Bill Walsh, a Washington Post copy editor who wrote three irreverent books about his craft, noting evolutions and devolutions of language, the indispensability of hyphens and his hostility toward semicolons, and distinctions - for the sake of clarity - between Playboy Playmates and Playboy Bunnies, died March 15 at a hospice center in Arlington, Va. He was 55.
Read the full Washington Post obituary
ACES is establishing a Bill Walsh Scholarship to support students intere
I am home from my first major surgery and first overnight hospital stay.I have crutches (another first). I have a titanium rod (or “nail,” as my dapper and congenial surgeon calls it) in my left femur. The thigh that surrounds said femur is itself surrounded by a brace that immobilizes the knee. Dapper and Congenial Sawbones and his resident led me to believe that I could ditch the brace at any time and re-enact the Fred Astaire ceiling dance. The nurse I asked to remove it strongly d
It hasn't been long since my last update, but I have plenty of "content," as the kids say.
Jacqueline and I have talked to a handful of people at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, and they have been helpful and encouraging. I'm not a candidate for the "bubble boy" immunotherapy trial ("It's MOORS! There's no MOOPS!"), but that was more of a down-the-road option and, in very good news, I would qualify for the trial
"Your body likes to grow things," Dr. Zamskaya told me a few years back, in a simpler time when my main health concerns were moles and freckles and seborrheic keratosis, a.k.a. geriatric warts, though I prefer "barnacles."
And, unfortunately, my body continued to grow things during the clinical drug trial I've been on for the past eight weeks. So Jacqueline and I will stop trekking to Philadelphia and start looking for another trial. Or something.
Early in my journalism education, I was taught the school of thought that all compound modifiers should be hyphenated -- "except high school."
The logic isn't hard to follow. Especially in sports coverage, the linkage is obvious and the punctuation would be rampant. And even making that your lone exception is an extreme position, at least in the bell-curve sense. In the real world, few would hyphenate ice cream cone or peanut butter sandwich or real estate agent or law enforcemen
Now begins Round 2 of my cancer fight. I have joined a clinical trial of a drug that has shown promise in at least temporarily keeping the bad stuff at bay. This will require traveling -- weekly at first, then every two weeks -- the 135 miles from my home in Washington, D.C., to the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia.
The standard first-line treatment for my cancer -- cholangiocarcinoma, or cancer of the bile ducts -- is chemotherapy consisting of gemcitabine and cisplatin.
I've been walking five miles a day. Over the past week or two I've hit the pickleball court twice and the tennis court once. I appear to have hurt my left knee.
That damn knee really does hurt, without any obvious trip or slip or strain, but I'm sure you'll agree that all of the above is a pretty positive lede for a guy with Stage 4 intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma who couldn't hold down a bite of food a few weeks earlier.
I recently learned -- gradually and then suddenly, like the bankrupt Hemingway character -- that I have cancer. Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, to be precise. Stage 4, with a tennis-ball-size liver tumor and numerous little sidekick tumors. Not one of your kinder, gentler cancers.
Believe me, I have every intention of fighting and beating this thing. And my wife, Jacqueline, is helping me fight and beat this thing. I wouldn't bet on This Thing, quite frankly. Still, the odds are no
By popular request, here is the slide show that accompanied my presentation at the 2016 American Copy Editors Society conference in Portland, Oregon. The usual caveat: I don't use PowerPoint (or do much else, for that matter) like a normal person. I put up slides to illustrate and punctuate my points, and to give the audience something to look at besides my shiny head. So you won't see bullet points spelling out everything I said. There is a fair amount of text, but in some cases you'll have to
In academic publishing and other rigorously picky environments, single letters are bracketed to indicate a change of case in a quotation from written material -- a word from the middle of a quote being used to begin a sentence, or a word from the beginning of a sentence being used in the middle of running text.
Recently, the practice has extended beyond academia and taken the Web by storm. Some writers at Slate and Salon seemingly engineer their sentences so that the case at the beginning
It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that I built a (not-very-lucrative) second career on hatred of the email spelling of e-mail, or to say that the peeve I petted the most was the mic spelling of mike.
But back in my first career, the one that pays the bills, it's not about me. And so, as my Washington Post colleagues and I prepared to move out of the building where I've worked for nearly 19 years, I decided this time of change would be a good time to propose some style up
During Bill Clinton's first term as president, I was not yet at The Washington Post. I worked at another news organization -- one that was, shall we say, extremely interested in the inner workings of the administration. One night I was working on a story that involved a Clinton adviser named Ira Magaziner (shown above in a New York Times article that reminded me of all this), and the headline said something like "Clinton aide blah blah blah." The top editor was not happy w
Believe it or not, there is new content on The Slot! In How to Be a Good Newbie, I present 20 questions for anyone trying to get hired as a copy editor — or already hired and trying to make a good impression.
A lot of these are questions you'll have to ask, but some of them you had better be able to figure out yourself.
Since August 2013, I've been doing a monthly chat on Washingtonpost.com. ICYMI, here's an archive:
June 1, 2016
May 4, 2016
April 6, 2016
March 2, 2016
Feb. 2, 2016
Jan. 1, 2016
Dec. 1, 2015
Nov. 3, 2015
Oct. 6, 2015
Sept. 1, 2015
Aug. 4, 2015
Ben Zimmer's informative Visual Thesaurus post on the NCAA men's basketball tournament and its "brackets" and other lingo reminded me of the much less useful post of peeves I've had in mind for some time.
If you're inferring that the subject makes me a bit crotchety because I simply don't like basketball, well, you may have a point. But I do pay attention to my alma mater's exploits in the tournament. The photo above is from the Arizona Daily Star -- that would be
In what I can only assume was an exaggerated-for-comic-effect piece on Slate, David Haglund bemoans the lack of an Oxford comma, a.k.a. serial comma, in Earth, Wind & Fire and Crosby, Stills and Nash and the like.
With a straighter face, he asserts that "right-thinking usage nerds everywhere" dutifully use that comma. Red, white, and blue, not red, white and blue. Well, I'm as right-thinking a usage nerd as you'll meet, if I do say so myself, and although I'll concede
One of the kind readers who e-mailed me after my article about the figurative literally appeared in the Washington Post’s Outlook section was complimentary but added that I had misused the word uniquely.
Now, I know the drill on unique. It means one-of-a-kind, and so it’s absolute: More unique and less unique and very unique bring to mind a little bit pregnant. That reality tends to be translated into a copy-editing “rule” along the lines of “Never precede unique with a modifier.”
Radio interviews are now, for all intents and purposes, TV interviews as well. So you can watch as well as listen to my recent appearance on WOSU's "All Sides With Ann Fisher." I had a lot of fun; the hour went too fast.
Finally, the book is out! Look for it at one of the dwindling number of bookstores near you, or follow the links in this sentence to get me a few referral pennies from Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com or an indie bookstore. (There are also Kindle and Nook versions, of course.)
If you've somehow missed the media blitz (the Kardashians' tweets alone probably have you sick of me by now), this is a book in which I defend the petting of peeves but caution the sticklers that they're not alwa
With "Yes, I Could Care Less" coming out June 18, I expected to be doing some interviews and getting some attention round about now. And while there have been a few early reviews, some kinder than others, the Bill Walsh project that seems to have taken the world by storm is not my year-or-so-in-the-making, 256-page book, but rather 18 seconds of video captured by the camera that I affixed to my helmet when I was blogging for Bicycling magazine and have kept using while commuting by
Because cops use the word suspect to mean, essentially, subject, and because too many journalists are parrots who just repeat what cops say, too many ordinary people have lost sight of the word's very simple and rather obvious meaning: As a noun in reference to a crime, a suspect is a person suspected of committing that crime. Keep that in mind, write what you know and attribute what you don't, and you'll be fine.
Police are searching for the suspects who robbed an Eas
People write "Illinois senator" when they mean a U.S. senator from Illinois, and I change it, because there are also Illinois senators as in members of the Illinois Senate.
People write "last January" when they mean the last January to have occurred, and I change it, because there's also last January as in January of last year.
People write "Kansas City" when they mean the one in Missouri, and I change it, because there's also the one in Kansas. They wri
In "Lapsing Into a Comma," I hmphed about what I called illegal clipping, the too-common habit of oddly and sometimes misleadingly truncating a proper noun. USA Today becomes "USA," Consumer Reports becomes "Consumers," Mount Vernon Square becomes "Mount Vernon." (Oddly, I started my rant with the use of "Van Dorn" to refer to the Van Dorn Street station on the D.C. area's Metro system, which in retrospect doesn't seem that odd at all -- and isn'