beginning of sentences. ‘E-mail’ or ‘email’, ‘internet’ or ‘Internet’. Double quotes “” or single quotes ‘’. It’s geschmacksache, we know, but we can’t help obsessively ‘correcting’ them. So what are your grammar fetishes? Can you guess what my preferences are?

Titelbild via Flickr: Nic McPhee (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Ein Kommentar zu “Editing with a mission”

  • Allison Turner am 14. April 2015 19:44 Uhr

    Great post, but can I just say how cringe-worthy it is to see the double quotes around only “cannot”? And I *like* double quotes! (And “comprises” without “of”.)

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