2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats people helped me see how I did last year by making a 2014 report for the blog. Check it out below!

It wasn’t a stellar year for me as a blogger, but I am thrilled how my first year as a full-time freelance editor went. 2015 looks so promising, and I can’t wait to share more with you soon 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 760 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Today, I might be wrong.

As I was working through a lesson today, I got stuck. I had no idea whether to say “pull the tape off  the paper” or “pull the tape off of the paper.” Both sounded fine to me, and “off of” sounded just a tiny bit better. However, a quick web search and some of my favorite grammar blogs stunned me; apparently, the grammar world thinks that my acceptance of the phrase “off of” is “illiterate,” “incorrect,” “unnecessary,” “dialectal or informal,” and even hated! 

Grammarphobia.com explains the issue well. Read on to see what you think:

Is “off of” so awful?

Q: Listening to you on WNYC the other day, I was surprised to hear you use the term “illiterate” to describe the construction “off of” (as in “Keep off of the couch”). I’m a post-doctoral fellow in linguistics who uses this non-standard form. And judging by Google, it’s widely attested.

A: I’ve been bothered by that “illiterate” statement ever since it left my mouth. It was uncharacteristic of me. I’m not generally so judgmental. Even my husband let me have it when I got home from the radio studio!

My big Webster’s New International Dictionary (in a 1956 printing of the second edition) does indeed say “off of” (meaning “off”) is “now illiterate.”

However, the Oxford English Dictionary labels it “in later use only colloq. (nonstandard) and regional.” In other words, this construction was once standard, but is no longer.

For centuries, nobody considered the “of” redundant. The OEDsays that “off of” may have been around since the mid-15th century. Here are some relevant citations, beginning with the earliest (where it appears as “of of”):

circa 1450, from a medical text: “Take a sponfull of the licour … of of the fyir and sette it in good place tyl that it be ny colde.”

1667, from Andrew Marvell: “The Lords and we cannot yet get off of the difficultyes risen betwixt us.”

1712, from Richard Steele, writing in the Spectator: “I could not keep my Eyes off of her.”

1884, from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn: “I’d borrow two or three dollars off of the judge for him.”

By the time Twain put those words in Huck’s mouth they were probably considered a regionalism. (As Twain wrote in an author’s note, “In this book a number of dialects are used.”)

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage says the “off of” construction lost its respectability in the last quarter of the 19th century. Although it has “faded into the past” in Britain,M-W notes, it has become idiomatic in the US.

Today, the usage guide says, this “innocuous idiom” seems to be used primarily in speech in contexts ranging from “uneducated” to “general.”

“If it is part of your personal idiom and you are not writing on an especially elevated plane,” M-W adds, “you have no reason to avoid off of.”

I admit that I went too far in calling “off of” an illiterate usage. This isn’t 1956. But I still think it’s nonstandard and doesn’t belong in the best written English. Conversation and informal writing? Sure!

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) says: “The compound preposition off of is generally regarded as informal and is best avoided in formal speech and writing: He stepped off (not off ofthe platform.”

Another source, Garner’s Modern American Usage (3d ed.), finds the construction “much inferior” to the form without the “of.”

The author, Bryan A. Garner, puts the usage at Stage 4 in his “Language-Change Index,” which means “Ubiquitous but….” (In his system of gauging change in the language, Stage 5 means “Fully accepted.”)

One day “off of” will undoubtedly be accepted as standard American English, but not yet.

Interestingly, many other pairs of prepositions are routinely coupled in English: “next to,” “away from,” “out of,” and so on.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language has an extensive discussion of prepositions followed by prepositional phrases. “Because,” “ahead,” “instead,” “upward,” “alongside,” “inside,” “outside,” “out,” and others are often followed by prepositional phrases beginning with “of.”

However, the Cambridge Grammar notes that the combination of “off” followed by an “of” phrase occurs only in American English.

Re-blogged from: http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2009/12/is-off-of-so-awful.html

Well, what are your thoughts? Is “off of” still just as acceptable now as it was in 1956? Or am I wrong today?

Tips from an executive editor

This week, I had the opportunity to sit in on a lecture by David Mills, who has served as the executive editor for two prominent magazines over the last 15 years. It was an incredible opportunity, and I loved learning from him! In today’s post, I’d love to share just a few of the tidbits I gleaned from him.

1. Writing presents the great temptation to be someone that you’re not, someone greater than you are. Don’t give in to that temptation; rather, write about things that you know, tell the truth, and humbly say only the things that you can say truly.

2. There is always a reason for keeping your head down and skirting the sensitive issues. If you can’t say what you want to say honestly, don’t take the assignment.

3. Make your claim straightforward and clear. Force yourself to say exactly what you want to say in a very direct way. (Hint: If you are stuck with a big idea and you can’t figure out how to narrow it down, try writing by hand.) You will have other chances to say what you have to say.

4. Write personally, but follow the rules. It is okay to use the first person and to tell stories, but it is not okay to try to invent your own system of grammar.

5. Make sure that you occasionally read writers you disagree with and engage their material.

6. Admit that you write with a cause in mind. It will make you a more honest writer, and it will make writing easier, since you won’t be trying to skirt the  issues.

7. Accept the fact that readers are annoying.

8. No matter how sincere you are, try to see through your emotion to your writing. What you have to say may be very important, but it won’t matter if you don’t say it well.

9. Work at becoming sensitive to idealogical and technical language.

10. Double check your own understanding of words. Sometimes, words do not mean what you think they mean.*

After hearing him speak, I can’t wait to read
more that Mr. Mills has written.
What are some of your favorite writing tips?

*See: The Princess Bride