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Title: Proof-Reading - A Series of Essays for Reading and Their Employers, and - for Authors and Editors
Author: Teall, F. Horace
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Proof-Reading - A Series of Essays for Reading and Their Employers, and - for Authors and Editors" ***

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This collection of essays will show very plainly that they were not
written with a view to publication in a book. As a result of this,
the subject-matter is not treated consecutively, systematically, or
exhaustively. Some references to momentary events at the time of
writing, even, have been left unchanged.

It is hoped, however, that, even with the acknowledged imperfections,
the book may be found suggestive and useful by those to whose service
it is dedicated in the title-page.

Some of the chapters are slightly technical, having been originally
addressed to proof-readers only; but even these are thought to be
sufficiently general in their composition to be interesting and useful
to authors and editors.


  The Proof-room                                     7

  Some Practical Criticism for Proof-readers        11

  The Proof-reader’s Responsibility                 17

  Style and Style-cards                             22

  Whim versus Principle                             26

  Authorities and Opinions                          32

  Authoritative Stumbling-blocks in the Study of
  the English Language                              37

  Preparation of Copy                               43

  Copy and Proof-reading                            48

  The Dictionary in the Proof-room                  53

  The Proof-room Library                            58

  The Copy-reader                                   62

  Proper Order of Parts in a Book                   68

  The Book Make-up                                  73

  Grammar and Diction                               79

  Form of Words                                     86

  Spelling and Dictionaries                         97




Though commonly acknowledged theoretically, the relative importance
of good proof-reading is often practically unrecognized. Doubtless
few of those who employ readers will assent to this averment, and
the reason for their non-assent is also the basis of the assertion.
Usually the proof-room is under the authority of a general foreman or
superintendent, often not a good proof-reader himself, and who must
necessarily devote most of his time to other matters. If the foreman
is really competent to read proof, he will manage to secure and keep a
force of good readers with less trouble than those have who are not so
well fitted to judge the work done.

When good work is to be done--and where is the man who avowedly does
not desire good work?--accomplished workmen are required, not properly
in any one department alone, but all through; and perhaps this fact
is partly responsible for the notion, not uncommon, but erroneous and
costly, that almost any intelligent person can read proof.

Few persons realize fully the accomplishment and acuteness of
perception necessary for the best proof-reading. He is the best
reader who, in addition to mechanical experience and accuracy, has a
comprehensive education and can apply it practically. Of course, we can
not expect our reader to know absolutely everything, but he should at
least know enough to suspect error when there is evident occasion for
suspicion, and challenge it for the author’s attention when that is
possible. He should have general information sufficient to enable him
to correct absolute error when he can not refer the matter to author or
editor--a contingency frequently arising in newspaper-work.

Above all, the thoroughly accomplished proof-reader will know enough
not to make changes in what is written when he has no right to do so.
He will often know that what is written can not be right, and yet will
have sense enough not to alter it without authorization. He will also
have sense enough to assume a certain amount of authority on proper
occasion, as in the case of an evident slip in the copy of work that
has a set form. A good example is work like the definitions of verbs
in the “Century Dictionary.” In these definitions the word _to_ is
used only with the first clause. The good proof-reader will have the
word omitted even if it does happen to be in the copy, notwithstanding
the strictest orders to follow copy; in fact, this is so plain a
case that a very good compositor even would not set the word in the
wrong place. Another forcible instance comes to hand at the moment of
writing, in a letter written by a New York proof-reader, who mentions
_Assemblyman_ Amos J. Cummings. Mr. Cummings never was an Assemblyman.
He is a _Congressman_, and Chairman of one of the important Congress
committees; moreover, he is an old-time New York compositor. When he
was an editor on a New York paper another present Congressman was
reporting Brooklyn news for the same paper. Almost every Brooklyn item
sent in at that time had, in the writing, parallel streets reported as
crossing, or cross-streets as being parallel; and these errors were
frequently corrected in the proof-room.

The proof-reader who can and does make such corrections is much better
for such work than one who merely catches typographical errors, even if
he sometimes allows a wrong letter to pass in reading. Certainly a New
York reader, especially a union man, should know better than to write
of _Assemblyman_ Cummings; and it would be well for all proof-readers
to be sufficiently up in current affairs to correct the error, though
it would not be fair to insist upon such correction as part of the
reader’s qualification.

The present difficulty will never cease until the money value of good
proof-reading is better recognized than it ever has been. At least
one union in this country has always made a maximum weekly scale, and
insisted upon classing readers with all other hands, at the same wages.
Employers should insist upon paying as much over the union scale as
they choose, and will always find it conducive to their interest to pay
liberally for proof-reading and demand first-class work.

If any one is fortunate enough to have a first-class proof-reader in
his employ, he will be foolish to let that reader go, if money--within
reasonable bounds--will keep him. Fifty men may try to fill the place
and fail before another really competent man is found.

A large proof-room should have its own foreman--not merely a head
reader, but one actually in authority, just as any foreman should be,
and with higher pay than the other readers have, and also with the
chief responsibility. The room must, of course, be subject to the
general foreman with regard to many details, whether it has a separate
foreman or not; but, whoever is in charge, the readers should not be
too much restricted in small, formal matters. An extreme instance that
will illustrate practically what is meant by this arose through strict
orders not to change anything from copy, too literally obeyed. A letter
was missing from a word always spelled the one way, and the reader
queried its insertion. He was an ordinarily good reader, too, who
certainly had not the natural habit of doing anything stupid.

Undoubtedly better work will be turned out where there is no
possibility of such queries being made, for the necessity of making
them, under orders, imposes upon the reader an unfair burden of useless
watchfulness that inevitably rivets his attention where it is not
needed, and draws it away from matters that demand the utmost care.



A periodical highly esteemed in literary circles, in reviewing a book,
said: “The proof-reading is so bad that we infer that its author
could not have seen the proofs.” The publishers of the book do their
own printing, and probably think their proof-reading is as good as
possible, though they may realize that it is not as good as it should
be. Many employers have had trying experiences in their efforts to
secure good proof-readers, and such experience may have operated in
favor of poor workmen, through sheer discouragement of their employers.

An inference that “its author could not have seen the proofs,” while
possibly natural, is hasty; for, while many authors examine their
proofs carefully, and are reasonably quick to perceive and correct
errors, most authors are not good proof-readers.

Errors in print were quite as common as they now are when “following
copy” was common, as it was in New York, for instance, about thirty
years ago. One of the best offices in which a man could set type was
Alvord’s, flourishing at the time mentioned. In it the compositor
measured for his bill absolutely everything for which a customer paid,
be it a cut, a blank page, or anything else. There, likewise, he was
seldom called upon to change a letter or a point except to make it
like his copy. Certain large offices in New York now are like Alvord’s
only in the fact that their proof-reading is not good--and the authors
see most of the proofs. In one important matter these offices are
utterly unlike Alvord’s--no compositor can earn decent wages in them.

Employers are largely responsible for the common poorness of our
proof-reading, because they have not recognized the real nature of the
work, and have insisted upon classing it as mechanical. Proof-reading
will never be what it should be until the proof-reader ranks with
the editor both in importance and in pay. With no more pay than that
of the good compositor, and sometimes with less than the first-class
compositor’s pay, the proof-reader’s position will not be adequately
filled. Properly qualified proof-readers seldom remain long at the
reading-desk, because they can and will do better elsewhere.

Something should be done to keep the best readers as such, for they are
all climbing up into other fields of labor where they find stronger
inducements, both in credit and in pay. Even in the case of our large
dictionaries and encyclopædias, almost every one of which is decidedly
bettered by the work of some one special proof-reader, there is little
acknowledgment of the fact, and so there is little encouragement for
the proof-reader to remain a proof-reader.

No one is surely fit to be trusted with proof-reading on particular
work without having learned by practical experience. The best
proof-readers must have as a foundation a natural aptitude, and they
should have at least a good common education; but even these are not
sufficient without practical training. One of the poorest compositors
on a New York morning paper was very helpful in the proof-room
occasionally, while some of the best compositors were not so good
at reading. It is undeniable that printers themselves make the best
proof-readers when to their technical knowledge they add scholarship.

A first-class compositor is worthy of special favor, and generally gets
it. A maker-up or a stone-hand who works well and quickly, or sometimes
even one who does excellent work without great speed, is a treasure.
Compositor, maker-up, and stone-hand, however, all do work that must
be examined and corrected by the reader; and of course that reader is
best who can also do any or all of the other work. What is said of
the reader’s qualifications is not altogether theoretical; it is all
in line with the practical needs of every good proof-room, and every
employer wants a good proof-room.

The correction of the evil, which is certainly a desideratum, may
be secured eventually in one way, and that way is the one necessary
for authors as well as proof-readers. We need improved methods of
general education. We need more general training and development
of the thinking power. Seldom indeed do even our greatest thinkers
reason sufficiently. No amount of argument could prove this assertion
beyond question, but some examples will serve a good purpose as an

One of our most prominent philologists, a man of great learning,
addressed a meeting of scholars, speaking strongly in favor of what
he calls “reformed” spelling--which would be re-formed indeed, but is
not yet proved to be entitled to the epithet “reformed.” Here is one
of his assertions: “One-sixth of the letters on a common printed page
are silent or misleading. Complete simplification would save one-sixth
of the cost of books.” Of course, he must have meant the cost of
printing. Even with one-sixth less work in printing, very nearly the
old cost of binding would remain, if not all of it; and any sort of
good binding is no small item in the cost of a book. But one-sixth of
the space occupied by the print would seldom be saved by the omission
of one-sixth of the letters. The magazine article containing the report
of the address is printed with the proposed new spelling. There is
not a line in it that shows omission of one-sixth of the letters now
commonly used in its words. One line in a paragraph of seven lines has
“batl” for “battle,” and if the two missing letters had been inserted
the word “the” might have been driven over into the next line; but the
total effect on the paragraph of all possible changes would have been
nothing--the same number of lines would be necessary for it. Certainly
the assertion that one-sixth would be saved was not sufficiently

A recent pretentious work on the English language and English grammar
(by Samuel Ramsey) would afford an example of loose thinking from
almost any of its 568 pages. A few only need be given here. As to
Danish influence on early English speech, it is said that “the
general effect ... was to shorten and simplify words that were long
or of different utterance, and dropping or shortening grammatical
forms.” It should have been easy for the author to perceive that this
sentence was not well constructed; and what can be worse in a book on
grammar than an ungrammatical sentence? We are told that a feature of
English construction due to French influence is “the placing of the
adjective after the noun, or giving it a plural form--_sign manual,
Knights Templars_.” No English adjective ever has the plural form,
and _Templars_ is rightly pluralized simply because it is a noun.
“No grammar will help us to distinguish the _lumbar_ region from
the _lumber_ region,” Mr. Ramsey says. But grammar does help us by
teaching us that _lumbar_ is an adjective and _lumber_ a noun. In
careful speech accent would indicate the difference, which should be
indicated in writing by joining the elements of the second term as
a compound--_lumber-region_. In a chapter of “Suggestions to Young
Writers,” the advice is given, “Let all your words be English, sound
reliable English, and nothing but English; and when you speak of a
spade call it by its name, and when you mean _hyperæsthesia_, say so.”
If a young writer “says so” by using the word instanced, will he use
“nothing but English”?

Lord Tennyson is reported to have said: “I do not understand English
grammar. Take _sea-change_. Is _sea_ here a substantive used
adjectively, or what? What is the logic of a phrase like _Catholic
Disabilities Annulling Bill_? Does _invalid chair maker_ mean that the
chair-maker is a sickly fellow?” But Tennyson showed plainly in his
writing, by making compounds of such terms as _sea-change_, that he
felt, at least, that _sea_ is not used adjectively, as “adjectively”
is commonly understood. He must have thought that the phrase whose
logic he asked for is wholly illogical and bad English, for he never
wrote one like it. His own writing would never have contained the
three separate words “invalid chair maker”; he would have made it
“invalid chair-maker” (or chairmaker) for the sense he mentions, and
“invalid-chair maker” if he meant “a maker of chairs for invalids.”
Tennyson certainly used English words well enough to justify the
assumption that he knew English grammar passing well.

George P. Marsh, in a lecture on the English language, said that
“_redness_ is the name of a color,” and John Stuart Mill made a similar
assertion about _whiteness_ in his book on “Logic.” Very little thought
is necessary for the decision that neither _redness_ nor _whiteness_ is
the name of a color, though each of the words includes such a name.

It is not fashionable nowadays to conclude with a moral, but this
occasion is especially enticing, and here is the moral: Every
proof-reader who cares for real success in his profession should
cultivate the thinking habit, and learn not to jump to a conclusion.



Strictly speaking, the responsibility of a proof-reader, on any kind
of work, should be very narrowly defined. In an ideal state of affairs
it would never go beyond close following of copy in every detail. Even
that is by no means always easy, and for a reason that should cause
writers to be very lenient with proof-readers. This reason is that
writers make much manuscript that is almost positively illegible, and
are often careless in many details that should be closely attended
to in the writing. But, since there is little ground for hoping that
writers will ever generally produce copy that can be reproduced
exactly, the question remains open, How much responsibility must the
proof-reader assume?

A good illustration of the legal aspect of this question is found in
Benjamin Drew’s book, “Pens and Types,” published in its second edition
in 1889, as follows: “In an action brought against the proprietor of
Lloyd’s paper, in London, for damages for not inserting a newspaper
advertisement correctly, the verdict was for the defendant, by reason
of the illegibility of the writing.”

“Illegibility of the writing” is a more serious stumbling-block even
than most writers know it to be, although many writers do know that
they are great sinners in this matter. Notwithstanding the fact that
it has been a subject of wide discussion, much more might profitably
be said about it, and it would be a great boon to printers if somebody
could devise a way of instituting a practical reform in the handwriting
of authors, editors, and reporters; but the incessant necessity of
deciphering what is almost undecipherable is our immediately practical
concern just now. What should be the limit of the proof-reader’s
responsibility here?

Some time ago a New York paper had frequent articles in a handwriting
so bad that the compositors were paid double price for setting type
from it. One of the compositors, in talking with a proof-reader,
expressed the opinion that the readers had very easy work, and part
of his reason for the assumption was the fact (as he put it) that all
the copy was read for them by the compositors before the readers got
it. That same evening this compositor had some of the bad manuscript
mentioned, and for what the writer had intended as “June freshets”
the proof-reader found in his proof “Sierra forests.” Well, the
compositor read the manuscript first, but how much good did that do the
proof-reader? If the latter had passed the “Sierra forests” into print,
he would have deserved to be discharged, for any intelligent man should
know that one of the quoted terms could not possibly be used in any
connection where the other would make sense. That compositor probably
knew as well as the proof-reader did that what he set did not make
sense, but he also knew that the proof-reader would have to do better
with it, and that, no matter how much correcting he had to do, it
would pay him better to do it than to lose too much time in the effort
to get it right at first. Again, the compositor had practically no
responsibility in the matter, though the one who shows most ability in
setting his type clean from bad copy is a better workman than others,
and correspondingly better assured of good employment.

We have said that one who passed into print an error like the one
mentioned should be liable to discharge. This is true, because no
person reasonably fitted to read proof could fail to recognize it as
an error. The best proof-reader who ever lived, however, might in some
similar cases fail to read what is written exactly as it was intended
in the writing. Unfortunately, it is only too often the case that
proper names or generally unfamiliar words are written more illegibly
than common words, and names so written may easily be misprinted
after the best proof-reader has done his best with them. Where it is
possible, it should be the most natural thing in the world for anything
hard to decipher to be submitted to its writer. Commonly this can not
be done on daily newspapers, because there are so many writers who are
not within reach, reporters especially being generally away in search
of news; but even in the offices of newspapers, in extreme cases,
and with caution in deciding when it is well to do so, the matter
should be referred to an editor, for it is to the editors that final
responsibility for the wording of what is printed belongs.

What has been said seems well calculated to indicate clearly the limit
which the writer would place in such matters upon the proof-reader’s
real responsibility. Naturally and equitably that limit is the exact
reproduction of what is written, as to the wording, but including
proper spelling and punctuation. Even at the expense of repetition,
this seems to be a good place for impressing upon writers the urgent
necessity for plain manuscript, in their own interest; for that is the
only sure instrument to secure beyond reasonable doubt the accuracy
that is desired by all writers.

No careful author will allow his book to be printed without reading
it himself in proof; but this must be mainly for the wording only, as
the printer’s bill includes pay for good proof-reading. Here matters
are more simple as to the responsibility for getting the right words,
as even hurried work from manuscript can generally be referred to the
author in cases of real doubt. Occasionally this can not be done,
but these occasions are comparatively rare exceptions. Submission of
reasonable doubt to the author for his decision should be an important
feature of the reader’s responsibility. It hardly seems necessary to
dwell upon the question with regard to book-work, such work is seldom
done without time for necessary consultation. It is in newspaper and
job work that the greatest practical difficulty is encountered.

One of the greatest annoyances to the newspaper-publisher and the
job-printer is the fact of having to reprint gratis advertisements or
jobs when some error has occurred in the first printing. Shall the
proof-reader be held responsible to the extent of paying for the work?
Only one answer is possible--No! Yet the proof-reader should not expect
too much leniency in this respect. He must be as careful as possible.
There is just one possible remedy for the trouble mentioned, and that
is that employers do not expect too much of such work to be done by the
reader, and that the reader insist upon having reasonable time in which
to do it. Nay, the employer should insist upon having a proof-reader
take sufficient time, in reading advertisements or job-work, to read
closely, letter by letter; and this should be had, even at the expense
of hiring an additional reader whenever such work becomes more in
quantity than the force already employed can handle properly.



A New York composing-room was run for many years without a regular
style-card, and the foreman would not allow any posting of decisions as
to style. When, however, an advertisement was printed with _bar rooms_
as two words, and the foreman happened to notice it, the proof-reader
was asked sharply, “What is our style for _barroom_?” It was an
unwritten but established law in the office that _barroom_ should be
one word; and the foreman, in that instance, did not think of the
probability that the advertiser had insisted upon his own form for the
term--as, in fact, he had.

In the office where this happened the workers were as little hampered
with style as any workers possibly could be, and the foreman always
said he would have no style; yet there certainly was a “style of the
office,” with many absurdities, such as making _base ball_ two words
and _football_ one word, capitalizing common words of occupation before
names, as Barber Smith, Coachman Brown, etc. Some of the old-time
absurdities have since been corrected, _baseball_, for instance, now
being printed as one word.

In a neighboring office the opposite extreme is exemplified, the
style-card being so intricate that some good compositors have worked
there many years without really learning in full the “style of the
office.” Some of the compositors seldom do much correcting, but
the average of time lost in making really needless corrections is
unquestionably greater than in the office first mentioned.

Book-offices also have their own intricacies of style, with the
additional bother of having to suit the varying whims of authors
and publishers. “Many men of many minds” write for the papers, but
their various whims need not be humored as those of book-writers must
be. Authors of books frequently insist upon having things their own
way, and too often the printers have to make that way for them, in
opposition to what the authors write. This is certainly something for
which the authors should be made to pay. If an author is determined
to have certain matters of style conform to a certain set of whims,
or even of good, logical opinions, he should write accordingly or pay
extra for the necessary changes.

Nothing can be more sure than the fact that every printing-office
must have some working rules of the kind classed as the “style of
the office,” to which the work in general must conform, even when
authors’ whims sometimes interfere. At present almost every office
has some style peculiar to itself, that compositors and proof-readers
must learn in the beginning of their experience there, and which they
must unlearn on changing their place of employment. The greatest evil
in this lies in the fact that many of the peculiarities are purely
whimsical. Reformation is needed, and it is within the power of a
body of proof-readers to devise and inaugurate a practical reform, by
choosing from among the various items of style those which seem best
to a majority of the readers, and requesting their general adoption by
employing printers.

Benjamin Drew’s book, “Pens and Types,” has a chapter on “style” that
gives valuable hints for such work of reform. We are there told that
the proof-reader “at the very threshold of his duties is met by a
little ‘dwarfish demon’ called ‘Style,’ who addresses him somewhat
after this fashion: ‘As you see me now, so I have appeared ever since
the first type was set in this office. Everything here must be done as
I say. You may mark as you please, but don’t violate the commands of
Style. I may seem to disappear for a time, when there is a great rush
of work, and you may perhaps bring yourself to believe that Style is
dead. But do not deceive yourself--Style never dies.... I am Style, and
my laws are like those of the Medes and Persians.’ And Style states his
true character.”

Among the numerous differences of style mentioned by Mr. Drew are
some that should not be classed as style, because one of the two
possible methods is logical and right, and the other is illogical and
wrong. For instance, Mr. Drew says: “Here, the style requires a comma
before _and_ in ‘pounds, shillings, and pence’; there, the style is
‘pounds, shillings and pence.’” Such a point in punctuation should not
be a question of style, since one way must be better than the other
as a matter of principle. In this particular case there is not only
disagreement, but most people seem to have fixed upon the exclusion
of the comma before the conjunction in a series of three or more
items, notwithstanding the fact that its exclusion is illogical and
as erroneous as any wrong punctuation can be. The text-books, with
very few exceptions, teach that the comma should be used; and, as said
above, this seems to be the only possible reasonable teaching. Each
item in such an enumeration should be separated from the next by a
comma, unless the last two, or any two united by a conjunction, are so
coupled in sense that they jointly make only one item in the series.
This curious fact of common practice directly opposed to prevalent
teaching is instanced as showing how erratic style is, and how
necessary it is that the “style of the office” should be fully recorded.

Nothing could be more helpful than a style-card, especially if it
be made the duty of some person to add thereto each new decision
affecting style, so that the type may be set with certainty that
arbitrary changes will not have to be made. Conflicting corrections are
continually made by different proof-readers in the same office, and
even by the same reader at different times. Such things should be made
as nearly as may be impossible, and nothing else will accomplish this
so well as a style-card that must be followed.



Conscientious proof-readers are often confronted with the perplexing
problem of dealing with the whims of authors and editors. One of
the most difficult phases of the problem arises in the fact that
proof-readers themselves are, equally with the authors and editors,
possessed of whimsical notions, and the two sets of whims clash.

What shall the conscientious proof-reader do? He can not let everything
go unchallenged just as it is written; if he does, he is not
conscientious in the true sense of the word, though of course writers
should know what they want, and should write their matter just as it is
to be printed.

The only way successfully to combat unreasonable whim is by opposing
it with true principle; yet even this will not always succeed. When
a clear statement of principle fails to convince a writer that he is
at fault, of course the proof-reader must yield, often to his great
disadvantage. All intelligent people know that printed matter passes
through the hands of a proof-reader, and they naturally attribute to
his carelessness or incompetency all errors in printing. Examples are
not lacking.

A paragraph in a magazine says that “the poet Will Carleton has
established a monthly magazine, and calls it _Everywhere_.” This is
not a true announcement of the name, as Carleton splits it into two
words--_Every Where_--and the word is so barbarously split each time it
is used in his periodical. Any one noticing this form _every where_ in
print would naturally wonder why the proof-reader did not know better.
It is a matter of personal knowledge that in this case the reader did
know better, but Carleton stuck to his whim, saying that he had a right
to make _where_ a noun, whether others considered it so or not.

A New York newspaper says, with reference to political action, but in
words equally applicable otherwise: “There is nothing that we know of
in the Constitution of the United States, nor in the Constitution of
any State, nor in the United States Statutes at Large, nor in any State
law, nor any municipal regulation, that hinders any American citizen,
whatever his calling or his walk in life, from making an ass of himself
if he feels an irresistible impulse in that direction.”

Every man has a right to refuse to conform to general practice and
principle, of course; but the arbitrary whimsicality shown in writing
_every where_, and not _everywhere_, must fail to find its mate in any
other mind, and can be applied to suit its writer only by himself. The
only way to work for such a writer is to follow copy literally always.
He has not a right to expect from the proof-reader anything more than
the correcting of wrong letters.

_Everywhere_ is an adverb of peculiar origin that may itself be
classed as whim; but this whim is in accord with principle, and the
one that splits the word is not. Probably the word was suggested by a
question, as “Where are certain things done?” Answers are often made
by repeating a word prominent in the question, and so it must have been
in this case, “Every where.” This simulated a noun qualified by an
adjective, and the two-word form was used until people realized that
it was not right grammatically. Many years ago the correct single-word
form was universally adopted, and it should not be dropped.

Real principle forbids the unifying in form of some words that may
seem to be like _everywhere_ but are actually of a different nature.
_Anyone_, _everyone_, and _oneself_ (the last being erroneously
considered as similar to _itself_, etc.) are as bad as single words as
_every where_ is as two words, notwithstanding the fact that they are
often so printed. Tendency to adopt such whimsicalities of form is, for
some unaccountable reason, very common. It is something against which
every competent proof-reader should fight, tooth and nail, because
it is subversive of true principle. The utmost possible intelligent
effort will not prevent common acceptance of some forms and idioms
that are, in their origin at least, unreasonable; but these particular
abominations are not fully established, and there is ground for belief
that their use may be overcome.

Some Latin particles are used as prefixes in English, and have not the
remotest potentiality of being separate English words, if the matter
of making words is to be controlled by real principle. One of these is
_inter_, meaning “between.” A paper published in Chicago is entitled
the _Inter Ocean_, making the only possible real sense of the title
something like a command to “inter (bury) ocean,” as _inter_ is not,
and never can be, properly an English adjective.

Many people are now printing as separated words such mere fragments as
_non_, _quasi_, _counter_ as in _counter-suit_ and _counter-movement_,
_vice_ as in _vice-chairman_, and a few others, though the writer has
not seen _ante_ or _anti_ so treated. These prefixes are all of the
same nature, and if one of them is treated as a separate word, every
one of the others should be so.

These are things that should be combated by proof-readers who know the
main principles of language form, even though they know also that human
perversity is sufficiently willful at times to persist in the face of
all reason.

Another sort of whim has full swing on the New York _Mail and Express_.
That paper prints the name of its own political party capitalized,
and that of the opposite party with a small initial--Republican and
democrat. How the editors can suppose that this belittles the Democrats
is past finding out, since it should be a matter of pride to a true
United States Republican that he is a democrat. Such ignoring of
language principle is silly, and belittling to those who indulge it
rather than to those at whom it is aimed. It is, however, beyond the
proof-reader’s province, unless the reader is sufficiently familiar
with the editor to influence him by moral suasion.

Notwithstanding the certainty that authors will be more or less
whimsical, it is the proof-reader’s duty to do all he can to make
the matter he reads perfect in every respect. He should be able to
challenge anything that does not conform to generally accepted rules
of grammar, and to state clearly his reasons for desiring to make

A thorough practical knowledge of English grammar is indispensable
to a good proof-reader, though it counts for nothing without a quick
eye to detect errors. If Bullions’s English Grammar had been read by
a proof-reader as well equipped in grammatical knowledge as every
reader should be, that book would have been cleared of one of the most
ludicrous blunders possible. After stating that abridging is cutting
short, examples are given, including the following: “When the boys
have finished their lessons we will play. _Abridged_--The boys having
finished their lessons we will play.” The second sentence is one word
shorter than the first, but the tense is changed, and so, of course,
the sense is changed. Real abridgment, of course, would not change the
time from future to present; yet this is what a noted teacher does in
each of his examples of abridgment, and it is something that a thorough
proof-reader would have helped him not to do.

A proof-reader can not afford to neglect study, if he desires the best
kind of success. The more he studies, the better able he will be to
distinguish between whim and principle, and to combat one with the
other when the first is not such that he knows it can not be combated
successfully. Proper study, also, of men and events, as well as of
language, etc., will enable him to distinguish helpfulness from what
may be considered impertinence in making queries. By its aid he will be
able to give a reason with each query, in a helpful way. Many queries
on authors’ proofs pass unanswered, or are merely crossed off, because
their point is not apparent, or because they have been made in such a
manner as to give offense.

In proof-reading, as in every other pursuit, the closest student of
principles and of men will ever be the most successful. Generally,
as we have said elsewhere, our best proof-readers eventually pass up
to an editorial chair, or into literary or other employment which
is more remunerative than reading proof. No employment should be
more remunerative, unless it may be some which involves the control
or disposition of large sums of money. A more difficult or rarer
accomplishment than that of humoring authors’ whims, while still
preserving much essentially good matter from the chaotic form it would
assume at the hands of unpractical writers, would be hard to name.



It has been said that in certain points of style no two persons would
agree in their decision. The expression is too strong, but what is
really meant is certainly true. Almost every question of style finds
different answers.

This has been noted as an objection to the forming of proof-readers’
associations, the objectors assuming that none of the differences
of opinion can be overcome. A contrary assumption must be the basis
of accomplishment, and must be proved to be true, if anything is
accomplished. Discussion must be had, full and free; every opinion
that finds expression must be carefully considered, and all opinions
carefully compared, in order to select the best. With this object
clearly agreed upon, and always kept in view, and with each member of
the association pledged to support the decision of the majority, would
not much good result, at least in the way of agreement in matters that
are commonly left to the proof-reader’s decision?

Except for the fact that nothing can be too foolish to find a parallel
in history, the assertion might be made that our proof-readers could
not be foolish enough to persist in holding individual opinions
obstinately in the face of real proof that they are erroneous, or
even that some other opinion is really more common and therefore
better. An instance that happens to present itself for comparison
is the tulipomania, or “craze for tulips,” in Holland early in the
seventeenth century. People were so crazy then as to sell and resell
tulipbulbs at ridiculously high prices, even to the extent of creating
a financial panic. Human nature is the same now as then; and although
the matter of choosing between variant spellings, or other variations
of style, never will create a financial panic, lack of agreement in
choice does cause much annoyance, and even in some cases loss of money,
by stealing compositors’ time through unnecessary changing of type.
The “stylomaniac” is as foolish, relatively, as were the old Dutch

Nothing could be more advantageous to a proof-reader than a full record
of forms that could be followed without change. Such a record does not
exist, and probably could not be made really exhaustive. It is doubtful
whether any book or periodical ever fully reproduced the spelling
of any dictionary, for the simple reason that lexicographers do not
recognize the practical needs of printers. Spellings, word-divisions,
and capitalization have never had, in the making of a dictionary, such
analogical treatment as they must have to furnish thoroughly reliable
guidance for printers; yet the dictionary is and must be the principal

One remarkable instance of false leading has arisen through the
old-time omission of technical words in dictionaries. _Indention_ has
always been the printers’ word for the sinking in of the first line of
a paragraph, yet many printers now say _indentation_, because it was
discovered that _indention_ was not in the dictionary. The right word
is given by our recent lexicographers. Drew’s “Pens and Types” protests
strongly against _indentation_, and MacKellar’s “American Printer” uses
_indention_, which is probably an older word than the other. Old-time
printers knew too much of Latin to put any reference to saw-teeth
in their name for paragraph-sinkage, and _indentation_ is properly
applicable only to something resembling saw-teeth.

Printers and proof-readers must often reason from analogy in deciding
how to spell. They have not the time to look up every word, and so
they often differ from their authority in spelling. Every one knows
how to spell _referee_, and, because of the similarity of the words,
many have rightly printed _conferee_. A letter to the editor asked why
a certain paper did this, and the editor answered that he would see
that it did not happen again--because Webster and Worcester had the
abominable spelling _conferree!_ Why Webster ever spelled it so is a
mystery, especially as it violates his common practice. Why Worcester
copied Webster in this instance is a deeper mystery, since he had been
employed on the Webster dictionary and made his own as much different
in spelling as he could with any show of authority. The revisers of
the Webster work have corrected the misspelling, and the other new
dictionaries spell the word correctly.

Word-divisions are a source of much annoyance. Here again we have the
lexicographers to thank, for no one of them has given us a practical
guide. There are many classes of words that should be treated alike
in this respect, and not one of these classes is so treated in any
dictionary. Here is a short list from the “Webster’s International”:


The one thing needed here is simplification. We should be at liberty
to decide, without contradiction by our highest authorities, that
if _conductive_ is divided after the _t_, _productive_ should have
the same division. The difference arises from a false etymological
assumption. One of the words is held to be made of two English
elements--a word and a suffix--and the other is treated like its
Latin etymon. True science would take the Latin etymon as the source
of every word ending in _ive_, and divide every one of them between
the consonants, regardless of the fact that some such words did not
exist in Latin. It is sufficient that they all follow the Latin model,
as _conductivus_. Many other terminations are properly on the same
footing, as _ant_, _ent_, _or_; they are not real English formative
suffixes. In every word like those mentioned ending in _tive_ after
another consonant, the division should be between the consonants. This
would be truly scientific, as no real scholarly objection can be made,
and it leaves the right division in each instance unmistakable, no
matter how little may be known of Latin or etymology.

Simplification is the great need in all matters of form or style--the
easy and scientific conclusion that in all exactly similar instances
the one reasoning applies, with the one result. The men who rank as our
highest authorities as to spelling, and who should be best qualified
to lead us, lack one necessary accomplishment--a practical knowledge
of the art preservative. Their efforts now are largely devoted to what
they call spelling-reform, but their kind of reform is _spoiling_
reform. English spelling is said by them to be absurdly difficult
to learn, and they say they desire to make it easy by spelling
phonetically. The matter is one of large detail, the phonetic spelling
has many learned advocates, and there is a true scientific basis for
many radical changes; but what is proposed as our ultimate spelling
will be _harder_ to learn, as it is now indicated, than is our present

Reform is needed, but not of the kind advocated by those who now pose
as reformers. Universal agreement on a choice between _traveler_
and _traveller_, _theatre_ and _theater_, etc., would be highly
advantageous; changing _have_ to _hav_, etc., is merely whimsical,
especially as some of the “et cæteras” are not so simple as they claim
to be--notably the arbitrary use of both _c_ and _k_ for the _k_ sound.

Our philologists are not likely to do for us what we very much need to
have done.

Why should not the proof-readers do it for themselves--and also for the
whole English-speaking world?



Writers for publication ought to write just as their matter should
appear in print, but often they do not. Though every educated
English-speaking person is expected to know how to use his own language
correctly, no one needs such knowledge more than the proof-reader
does. Very commonly matters of form, as punctuation, capitalization,
compounding, and almost entirely the division of words at the ends of
lines, are left to the proof-reader’s decision. How shall he decide
reasonably if he have not the requisite knowledge? And how shall he
have knowledge without study? And how shall he succeed in his study if
he use not close thought and wise discretion?

The proof-reader, like every one else, must get at least the foundation
of his knowledge through the medium of books. His practical use of
knowledge, his faculty for instant perception of error, and his equally
useful faculty for merely challenging what an author may wish to keep
unchanged--all these must be acquired or confirmed by experience; but
books must furnish the groundwork. One who desires thorough equipment
as a proof-reader may never cease studying.

Good books on the English language are plentiful, but even the best
of them contain statements that are not beyond question. It is our
purpose here to note a few questionable teachings, by way of warning
against acceptance of anything simply because it is found in any book,
and our most prominent example is from a work really good and really

An incident will illustrate the aim of the warning. A customer in a New
York store, taking up a book treating of word-forms, asked, “Does it
follow Webster?” Information that its author had not closely followed
any one dictionary, but had made the work for the special purpose of
selecting the best forms from all sources, caused instant and almost
contemptuous dropping of the book. Evidently that person had no idea
that anything in language could be right if not according to Webster.
Undoubtedly there are to-day thousands who would instantly decide such
a matter in just this way. Each of them has always been accustomed to
refer to some one authority, and to think that what is found there must
be right. Indeed, so far is this species of hero-worship carried that a
critic, reviewing the book on word-forms mentioned above, could hardly
find words strong enough to express his condemnation of its author,
theretofore unknown to the literary world, for daring to criticise
statements made by noted scholars. It is amusing to recall the fact
that one of the heroes of this champion’s worship began his career
in exactly the way objected to, having devoted a large part of his
first book to severe condemnation of some famous grammarians for doing
something that he did himself, namely, copying and preserving errors.

Even yet we have not gone back to the earliest recorded condemnation of
such hero-worship. One of the most famous of the grammarians scored
by our preceding hero was Lindley Murray, and his stated reason for
writing on grammar was identical with that of his critic--the work of
his predecessors was not sufficiently accurate. Long before Murray’s
time, also, “peremptory adhesion unto authority,” as Sir Thomas Brown
wrote in the seventeenth century, had been “the mortallest enemy unto
knowledge, and that which hath done the greatest execution upon truth.”

Where can “peremptory adhesion unto authority” be found better
exemplified than in children’s persistence in believing what they are
first taught? Impressions made in childhood days certainly retain a
strong hold long afterward, and this should be a powerful incentive
toward giving them true impressions. One of the most popular language
books now in use in primary schools, if not _the_ most popular, has
conversations between teacher and pupil. Here is one: “_T._--When I
say, _falling leaves rustle_, does _falling_ tell what is thought of
leaves? _P._--No. _T._--What does _falling_ do? _P._--It tells the
_kind_ of leaves you are thinking and speaking of.” Is it not simply
astounding that our children must learn in school that _falling leaves_
means a _kind_ of leaves?

There is plenty of the same quality in books at the other extreme of
schooling--the very popular university grammar, for instance, William
Chauncey Fowler’s “English in its Elements and Forms,” which says:
“While language has power to express the fine emotions and the subtle
thoughts of the human mind with wonderful exactness, still it must be
admitted that it is imperfect as a sign of thought. It is imperfect
because the thing signified by a term in a proposition either does
not exist at all in the mind of the hearer, or because it exists under
different relations from what it does in the mind of the speaker. In
other words, language is imperfect because the term in a proposition,
if it has any meaning in the mind of the speaker, has a different one
from what it has in the mind of the hearer. Hardly any abstract term
has precisely the same meaning in any two minds; when mentioned, the
term calls up different associations in one mind from what it does
in another.... The phrase ‘beast of burden’ might, to one mind, mean
a _horse_; to another, a _mule_; to another, a _camel_.... It should
be added that there is great vagueness in the common use of language,
which, in practice, increases its imperfection as a medium of thought.”

Yes, there is “great vagueness,” and here, in passing, is an amusing
instance of it by a well-known writer on meteorology: “All cloud which
lies as a thin flat sheet must either be pure stratus or contain the
word _strato_ in combination.” Did any one ever see a cloud containing
the word _strato_ in combination? “Great vagueness” is exemplified also
in the grammarian’s own writing, and in a connection that demands a
full exposition of it.

We need not quarrel with the expression “thoughts of the human mind”
because we do not suppose that animals have mind; but certainly _mind_
would be sufficient, without _human_, in discussing language. It is
another matter, though, that the next sentence shows a constructive
method at variance with the rules of grammar, and of a kind which the
author himself brands as false syntax in his exercises. _Either_ in
the sentence is not in correct construction with the complementary
_or_; it would be if _because it_ were omitted--“because the thing ...
either does not exist at all, ... or exists under different relations.”
In the last clause, “it exists under different relations from what it
does in the mind of the speaker,” _what_ is improperly used, since
the antecedent is plural--_those which_ should have been used instead
of _what_; the construction makes _does_ a principal verb, wrongly,
because it is used for _does exist_ or _exists_, and even with the
right verb another preposition should be inserted, thus--“from those
under which it exists in the mind of the speaker.” The whole sentence
would have been much better expressed in this way: “It is imperfect
because sometimes a thing mentioned is either not known at all to the
hearer, or presents associations to his mind different from those
conceived by the speaker.”

The third sentence ludicrously transposes _speaker_ and
_hearer_--“because the term, ... if it has any meaning in the mind
of the speaker, has a different one from what it has in the mind of
the hearer.” Possibly the writer accidentally placed these words in
the wrong order, and the error is one of carelessness; but error it
certainly is, for of course the _speaker_ in every instance must
suppose that his words mean something, whether his hearers think so or

In the fourth sentence “great vagueness” is again shown. What is the
meaning of “when mentioned”? As here used, it can mean only “when a
term is spoken of as a term,” and that is nonsense. The sentence would
be complete and accurately constructed without “when mentioned.”

The fourth sentence also contains the only so-called imperfection which
the grammarian mentions, “beast of burden.” Undoubtedly there are many
possibilities of ambiguity, but this phrase, chosen to illustrate
imperfection, is really one of the beauties of the language. It is
absurd to suppose that any one would attribute to such an abstract
term a concrete meaning; but even if “beast of burden” does suggest to
one person a horse, to another a mule, and to another a camel, there
is nothing in that circumstance to prove that language is imperfect.
All that is _expressed_ in the phrase is “some kind of beast used for
carrying,” and it is not said imperfectly. The imperfection is in the
mind of the writer, not in the language--unless he can give a better
example. If this author had omitted this section of his work, he would
have shortened his book to the extent of half a page, and he would
not have afforded a text for preaching against imperfection of mental
training. If a thoroughly qualified proof-reader had suggested proper
corrections, in the proper way, it must be that the matter would have
been bettered; and every proof-reader should know how to make such



While it is very natural, in these days of great mechanical progress,
that methods and machinery should be preëminent in printers’
literature, it should not be forgotten that the “art preservative” is
not entirely mechanical. Our presses are not fed _with_ paper until
after the forms are fed _from_ paper.

How much of the brain-work should be done by the printers, and how much
by writers? Mr. Theodore L. De Vinne spoke as follows concerning this
important question, at the bicentennial celebration of the setting up
of the first printing-press in New York by William Bradford:

“I want to ask the question, What is the writer doing for us? Is he
making his copy any better? Do you get any clearer manuscript than you
used to? So far as handwriting is concerned, I should say no. What
we get through the typewriter is better. The copy which the author
furnishes has not kept pace with the improvement in machinery. Yet at
the same time the printer is asked to do his work better and quicker
than before. We are asked to make bricks without the proper straw. Too
much is expected of printers in regard to this matter. I have been in
the printing-office for nearly fifty years, and during that time I have
had occasion to handle the copy from a great many authors, and from all
ranks and conditions of men, and I find that the compositor and the
proof-reader are expected to do more work.

“There was a time when the printer was merely expected to follow copy.
Now, I have no hesitation in saying that if every compositor was to
follow his copy strictly, and if every proof-reader was to imitate his
example, and neglect to correct errors; if books were printed as they
are written, there would go up a howl of indignation on the part of
authors as when the first-born of Egypt were slaughtered. I say that
too much is expected of the proof-reader. He is expected to take the
babe of the author and put it in a suitable dress for the public. The
author should do it. Now and then you get an idea of how badly copy is
prepared when out of revenge some newspaper editor prints it as the
author sends it in. The reader, when he reads that copy, printed as
it is written, with a misuse of italics, a violation of the rules of
composition, lack of punctuation, etc., is astonished that a man of
education can be so careless.”

Among other things following this, Mr. De Vinne said: “I wish to
ask, on behalf of the proof-reader, a little more attention to the
preparation of manuscript. The people who furnish the manuscript
are not doing their share. I think it is an imposition that the
proof-reader should do more than correct the errors of the compositor.”

We may well add to this plea on behalf of the proof-reader another on
behalf of the compositor. Although so much type-setting is now done on
time, many compositors are still at piece-work, and there is not one of
them who does not suffer through the gross injustice of losing time in
deciphering bad manuscript. It is properly a matter of mere justice to
the compositor that every letter in his copy should be unmistakable,
and that every point in punctuation, every capital letter, and every
peculiarity of any kind should appear on the copy just as the author
wishes it to be in the printed work. Copy should be really something
that can be copied exactly.

Certainly such copy is seldom produced, and there are excellent reasons
for supposing that some authors--and many among the best--will never
furnish plain copy in their own handwriting. One of the best reasons is
indicated by this passage from a book entitled “Our English,” by Prof.
A. S. Hill, of Harvard: “Every year Harvard sends out men--some of them
high scholars--whose manuscripts would disgrace a boy of twelve; and
yet the college can hardly be blamed, for she can not be expected to
conduct an infant school for adults.”

Probably “manuscripts” refers mainly to handwriting, though it may
include literary composition. The students have to take notes of
lectures, and, in order to secure the largest amount of information,
they write so rapidly that their manuscript can hardly be legible.
Through this practice, rapid and almost formless writing becomes

Another justification for much of the bad handwriting of authors may be
found in the fact that the matter is more important than the form, at
least in the first making, and writers are comparatively few who can do
the necessary thinking and at the same time put the thoughts on paper
in perfect form. If an author can write plainly and punctuate properly
without losing any of his thoughts or sacrificing literary quality in
any way, it is far better for his own interest, as well as for that of
the printers, that he should do so; but where this is not the case it
is necessary for some one to “put the babe of the author in a suitable
dress for the public.”

Here is the point of the whole matter: If the work of finishing is to
be done by the printers, they should be paid for doing it. There should
be an extra charge for composition from poorly prepared copy, according
to the extra amount of time required beyond that necessary in working
from copy that can be read easily and followed literally. Nearly the
full extra charge should be added to the type-setter’s pay, unless the
proof-reader prepares the copy before the type is set, in which case,
of course, the extra charge should be simply for his time.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, in “The Autocrat of the Breakfast-table,” says:
“I am a very particular person about having all I write printed as I
write it. I require to see a proof, a revise, a re-revise, and a double
re-revise, or fourth-proof rectified impression of all my productions,
especially verse.” A laudable desire to make his productions peculiarly
his in all details must have been the incentive to all this work on
proofs; but probably a close comparison of the finished work and the
original manuscript would disclose many differences.

When good printers work from manuscript that can not be misread, with
all details of spelling, punctuation, etc., properly attended to, and
with explicit understanding that copy is to be followed literally,
one proof is sufficient for an author who does not have to make many
changes in the wording of what has been written.

It will pay any author to make copy showing exactly what should appear
in print, and to make every stroke of the writing unmistakable. If
the writer can not himself produce such copy, his manuscript should
be carefully revised by some one else. Any person doing such work of
revision should be very cautious in order to preserve the writer’s
intended expression, for often even an extra comma is disastrous. This
applies also to proof-reading. The writer should be consulted, when
consultation is possible, about changes from copy.

When authors have cultivated the habit of writing as they should write,
or of having their copy made good for them, there will be no reasonable
excuse for bad errors in printing. If Mr. De Vinne’s speech from which
I have quoted, for instance, had been carefully revised by its author
in the manuscript, a nonsensical misreading would probably have been
avoided. One of his sentences as printed is, “We always understand how
much the world is indebted to printing.” I have no doubt that he said,
“We all of us,” etc.

No matter what plan is followed in its preparation, copy should
certainly go to the compositor in such shape that he can read it easily
and follow it absolutely. This is the only just way; and it is the
surest way to secure good work.



In a novel published some time ago, the copy contained a great deal of
conversation that had to be printed in short paragraphs, each chapter
being written in one long paragraph, with no quotation-marks, and
almost no punctuation. The compositors had the injustice imposed upon
them of breaking the matter into paragraphs, and supplying punctuation,
with no recompense for doing this essential part of the author’s work.
How such manuscript could secure acceptance by a publisher has never
ceased to be a source of wonder, as it was not written by one whose
mere name would carry it through; but a greater source of amazement is
the fact that so many writers can make such abominable copy as they do

Certainly the writer should be the one most interested in having
printed matter say what it is intended to say, and this can not be
positively assured unless the written copy is accurate in form. Even
the presence or absence of a comma may affect the sense in such a way
that no person other than the writer can know positively whether the
comma should be in or not.

Very few writers send to the printing-office such manuscript as every
writer should furnish, yet they all demand accuracy in the printed
matter. Let us make a bold proposition. Why should not employing
printers of books combine in the determination to make an extra charge
for every alteration from copy, even to the insertion or removal of
a comma? Why should not authors have to pay extra for the work that
should be and is not done by them in the first instance? Even this,
however, would not change the fact that much manuscript will not bear
close reproduction in print. An author who was making many expensive
alterations in proof was requested to revise his matter in manuscript,
and returned it unchanged, saying that he could find nothing wrong in

Compositors have always labored under the injustice of being expected
to punctuate the matter they set, regardless of bad punctuation in
their copy. How can they know better than the author should know? This
is an injustice to them mainly because they must often change the
punctuation in type, thus losing time for which they are not paid.
The decision is left to the proof-reader, and even the best and most
intelligent compositor simply can _not_ always be sure that he is doing
what the reader will decide to be right. Other matters of style present
the same difficulty.

If any particular style is to be followed, as in capitalization,
punctuation, paragraphing, or any other formal matter, it is not just
to demand that piece-workers shall set their type accordingly unless
the copy is first carefully prepared. In other words, it is a matter
of the merest justice to compositors that ordinarily they should be
allowed to follow copy strictly in every detail. On some kinds of work
this is not so essential, as on newspapers, for instance, where there
are many writers, and matter of a certain kind is always to be set in
the one way.

Publishers and editors of newspapers would be more just to all their
workers, and probably more sure of getting what they want in style, if
they could insist upon formal compliance at the hands of their writers
rather than to throw the burden upon compositors and proof-readers.
Responsibility for style does not rightly belong to the composing-room
and proof-room; but if it must be assumed there, as commonly it must,
every worker in those rooms should have an individual copy of a full
and clear record of style. Those who receive work in book-offices, and
who send it to the compositors, would certainly do well to question
customers closely on all matters of style, especially in the case of
anything other than plain reading-matter. It is well to have a distinct
understanding with regard to complicated matter, and to record it when
made, so that instructions may be clearly given to those who do the

An understanding having been had with the author or publisher, the
manuscript should go first to the proof-reader and be prepared by him,
so that the compositors need do nothing but follow copy closely. Of
course this will not be necessary when the author furnishes good plain
manuscript; but in other cases, of which there is no lack, it will
surely pay.

The correction of authors’ errors is an important part of the reader’s
duty, yet he should be very careful not to make “corrections” where
there is a possibility that the writer wants just what he has written,
even though it seems wrong to the reader. The proof-reader should not
be held responsible for the grammar or diction of what he reads, except
in the plainest instances, as there are many points of disagreement
even among professed grammarians. Plain errors in grammar or diction,
as those following, the good proof-reader will correct.

A New York newspaper mentioned Frenchmen who “content themselves with
sipping _thimbles full_ of absinthe.” The reader should have known
that the men do not use thimbles for the purpose of drinking, and that
_thimblefuls_ are what they sip.

When the proof-reader had a paragraph saying that “the arrivals at the
hotels show a falling off of over 100 per cent.,” he should have known
that this is an impossibility, since it leaves the arrivals less than

When another reader saw something about “the buildings _comprising_ the
old brick row,” he should have corrected it to _composing_. Buildings
compose the row, and the row comprises buildings.

It would not be fair to expect every proof-reader to be thoroughly
up in zoölogical nomenclature. No reader, though, should pass a word
like _depuvans_ unchallenged, because that is the best he can make
of what is written. He should ascertain in some way that the word is
_dipnoans_, or query it for some one else to correct. On the “Century
Dictionary” the editor struck out a quotation, “The miracles which they
saw, grew by their frequency familiar unto them.” His pencil happened
to cross only one word in the first line, and the next proof sent to
the editorial room contained the passage, “The miracles which they grew
by their frequency familiar unto them.”

These are a few instances of remissness on the part of readers, the
last one showing absurdity that should be impossible.

Some things are commonly expected of proof-readers that they can not
with any reason be asked to do. When a person whose initials are J. J.,
for instance, writes them I. I., it is not reasonable to expect them
to be printed J. J. A script I is one thing and a J is another; and no
one can possibly know that the one which is written is not the right
one when there is no clue, as there would be in Iohn. One lesson that
writers seem bound not to learn is that proper names should be written
plainly. When not written plainly they are very likely to be printed

Some kinds of changes proof-readers should not make, even if they
think the writing is wrong. When a plainly written manuscript, showing
care at all points, contains something about the “setting up of the
first printing-press,” this should not be printed “setting-up of
the first printing press”; neither should _some one_ be changed to
_someone_, though the barbarous _someone_ happens to be the “style of
the office.” There is no good reason for making a compound of _setting
up_, and there is no reason for making anything but a compound of
_printing-press_; and _someone_ should certainly be removed from the
“style of the office” and the correct _some one_ substituted. These
two examples are selected because they were convenient, not for
criticism merely, but to enforce the fact that, at least in a book or
any work not containing matter from various writers, carefully written
manuscript should be followed in every respect. Some authors have in
this matter a just cause of complaint against printers; but it is
really the result of carelessness on the part of authors in not writing
as their matter should be printed and insisting upon having what they



It is said that Horace Greeley’s estimate of qualification for
proof-reading called for more general knowledge than one would need in
order to be a good President of the United States. By this he meant,
of course, ability to read anything, from the smallest job, in the
commonest language, to the most learned and most scientific writing,
and to know that every thing is made right. How many proof-readers can
do this? Not many. Horace Greeley knew very well that the world could
not furnish such men for the proof-reader’s desk--and yet his remark
was justifiable even from a practical point of view.

A recent paragraph in a trade publication said truly that “even
the daily newspapers use so many foreign and technical terms as to
demand a high grade of excellence among the readers.” This was said
in connection with an assertion that pay for the reader’s work, and
especially for the best work, is higher now than ever before. We might
easily show that this is not absolutely true, for very high pay has
been given for high-class work in the years that are gone, and the
writer of this essay can state from personal knowledge an instance of
higher pay than the highest mentioned in that paragraph; and it may be
well to tell of it, because it will serve as a good introduction to our
present theme. The paragraph says that its writer personally knew of
two men who were paid $50 a week for reading. If these men were mere
proof-readers, their pay was very high; but it is not unreasonable to
suppose that their work nearly approached the responsible editorial
status. On a certain large work published many years ago a man was
employed as proof-reader at what was then excellent pay. When that work
was revised he was still known as the principal proof-reader, but his
work included final editing of the copy, as well as reading the proofs,
which latter he did in a critical way, making such changes in the
matter as he knew were necessary. For this work he received $75 a week,
and the only men known to the present writer who were paid as much as
the sum first mentioned did the same kind of work.

In each of these cases the money was paid because of one qualification
that stood in place of general knowledge, rather than for the actual
possession of such knowledge that seems to be demanded by Horace
Greeley’s estimate. Each of these readers had at hand a good reference
library, and knew where to look for information on any question that
arose. The special qualification was the ability to perceive or suspect
error of statement, and to correct it through positive knowledge, in
many cases with no need of reference, but more frequently through
consulting authorities. An important complement of this qualification
is the perception of correctness as well as of error, and ability to
leave unchanged what is right as well as to change what is wrong.

Of course one who is really fitted to read proof must know how to spell
all the common words of the language, and this is not so general an
accomplishment as it is naturally supposed to be. Many writers are
somewhat weak in spelling, and the proof-reader must correct their
errors as well as those made by compositors, for often the editors can
not take time for such work, and copy is sent to the composing-room
just as it is written. But few proof-readers, if any, know all the
words that may rightly be classed as common. It is a matter of recent
experience that one who ranks among the best of newspaper readers, in
reading market reports, changed the lower-case initial of _muscovado_
to a capital, and thought the name was a proper noun until another
reader, happening to have the same matter in hand, changed the
capital letter to lower-case and was called upon to give a reason for
it. Recently, also, a good proof-reader allowed the term “Romance
languages” to pass as “romance languages.” _Romance_ in this use should
not be unfamiliar, yet it was mistaken by compositor and reader as the
common noun _romance_, which mistake should be impossible, as every one
should know that romance is not confined to any special languages.

What such people need is a good dictionary at hand and constant use
of it. Of course no busy proof-reader, especially during the rush
of newspaper work, can stop every few minutes to find a word in the
dictionary--much work must be dashed off at lightning speed, or as near
that as possible, and no sort of interruption can be tolerated, even
at the expense of printing a few typographical errors. But how much
more creditable it is to the proof-reader if, even in the utmost rush,
he can detect and mark all the errors, whether time can be taken to
correct them in the type or not.

Few readers, comparatively, seem to realize the wonderful helpfulness
of intimacy with some good dictionary, for very few of them use one
as much as they would if they realized it. Probably most of them will
continue to do just as they have always done--taking it for granted
that they have no need of frequent consultation of the dictionary; but
if something can be written that will impress even a few with a desire
for the improvement to be attained through study of the dictionary, it
is worth while to try to write it.

Every proof-room should possess a good dictionary. Some people
think that every proof-room of any consequence does possess a good
dictionary, but a little inquiry would soon convince them that this is
not so. Many readers are left to do their work without even such aid in
the way of reference, notwithstanding it is a fact that no certainty of
good work can be had without it, and that many more works of reference
are indispensable as aids to the best work. There are an amazing number
of proof-rooms that are not supplied even with an old Webster’s or
Worcester’s Dictionary, and a great many more than there should be
that have only one or the other of those antiquated works. Once upon a
time they were both good works, because they were the best yet made.
But lexicography has progressed, and we now have dictionaries that
surpass the old ones, in every respect, as much as our new books on any
scientific subject outrank those of our forefathers.

The Century and the Funk & Wagnalls Standard dictionaries contain
practically full records of our language in all details, almost
sufficient to take the place of a large reference library, so far as
the proof-room is concerned. One or the other--or better, both--should
be in every proof-room, and the proof-reader who makes the most
constant studious use of one or both will soon find himself on firmer
ground than he could otherwise occupy.



How many proof-rooms are as well equipped with books of reference as
they should be? The proprietors of some large establishments have
always recognized their need and endeavored to supply it, but it is not
far from the truth to say that very few employers, if any, have done
all that would be profitable in this matter. A good selection of the
latest reference books is seldom found in a proof-room, notwithstanding
the fact that their intelligent use is one of the most important
adjuncts of good proof-reading.

Reasons could easily be found for the common lack of books other
than a general dictionary, or that and one or two special technical
glossaries; but it will be more advantageous to give reasons why
proof-readers should have and use more books than most of them do use.

Professional men have to read continually to keep up with progress in
scientific knowledge. It is absolutely necessary to their success.
Each of them, however, has a special demand for some particular branch
of knowledge. The books these men consult are written by specialists,
who choose their own subjects, and of course know the special words
that must be used. A proof-reader, on the contrary, can not choose
his subjects. He must undertake what is ready for him, whether it be
some ordinary work, using common words only, or a scientific book
filled with unfamiliar words. Authors of scientific works often make
abominable copy. They do not realize that the terminology so well known
by them is not equally well known to the workers in printing-offices,
and the most particular words are frequently written more carelessly
than the common words in their manuscript. Of course these authors read
their own proofs, and most of them think they are very careful in doing
it; but they are not trained proof-readers, and they see the words in
full rather than the individual letters, so that a wrong letter easily
evades their notice. When the trained proof-reader does not know the
particular words, and has no means at hand for their verification, the
result is bad.

A pamphlet on ichthyological terminology will afford a good
illustration. Its author wrote what was intended for “the shorter
termination _-pidæ_ is adopted rather than _-podidæ_.” This was
printed with dashes instead of the hyphens, “termination--_pidæ_
rather than--_podidæ_.” The pamphlet has _Opisthrarthri_ and
_Tenthidoidea_ instead of _Opistharthri_ and _Teuthidoidea_, and many
other typographical errors in such words. Probably the proof-readers
did their best to follow copy, and thought the author would be sure
to correct such errors as they failed to find. If in each doubtful
instance they had consulted a reasonably full list of ichthyological
names, as they should have done, most of the errors might have
been corrected. Proof-readers should certainly have some means of
handling work intelligently, and the only way this can be done is by
verification through the use of reference books.

Our general dictionaries have never attempted to give full scientific
vocabularies. In fact, the two most used--the old Webster and
Worcester--are nearly useless in this respect, giving only the few
purely scientific terms that had become familiar when they were made.
Even technological terms were not freely inserted in their making.
Later dictionaries, however, have increased their vocabularies very
largely by adding the special terms of science. The Imperial, which
is very much like a larger Webster Unabridged, contains many names of
families and genera in natural history, also many special words of
other science; Webster’s International has more of all kinds than the
Imperial; the Century Dictionary has more than the International; but
they all come far short of the full vocabulary of any science.

Forty years ago Mr. G. P. Marsh, in his “Lectures on the English
language,” quoted from a scientific journal a sentence containing
thirteen botanical words that have not even yet found their way
into the dictionaries above mentioned, one of these words being the
adjective _cissoid_, meaning “like ivy.” He also said, in the same
lecture: “Indeed, it is surprising how slowly the commonest mechanical
terms find their way into dictionaries professedly complete.”
Mechanical terms, however, as well as botanical and others, have found
their way into dictionaries since Mr. Marsh’s time freely, but by no
means exhaustively.

Chemists and medical men string together words and word-elements
almost _ad nauseam_, so that common dictionaries simply can not
attempt to record all their combinations. Unless the proof-reader
is thoroughly versed in the Greek words used by the doctors, and
in the names of elements, etc., as used by the chemists, his only
hope rests upon special medical and chemical works. As an amusing
instance of what he may have to decipher--doctors and chemists are
commonly able to write illegibly, and often do so--a few words not
in the general dictionaries may be cited. Chemists use words like
_aldehydodimethylprotocatechuic_--a combination of _aldehyde_,
_dimethyl_, and _protocatechuic_. A little thought will suffice to
perceive these elements in the ugly-looking word, and in others
like it; but that is not equally true in the case of such a term as
_androgynoarion_ or _engastrimythismus_.

Examination of any special scientific work would disclose easily the
fact that the proof-reader may be called upon at any moment to read
proofs of language he does not know, and can not verify without special
reference books. He should not be expected to do good work without such



Much has been written about the proof-reader and his duties and
responsibilities, but comparatively little about his assistant,
commonly known as the copy-holder. This name “copy-holder” is in its
most frequent application a misnomer, and that is why we prefer to
consider the majority of the assistants as “copy-readers,” a name,
by the way, that is not new here, but has much local currency. Real
copy-holders are found mainly where proof-readers work in pairs,
one reading from the proof and the other following on the copy and
telling when that is different from what is read. Occasionally it may
be that proofs are read in this way by one regular reader and a mere
holder of copy, but as a rule such work is done by a team of readers
equal in standing, who alternate in the reading. Such is the common
method on morning papers. On evening papers it is not unusual for the
proof-reader to relieve his assistant occasionally by reading aloud
from the proof, but as a rule the assistant reads from the copy, and so
is a copy-reader. The distinction between “holder” and “reader” is not
generally important, but is useful for the purpose of this chapter.

Until comparatively a few years ago nearly all the reading of copy
was done by boys, mainly for very low pay, as the real importance of
the work was not yet apprehended. Now, however, we have accomplished
almost a complete revolution, and copy-reading is understood to demand
intelligence and quick thought of an unusual order, among young persons
at least. The nearer a reader of copy comes to being truly qualified
for being a proof-reader, the better for that one’s welfare, and the
more fortunate the proof-reader who has that person as an assistant.
That last word is just right, for a good copy-reader is truly an
assistant to the proof-reader.

Some very foolish things have been said about copy-readers, and none
more foolish than this one from a paper read before a society of
proof-readers: “Proof-readers complain of the bad copy _they_ have
to study over. Who has to read that copy--the proof-reader or the
copy-holder?” Another saying in the same paper may well be connected
with this for consideration. It is: “I have known of proof-readers
dozing--and even going to sleep--over proofs.” Unfortunately, the truth
of the accusation can not be doubted; but it is really only one phase
of something that is true of a majority of workers at anything--they do
not always faithfully perform their duty. The copy-reader who takes the
trouble to try to be sure that nothing is read when the proof-reader
does not hear it is sure to be a dutiful and conscientious worker;
yet is not even that a real duty, as well to one’s self as to one’s

Again, it is the proof-reader’s duty to know that copy is read
correctly--not merely to make his proof conform to what he hears, but
to know that he is making it like the copy, when it should be so, which
is nearly always. The responsibility for getting the matter right on
the proof properly belongs to the proof-reader always--never in the
slightest degree to the copy-reader, with any propriety. A proof-reader
has no real right, under any circumstances, to shield himself from
blame by saying that “the copy-holder must have read it wrong.” Nothing
could be meaner than that. But he must have some protection against
such accidents, and there is a manly remedy in insisting that he shall
be the judge of the copy-reader’s efficiency, or else that there shall
be a distinct understanding that he must take the necessary time to
verify what is read whenever he suspects it, by seeing the copy. In
fact, the verification and the suspicion when necessary are very
important to the proper performance of a proof-reader’s duty. This does
not mean that a copy-reader has no responsibility, but only that that
responsibility does not properly extend to the finished work. It is in
this sense that proof-readers rightly speak of _their_ having to study
over bad copy.

Another foolish direction about copy-reading is the following, from
Benjamin Drew’s book, “Pens and Types,” referring to the reading
of Greek: “The method of reading will, we think, be sufficiently
exemplified if we give but one line, which should be read by the
copy-holder thus: Cap. K, a, grave i; t, acute u, m, b, long o
subscript; k, r, long e, p, circumflex i, d, a; p, short e, r, acute
i, g, r, a, ph, short e; cap. P, short e, r, s, i, k, grave short o,
n; cap. smooth acute A, r, long e.” One of the best proof-readers
the writer knows would not understand such mummery, because he
does not know the Greek alphabet. Moreover, the reader who wastes
his employer’s time in having such spelling done is defrauding the
employer. Such work should always be compared. The main purpose in
referring to this, however, is to note the fact that both proof-reader
and copy-reader are much better equipped for their work if they know
the Greek alphabet than if they do not know it. And they are still
better off for each additional acquirement of unusual knowledge.

A copy-reader will always find knowledge of any kind useful, and
one who is ambitious and eager for advancement will be a close and
ceaseless student, always acquiring new information, not only in books
and periodicals, but in and from the persons and things with which
one is surrounded. Particularly desirable is acquaintance with proper
names of all sorts, and with important public events. So long as the
world lasts, probably, reporters and editors, yea, and even authors
of books, will write proper names and unusual words less legibly than
they write common words. Even when reporters try to make names plain
by writing each letter separately, they often form the letters, or
write them without real form, so that little hope is left of absolute
certainty in deciphering them. The writer has seen names in roman
printing characters that would have been easier to read if written in
the ordinary way with any care. Familiarity with the names likely to
be written will enable a reader to master the writing with much more
certainty and greater ease. In cases where no means of familiarity
exist, as with initials of unknown persons, it frequently happens that
the best effort of either proof-reader or copy-reader must be mere
guesswork. If, as often occurs, a person’s initials are J. J., and
they are written I. I., and the name is not positively known, no one
can tell whether they will be printed right or wrong.

The information that is most useful generally is that which gives
ability to distinguish words by their meaning, and to recognize a word
unmistakably through the sense of the other words of the sentence, or
sometimes through a clue given in the whole context. Very few persons
really know as much in this way as every one should know. A study of
etymology is very useful, and the ambitious copy-reader can not afford
to neglect it. Knowledge of the elements of words is one of the most
helpful kinds of knowledge. So is knowledge of diction, or the right
choice of words, and of syntax, or the right association of words. The
writer once wrote an article in which he used “protocatechuic” as a
test word, and wrote it as plain as any print, but the corrected proof
sent to him had the word printed “protocatechnic,” showing plainly that
the test had been too much for the reader. This probably resulted from
the reader’s ignorance of the word “catechuic”; but not only every good
proof-reader, but also every good copy-reader, should know that word.

Unfortunately, there are many “cranky” proof-readers who are not
patient with a copy-reader who hesitates while deciphering bad
manuscript. Nine times out of ten the proof-reader himself could do
no better, notwithstanding that the responsibility is really his,
and that special ability in such work is one of his most important
qualifications. Well, such a proof-reader is simply not a gentleman,
and no remedy suggests itself. As nearly as the writer can decide, the
copy-reader under such circumstances must either “grin and bear it”
or find another situation. As in all relations in life, patience and
forbearance on both sides are necessary for comfort, if not rather more
so here than in most relations.



The subject of this chapter is suggested by a letter mentioning
differences of opinion of various authors and publishers. Without that
suggestion the chapter would never have been written, because one
arrangement is so common that the writer has never thought it came
short of universality. Indeed, many books have been examined since
receiving the letter, and all show the same arrangement. But this,
while constituting evidence of agreement among the makers of these
books, is really stronger evidence of the fact that even in dealing
with commonplaces it pays to be cautious in making assertions about the
prevalence of any practice, and especially in asserting that anything
is universal practice.

Personal experience and research fail to disclose any arrangement
other than this: Frontispiece, title-page, copyright, dedication,
preface, contents, list of illustrations, errata, introduction, text,
index. Of course not all books have all of these features, and some
books have others not here given. For instance, sometimes there is a
publisher’s note, giving some explanation or announcement. Often that
may appropriately occupy the copyright-page, with the copyright beneath
it. Again, “Errata” are comparatively seldom given, but not seldom
enough. Genuinely good proof-reading would reduce the necessity to
almost nothing; but genuinely good proof-reading is itself a rarity.

Now, using some of the caution that has been indicated as necessary, it
must be admitted that some difference of opinion exists, and that the
arrangement given here is not universal. What is the printer to do if
the customer wishes some other arrangement? What is the proof-reader to
do if he finds the parts arranged in an unusual manner?

Every printer who wishes to secure and keep a reputation for doing
good work must attend to preservation of the proprieties as far as he
can secure that. He can not, as a rule, take the matter of arrangement
into his own hands, any more than he can rewrite or edit his customer’s
work. Occasionally, but very exceptionally, he may be authorized to
change the order or even the substance of what is to be printed, but
probably no one would attempt it without distinct authorization, unless
it might be one of those few who can afford to insist upon having work
done in a certain way. A printer who can dictate methods or styles,
with the alternative that otherwise he will not do the work, must be
one who has secured sufficient permanent custom to make it unimportant
whether anything more is done or not. This amounts practically to an
assertion that, within reason, the customer must be allowed to have his
way. But most customers are amenable to reason, and it may be suggested
that it would be well to propose a change to one whose book-manuscript
is wrongly arranged. Consulting a few books will show a general
practice, and this, with the statement of that practice already made
before looking at the books, should be convincing.

What has the proof-reader to do with this? Well, the careful
proof-reader will look after all details and endeavor to get everything
right. If authors wrote exactly as they should write--so that every
letter and every point in their manuscript could be reproduced in
print without a change--proof-readers need be nothing more than
they are commonly paid for being. They would then have little to do
beyond comparison of proof and copy, for the purpose of correcting
compositors’ errors. Authors do not and will not prepare manuscripts
as carefully as they should; indeed, they simply can not always do
so, often through lack of time, and too often through inability. Many
of them actually do not know how to punctuate, and they are not few
who do not even know how to spell as all should know. Therefore the
proof-reader must be qualified at all points for correcting not only
the compositor’s work, but also that of the author.

The particular matter that we are considering is not likely to come
into question before it is taken up in the composing-room, where the
foreman may notice the arrangement if it is wrong, and consult some one
for authority to change it. Many foremen would be likely to make it
right without consultation, and then the question would arise only if
the customer directed a change on the proofs. Should the foreman not
notice the order--most good foremen would, though--the matter would
probably come to the proof-reader unchanged, and it is as much his
duty to look after this as to do anything else. Unless specifically
instructed beforehand, he should call attention to the error, and have
it corrected if he can.

Proof-readers should be able to give a reason for everything they do or
desire to do, and in this, as in all matters, there are good reasons
for one method and against others. Let us take the features of the book
in order as given. First, the frontispiece. Why, of course. The very
name places that first, as the piece for the front or beginning. It is
the picture or piece that fronts or faces the title-page. This seems
hardly open to question, yet the letter mentioned above did not so
place the frontispiece, and it may be just possible that the position
had been disputed.

Equally unquestionable seems the position of the title-page. All
writings begin with a title, so that must be the first page of reading
in the book.

As the title-page necessarily is backed by a page on which no real
division of the book can begin, since all beginnings are made on
odd-numbered pages, it is backed by the copyright, and the dedication,
as being also something not connected logically with any other part,
follows next.

If there is no dedication, the preface, as merely something about the
matter of the book, follows the copyright. Good reason is found for
this in the fact that the preface is that which is thought necessary to
say just before beginning the book proper.

Before we begin the text, however, it is thought well to state in
detail what is to be found in the text, so here we place the table
of contents, always properly beginning on an odd page and followed
logically by the list of illustrations if there is one, as that is
itself really contents.

All of these features naturally lead up to the main body of the book,
therefore they should all come before that. This is said before
mentioning the introduction because of the logic of circumstances. An
introduction, as its name implies, is that which introduces the subject
of the book. It is sometimes made the first chapter of a book, which is
a sufficient indication of its natural position.

Last of all should be the index, because it is a résumé, and that can
not reasonably be given until we have given that upon which it is
founded. It can be made only after the text is finished, therefore its
natural position is after the text.



Practical knowledge and ability in making up book-work are acquirable
only through experience. The process might be clearly described in all
its details, covering the entire range from the simplest page, of a
certain number of lines all of the same type, to the most complicated
congeries of different-sized type and small cuts, tables, or anything
else, and yet the closest student of the description would never know
how to do the work properly until he had done some of it. What is meant
by this may be elucidated by means of a story of personal happening,
though not dealing with any attempt at written instructions, but rather
with assumption from observation, and possibly some little previous
experience, on the part of a compositor.

Some time ago I was foreman and proof-reader of the book-room of a
large jobbing establishment in New York. Having a large pamphlet in
hand, with three sizes of type, including a number of tables, and to
be printed from the type, the make-up was left till the last, as a
separate and special piece of work. Among the compositors were two
with whom I had been associated more or less for years, so that I knew
their capabilities. One of these two was first out of copy at the end
of the job, so that, all things being equal, the make-up should have
gone to him. All things not being considered equal, the make-up was
reserved for the other of the two mentioned, who was not ready for it
until most of the men had been told there was no more work for them
just then. My old acquaintance who had been passed by said nothing
at the time, but went out and fortified himself with fire-water and
came back, accompanied by one of the prominent union politicians, to
“make a kick.” His argument was that, as he was out of copy first,
he was entitled to the making-up work, which was admitted, with the
qualification that the office was entitled to my best effort to have
the work done right, and so the man thought best able to do it was the
only one to whom it could be given conscientiously, notwithstanding our
recognition of the union, with all that that implied. This was met with
a contemptuous sneer at the idea that anything so simple as the make-up
should be kept for a certain man at the expense of another. “What one
man can do another can,” said the slighted one; and thereby he exposed
the weakness of his position, for many men can do even the simplest
work much better than many other men. “Making up!” he exclaimed;
“putting in a lead, and taking out a lead, and tying a string around
the page! Making up!”

Well, is making up anything more than this man said it was? Possibly
not, except that there is a right way to do these things, and there
are many wrong ways. Besides, the greatest objection in the case given
was the man’s known inexperience of imposition. That objection would
apply comparatively seldom now, as letterpress printing is done much
less than it was. Still, practical knowledge of imposition is really as
necessary now to the fully competent compositor as it ever was, for
with it he is enabled to undertake work that otherwise he can not do.

Before the making up is begun the size of the page must be determined.
There is not and can not be any general rule for proportions, since
commonly many circumstances must be considered of which the maker-up
knows nothing, and frequently he must simply follow the directions of
the foreman. One thing, however, the wise maker-up can always regulate.
He should see that his page is exactly gauged to a certain number of
lines of the type most used in the text, since that is the only sure
guide to uniformity of length in the pages. It is not likely that any
foreman will ever object to a slight change in the gauge for this
purpose, if it happens that he has made or ordered one that does not
conform to it.

Positive directions for determining the size of a page have been
published, but I know of none that will properly apply in all
cases, notwithstanding their positiveness of expression. Following
is what Marshall T. Bigelow says in his “Handbook of Punctuation”:
“In determining the form of a page of an oblong shape, whatever its
size, a certain proportion should always be maintained. The diagonal
measure of a page from the folio in the upper corner to the opposite
lower corner should be just twice the width of the page. This is no
arbitrary technical rule, but is in conformity to the law of proportion
establishing the line of beauty; it applies equally to all objects of
similar shape, and satisfies the eye completely. A long brick-shaped
page or book will not look well, however nicely it may be printed.
When we come to a quarto or square page, the true proportion of the
diagonal to the width will be found to be as 10½ : 6¼--the size of a
good-shaped quarto--instead of 2 : 1, as in the oblong, or octavo.
And this shape also proves as satisfactory to the eye as the former
one. However large or small the page may be, these proportions should
be maintained for a handsome book.” These proportions are maintained
in the book from which we quote, but its pages would have been much
better in shape a little narrower and a little shorter. Many handsomer
books have pages that do not conform to Mr. Bigelow’s rule, though the
proportions given by him are good as a general guide. A “Printers’
Grammar” published in 1808 has “a long brick-shaped page,” and is a
good-looking book. It says: “Should the length of the page be left to
the discretion of the compositor, he sets so many lines as he conceives
a fair proportion, which is generally considered as double its width.”
The page in which this is printed is not quite twice as long as its
width, yet it is exceptionally long for its width, judged either by
other books of its own time or by later books.

If the size of the page is not dictated by the customer--very often
he will indicate it by means of some book whose size suits him--the
foreman or employer will be guided by the size of the sheet and the
amount of matter. Of course everybody knows this, but it is a part
of the proceeding that it may be well to mention, and that may be
dismissed after remarking that the length of the page should usually be
such as to leave the margins nearly equal.

Practice varies somewhat as to the length of title-pages, some being
sunk a little from the top, some a little shorter and some a little
longer than the other pages. Ordinarily they should be exactly the same
as other pages in length. The usual title-page gains nothing by either
shortening or lengthening. There being differences of opinion in this
respect, however, compositor and proof-reader should learn what is
wanted in the office where they are employed and act accordingly.

When very little matter is to occupy a page by itself, as bastard
titles, copyrights, dedications, etc., the matter should stand a little
above the middle of the page. Practice differs here also, some books
having such pages exactly centered, and some having them placed almost
two-thirds of the way up. One of the best of the old-time New York
offices had a rule that a copyright, bastard title, or anything of that
kind should have just twice as much blank below as there was above. All
such pages in their books looked inartistic, because of such misplacing
of the matter, though otherwise the taste shown was excellent. The
effect generally desired is that such matter should appear at a glance
to be in the center of the page, and this effect is better produced by
placing the matter actually a little higher up, but only a little.

The sinkage of chapter-heading and similar pages is a matter not
often treated in books, and for which there is no fixed rule. Here,
again, Mr. Bigelow comes near to stating the best practice, though
circumstances often necessitate differences, and tastes differ, so
that it may easily happen that a customer will order a sinkage not in
keeping with Mr. Bigelow’s rule, which is: “The first page of the text
of a book should have about two-thirds of the matter of a full page.
Where chapters or other divisions occur, a uniform sinkage of the same
division should be kept up through the book. In poetry this should be
done as nearly as possible; but allowance may be made for the different
stanzas which occur, so that they may be divided properly. A useless
repetition of a half-title over the first page following should be
avoided.” There are things in this that I can not understand. What does
the last sentence mean? What is the exact intention of the sentence
about poetry? But the prescription of uniform sinkage is good, and for
the commonest sizes of pages the proportion given for the first page
is about right. For a chapter-heading elsewhere in the book the same
sinkage as the actual blank at the top of the first page should be used.

There are other points about the make-up of books that every compositor
and proof-reader should know, but they hardly come into question, being
always treated alike by all people concerned, and will be learned in
the right way only through actual experience.



Following are a few actual questions of general interest, with their
answers, as they were given in the “Proofroom Notes and Queries” in
_The Inland Printer_. In each instance the letter precedes its answer,
the two being distinguished by the use of different type.


=Do you write “1½ inches,” or “1½ inch”?=

The difficulty in deciding this question is purely logical. Two or
more things must be named to justify the plural verb, says Logic, and
“one and a half” is less than two. But “one and a half” is more than
one, and the singular verb is grammatically restricted to one only;
therefore the grammatical rule should apply, and the plural verb be
used with any subject that must be read as “one _and_ something more,”
even if the something is only a fraction.

       *       *       *

=Which sentence is grammatically correct--“Ten dollars was paid,” or
“Ten dollars were paid”?=

Simply as a matter of grammar, with no deference to sense, the second
sentence is right; but as a matter of fact, unless ten separate dollar
coins or bills are paid, which seldom happens, “was paid” is much more
accurate, as the real meaning is, “The amount of $10 was paid”--one
thing that is named by the words that express its equivalent in smaller
amounts. “Ten dollars” is logically singular when it means one amount
of money, and so is “ten million dollars,” although grammatically
plural; therefore it is better to use the singular verb for the common
intention in sense.

       *       *       *

=Is it proper to say, “Nine and six is fifteen”?=

Those who insist that the rules of grammar should govern all such
expressions use the plural verb in such cases, and say “Nine and six
are fifteen,” because the words used express more than one thing, and
that is plurality. But the logic of it is that “the sum of” the two is
so much, and many scholars consequently favor the singular verb.

       *       *       *

=A correspondent incloses an advertisement containing the sentence,
“Failures is the current talk now days,” and requests an opinion as to
its correctness.=

The sentence is clearly ungrammatical, but it is not uncommon to
violate grammar rules in this way under certain circumstances, and
it is to be presumed that the writer thought of such circumstances,
though he may not have done so. If he thought of a number of individual
failures in the plural sense, and wrote “is” to go with the clearly
plural sense of the noun, he did not express his thought correctly. But
he may have thought of “failures” simply as one subject of talk, and
this would at least so far justify the singular verb as to leave its
correctness open to discussion. We may say, “‘Failures’ is the subject
of his lecture,” and reasonably expect that no one will criticise the
expression. Here are three such sentences, noted within a half-hour’s
reading while having our correspondent’s question in mind: “The revived
Olympic games is the subject of two articles.” “A thousand shares of
short interest is one result of the raid.” “A few doses is sufficient.”
The late Prof. William Dwight Whitney, author of “Essentials of English
Grammar,” decided, while editing the Century Dictionary, that “two and
two is four” is better than “two and two are four,” because the full
sense is “the sum of two and two,” or something similarly unifying the
idea of “two and two.” The sentence above questioned would be better
if written, “Failure is the current talk,” but “now days” instead of
_nowadays_ is much more criticisable than the verb.

       *       *       *

=Which of the following sentences are correct, and by what rule?
“Please state whether one or six bottles is desired.” “Please state
whether one or six bottles are desired.”=

In this question as written there is an erroneous use of the
plural that is not at all questionable. “Which ... _is_ correct”
should have been written. Only one is contemplated, as a choice,
by “which,” therefore the verb should be singular. In the sentence
inquired about _are_ is the proper verb, because the plural subject
immediately precedes it, and the singular verb agreeing with “one”
is understood, not expressed. Logical fullness of expression would
demand something like “whether one bottle is or six bottles are”; but
that is plainly undesirable. The rule is that in such cases the verb
should agree with its immediate subject. Objection to the plural verb
in the other sentence does not conflict with this rule, because, the
pronoun “which,” meaning “which sentence,” is the direct subject,
notwithstanding the intervention of other words between it and the

       *       *       *

=I inclose two clippings from papers, which I have numbered (1) and
(2). Will you kindly inform me if these two sentences are grammatically
correct as printed? If not, please explain why. (1) “He made many
friends, but all were in moderate circumstances, and none wanted to
know any other language than their own.” (2) “This thing is so simple
and so clear in my own mind that I can not see how any one can think
differently; but if anybody does, I would like to hear from them.”=

The first sentence can not rightly be utterly condemned, although
“none” is simply “no one,” and so is primarily singular. It is not
uncommon to use the word with a plural pronoun or verb, as including
more than one, and it is not wrong to do so. It would undoubtedly be
right, however, to say “none wanted other than his own.” The second
sentence is positively and unqualifiedly bad, notwithstanding the
fact that the error is a very common one. “I would like to hear from
him” would be right. In cases like both of these (supposing that one
prefers the singular pronoun in the first) it is preferable to use the
masculine singular, despite the inclusion of women among those meant by
the other words, because it agrees in number, and while it means a man
and not a woman, “man” is inclusive of women, though it is essentially
a masculine word.

       *       *       *

=Will you kindly inform me whether the subjoined sentence is wrong?
“The events in Field’s life--his birth at St. Louis in 1850; his
education at Williams, Knox, Amherst, and Missouri State Universities;
his connection with the St. Louis _Journal_, Kansas City _Times_,
Denver _Tribune_, and Chicago _News_; and his rise in journalism--were
sufficiently commented upon at the time of his unfortunate death a
little over a year ago to require special mention now.” It is claimed
by a literary friend that the word “not” should be inserted after
“ago,” making the phrase read “not to require special mention now.”
I maintain that the clause beginning with “to” is a clause of result.
For substitute the word “enough” for “sufficiently”--which means the
same--and see how it reads: “The events in F’s life ... were enough
commented upon at the time of his ... death ... to require special
mention now.”=

The sentence is incomplete without “not” after “ago,” or a
corresponding change, as “to require no special mention.” Its intention
is that no mention is now required, and why not say so? Substitution
of “enough” for “sufficiently” makes no difference, and I must confess
that I do not know what “a clause of result” is, as I never heard
of one before, at least with any meaning that is at all fitting for
anything that can be intended here.

       *       *       *

=Many authors, especially those who dabble with statistics, use
the words “native language.” On consulting the Century Dictionary,
under the head “Native,” I find the following definitions: “3. Of or
pertaining to one by birth, or the place or circumstance of one’s
birth; as, native land, native language. 4. Of indigenous origin
or growth; not exotic or of foreign origin or production.” Now,
will you kindly explain the native language of a person born in
Switzerland, where it is stated that in one canton the language used is
Italian, in another German, and in still another French? Likewise of
Alsace-Lorraine, which at one time is a part of France and at another
time is an integral portion of Germany? Then, let us take Brazil. A
person born in that country is called a Brazilian, yet speaks the
Portuguese tongue. Colonization, also, leads to a strange condition of
affairs. When this country was settled there were several languages,
yet English became the predominant one. Still, if I am not mistaken,
English is not of indigenous origin or growth here. While I am well
aware that the words have been used by some of the best writers, I am
still of the opinion that it is not strictly correct, and that some
other expression might be used. As an example, I will state that I saw
recently a case where it was printed that a child was born in Canada of
Italian parents and that he could read and write his native language.
What is his native language?=

One’s native language is that to which he is born--that is, it is
the one he acquires most naturally, being, of course, his parents’
native speech, wherever he may be born. Dictionaries can not multiply
definitions for every possible mutation of human affairs. The
definitions quoted are absolutely right, even if various languages are
spoken in one country. An Italian Swiss’s native language is Italian;
in Alsace-Lorraine the native language of some of the people is German,
and that of others is French; in Brazil the native language of natives
is Portuguese. The second definition quoted has no connection with
languages, except that of the kind shown in saying that “the native
languages of America are the Indian languages”; it is not intended for
the case in question. Our native language is English, not primarily
through the place of our birth, but because of the circumstance that
we are born to that language, born of parents who use it and from whom
we instinctively acquire it. In the last case noted--the child born in
Canada--the native language is Italian. No reasonable objection to the
expression seems possible.

       *       *       *

=Would you say, “About one person in ten doesn’t know that their
neighbors are saving money,” or do you think “his neighbors” better?=

“His” is decidedly better. It is never right to use a singular noun
and a plural pronoun, or any other disagreement in number. It seems
advisable in a case like that of the question here to say “About one
man in ten,” etc., because it is a business matter, and presumably
men are principally concerned. However, if generalizing by the noun
“person” is preferred, that need not lead to the real grammatical error
of using a plural pronoun. Of course a person may not be masculine, and
that is why so many people make the error in number--to avoid supposed
conflict in gender. But “man” is sufficiently generic to include all
mankind, and the fact of its being masculine in gender, and demanding a
masculine pronoun, need not be considered an insuperable objection to
its use in the inclusive sense. All readers would know that the mere
matter of general expression did not exclude women and children from
business dealings. Changing “man” to “person,” though, still leaves the
masculine pronoun good, for grammar demands agreement in number, and it
has been custom from time immemorial to use in such cases the word that
denotes the supposedly stronger sex. Thus we should say, “The animal
draws his load better under certain conditions,” in a general sense by
no means precluding the female animal from consideration; and why not
“the person” also? We are the more willing to discuss this matter now
because of a recent revival of the silliness that would have us use the
ridiculous word “thon,” meaning “that one,” in such cases. Here is the
latest outcropping of this nonsense: “We are prone to prefer the new
words to the old, and many men and women find a pleasure in introducing
a word not familiar to the average individual. Such a word is ‘thon,’ a
contraction of ‘that one,’ proposed in 1858 by Charles Crozat Converse,
of Erie, Pennsylvania, as a substitute for the clumsy combinations ‘he
or she,’ ‘him or her,’ etc., as in the sentence, ‘The child must be
taught to study thon’s lesson.’ The word is so convenient that it is a
wonder that it remains new to most people. The want of it caused the
United States Supreme Court once upon a time to render a decision that
‘his’ in a law should be construed ‘his or her,’ so that women might be
as amenable to the law as the male lawmakers themselves. This ruling
allows writers of laws to avoid the use of ‘his or her,’ etc., every
time a personal pronoun has to be used. But in every-day use the ruling
of the courts does not count, and we need to use ‘thon’ every day of
our lives.” It was not the want of any such abominable formation as
“thon” that led to the court decision, but that decision merely fixed
in law what had always been a real principle in language. With correct
understanding of language facts, no one ever need say “his or her,” for
“his” alone is really sufficient. The abomination “thon” remains new to
most people because there is absolutely no need of it.

       *       *       *       *      *


=Is it possible to construct the following sentence so as to give
three distinct and separate meanings without changing the wording?
The sentence is, “Twenty two dollar bills weigh as much as a silver

Yes. Twenty-two dollar bills, twenty two-dollar bills, and
twenty-two-dollar bills (though there is no bill issued for $22).

       *       *       *

=Please explain the correct manner of compounding the following
adjectives: “Life-insurance company,” “fire insurance company,”
“tornado insurance company.” I am under the impression that they
should be used as written above, for this simple reason, namely: In the
first instance it is possible to place an insurance upon your life, and
therefore the two adjectives adhere and become compound. In the latter
two cases it is different--you do not place insurance upon fire or
tornado, but you insure _against_ them, and you do not insure against
life; therefore, in the last two instances, the two adjectives do not
adhere directly and should not be used as compound adjectives. I would
also like to inquire further, if either of the above is incorporated
in the full name of an organization, should they in any such case be

If compounding occurs in any of the terms, it should in all, as
they are exactly alike grammatically. Difference of meaning in the
understood prepositions should not affect the forms. No compounding is
really necessary, although the terms are compounds etymologically. If
we tried to compound every term that could be reasonably joined in form
no dividing line would ever be reached. Usage, especially in the names
of corporations, is against compounding in these cases.

       *       *       *

=A large book is now in press (about 150 pages having been
electrotyped). Throughout these pages the apostrophe and additional
_s_ were used in names ending with _s_, viz., Lewis’s, Parsons’s,
Adams’s, etc. Proofs are now returned with final _s_ deled, which
fact leads the Autocrat of the Composing-room (the Chairman) to arise
and assert that “while the practice may be correct, it is behind the
times,” “all good enough fifty years ago,” “won’t go in _good_ offices
nowadays,” “never used in first-class work,” closing with the remark
that he doesn’t see why it is not used in griffins’ [griffins’s] heads
(!), Orphans’ [Orphans’s] Home (!), calmly ignoring the fact that in
the first instance a common noun, plural, is used, and in the latter
a proper noun, same number. The reader contends that the apostrophe
and additional _s_ as marked are correct, and refers to the Harper
publications, _Scribner’s_, the _Century_, and the work of any _good_
printing house. Who _is_ right, or which is right (all questions of
“style” aside)?=

That Chairman evidently does not know the difference between singular
and plural, or at least does not know the grammatical distinction of
the forms, that has been just what it now is for more than fifty years.
“Adams’s,” etc., are the right forms, beyond any possible reasonable
objection; the only difficulty is that some people will not use the
right forms, and have been so thoroughly drilled in the use of wrong
forms that they insist that the wrong ones are right.

       *       *       *

=Please tell me what kind of mark (if any) should be placed after 4th,
21st, and like words used in a sentence where if the word were spelled
out there would be no mark; as, “On the 21st of September.” My opinion
is that the form is not an abbreviation. It certainly is a contraction,
but nothing seems left out.=

No mark should be used. The opinion that the form is not an
abbreviation is a good opinion, because there is no abbreviating.
Abbreviating is done by leaving off a part of the word, and it is
commonly shown by using a period at the end of the short form; but some
short forms, while they really are abbreviations, are not technically
known as such, because they are quite properly included in another
category, that of nicknames or merely short names. In this latter class
are “Ed,” “Fred,” “Will,” etc. In the ordinal words of our question
there is no cutting off from the end, but only substitution of a figure
for the numeral part of the word, with the same ordinal termination
that is used in the word when spelled out. How can anything “certainly”
be a contraction when nothing seems left out? A contraction is a form
made by leaving out a part from between the ends and drawing the ends
together, commonly with an apostrophe in place of the omitted part,
as in “dep’t” for “department”; but some real contractions are known
as abbreviations by printers, because they are printed in the form of
abbreviations, as “dept.,” which is often used instead of the other
form. The dates with figures certainly are _not_ contractions, as there
is no omission, but mere substitution of a figure for the corresponding
letters. Possibly the doubt arose from the fact that the Germans do
make abbreviations of ordinal words by using a figure and a period,
omitting the termination, as “21. September,” which shows plainly why
the point is used.

       *       *       *

=In reading the proofs of a bicycle catalogue recently the writer
compounded the words handle-bar, tool-bag, seat-post, etc., on the
ground that they were all technical terms in this connection and were
therefore properly compounded. For this action he was criticised, his
critic claiming that handle-bar is the only proper compound of the
three words mentioned, inasmuch as neither the bar nor the handle is
complete alone, while in the other cases named the parts are complete
by themselves. Will you kindly give your opinion on this matter?=

The words mentioned are compounds, though they are more frequently
printed in the wrongly separated form than in their proper form. Mere
technicality, however, is not a good reason for compounding any words.
It is the fact that “handle” and “bar” are two nouns joined to make a
new noun that makes them become one word instead of two. “Handle-bar”
is no more technical than “spinal column,” for instance, is anatomical
(another kind of technicality), yet the first term is one word and
the other is two. In the latter term the first word is an adjective,
fulfilling the regular adjective office of qualifying. The other name
has no qualifying element, being a mere name, representing the phrase
“bar used as a handle.” How any one can imagine such a difference
as that neither the bar nor the handle is complete alone, while in
the other cases named the parts are complete by themselves, passes
understanding. The circumstances are identical--two nouns in each case
joined to make a new noun representing such phrases as “bag used to
hold tools,” “post to support a seat,” etc. Even the accent as heard in
the first part of each name truly indicates compounding. The principle
is exactly the same as that which made the Greeks and Latins join two
nouns in one, through which we have “geography,” which is no more truly
one word than is its literal English translation, “earth-writing.”

       *       *       *

=One of our printers, in setting up a job, came across the words “large
tobacco firm.” He felt sure a hyphen should be used after the word
“tobacco,” so it would not be understood as a large-tobacco firm. To
please him, I told him to put it in, but told him its absence showed
that the tobacco firm was large, and not the tobacco. What do you do
with such words as “honey crop”? I compound it when it means the first
stomach of the bee, but not when the word “crop” means harvest.=

Certainly, if any hyphening is done in the first words instanced, it
must be that which is mentioned; but none is necessary, and probably
few persons would ever think of it. Our correspondent seems to have
given a hasty answer to the question, as in fact it is not strictly
true that the separated words show that the firm is large, and not
the tobacco. It would seem more accurate to say that no one (speaking
generally) would misunderstand the separated words, because the natural
conclusion is that the firm does a large business. On the contrary, if
the actual intention should be that the firm dealt in large tobacco,
that fact would be fixed beyond question by making a compound adjective
“large-tobacco.” The distinction between “honey crop” and “honey-crop”
is excellent. A principle is illustrated by it that would be worth a
great deal to everybody, if only it could be established and widely
understood and applied. It is difficult to state it clearly, although
the two kinds of meaning seem to show a very plain difference, that
might easily be less apparent in a sentence containing only one of
them. We can not say that “honey” is a true adjective in the separate
use, but it comes much nearer to the true adjective force in one use
than it does in the other. “Honey-crop” for the stomach, as “the
crop (stomach) in which honey is stored,” is simply one noun made by
joining two nouns. “Honey-bag” is the word given in dictionaries for
this. All the grammarians who ever wrote about this subject say that
in our language two nouns so used together simply to name one thing
become one word (meaning merely that they cease to be two words in
such use). Of course there is much disagreement, and it does not seem
probable that everybody will ever write all such terms alike; but it
is absolutely certain that some compound words of such make are as
fully established as if their elements were not usable separately,
and it seems impossible to distinguish in any reasonable way between
one such name and any other. In other words, if “honey-bag” is a
compound--and it is, no matter how many or what persons write it as
two words--“mail-bag,” “meal-bag,” and every similar name of a bag is
a compound; and if names of bags, then likewise every similar name of
anything else is a compound.

       *       *       *

=The appended clipping is from a proof of a college publication, and is
part of a class history. It appears as it came from the compositor’s
hands. The editor of the annual in which it will appear submitted
the first of my questions (indicated below) to the president of his
college, and though the latter enjoys considerable local prominence
as an educator and a Greek scholar, yet was he unable to enlighten
us upon this point. “In oratory we have shown our powers, and look
forward to the time when the Demosthenes of ’Ninety-eight will sway
senates and our Ciceros the political world.” What is the plural form
of “Demosthenes”? The plural is clearly the form the author had in
mind while writing it, but I am ignorant of either rule or authority
governing such cases. Would you prefer reconstructing the sentence? To
cover our ignorance somewhat, I suggested the following: “In oratory
we have shown our powers, and now look forward to the time when
’Ninety-eight’s disciples of Demosthenes will sway senates, and its
Ciceros the political world.” In the word “Reinoehl” (a proper noun),
should the diphthong be used? I stated that it should not be used, and
was contradicted by the editor of this same publication, who said that
the president of the college maintained that the diphthong was correct.
Though I could quote no authority, yet I believe I am right. The word
is a German one, as you will have noticed. The words Schaeffer, Saeger,
and Steinhaeuser appear without the diphthong on the same page with the
word Reinoehl, yet they passed unchallenged by the editor. Would they
not come under the same head as the one mentioned first?=

The quotation does not seem to show positively that a plural was
intended. As there was only one Demosthenes sufficiently famous for
the comparison, so the writer might mean only the one best oratorical
student. It is not an unnatural inference, though, that the plural was
intended. The plural form of “Demosthenes” is “Demostheneses.” Why
hesitate over that any more than over “Ciceros”? A regular English
plural is as good for one as for the other. Greek common nouns with
the termination _es_ form the plural by substituting _æ_ for that
ending, as “hoplites, hoplitæ; hermes, hermæ.” Our second example is
originally a proper name, but was and is used as a common noun, meaning
a bust that may or may not represent the god Hermes; but this is not a
good argument in favor of a Greek plural of “Demosthenes.” The change
suggested is not good, because “disciples” is not meant, the intention
being merely to note a similarity, and not a studied imitation: In the
German name separate letters should be used, as they represent umlaut
interchangeably with a double-dotted vowel without the _e_; thus,
either “Reinoehl” or “Reinöhl” is right, but “Reinœhl” is wrong. The
college president must have had the umlaut character (ö) in mind, not
the ligature (æ), in answering the question. All the names mentioned
are amenable to the same decision; what is right in one is right in all.

       *       *       *

=An advertisement writer brought to the office, a few days since,
copy for an advertisement for a certain complexion soap in which the
word which is underlined occurred: “Combined with the _emollience_
of cucumber juice.” The proof-reader queried the word to the
author, informing him that it could not be found in the dictionary
(International, 1891); his response was that the word expressed the
idea intended to be conveyed better than any other that he knew of, and
therefore he should use it, regardless of the dictionary. I have since
examined the Century Dictionary and fail to find the word. The question
arising in my mind is, Should the proof-reader endeavor, when the
author is present, as he was in this case, to induce him to use a word
for which authority can be produced, or should the author be allowed,
without a word of protest, to coin words at his own sweet will? It
seems to me that the proof-reader should not be required to blindly
follow an author in a case of this kind after he has satisfied himself
that there is no warrant, except the whim of the author, for the use of
such words.

Not long since, in reading a catalogue of road machinery I noticed
“barrow-pit.” Being somewhat in doubt whether it should be compounded,
as already written, or two words, I consulted the International, and
also the Century Dictionary, but failed to find the word in either,
finally concluding to use the hyphen. Which is correct--barrow-pit, or
barrow pit, or barrowpit? My preference is for the use of the hyphen.=

The writer was perfectly justifiable. If no word not in a dictionary
could be used, the language could not grow, and there would be many
ideas left inexpressible, for want of words. Johnson’s dictionary
contained many more words than any preceding work, and each new
dictionary since issued has increased the record. This could not have
been done if people had not used new words. Although “emollience” is
not in any dictionary, there is sufficient authorization in the fact
that -ence is used in forming nouns from adjectives in -ent, something
that any one may do at any time, just as one may add -less to any
noun, as “cigarless,” having no cigar. Emollience is the only possible
single word for “character of being emollient (softening).” This is not
properly a case of “whim.” The only proper restriction against such
neologism is that it should not be indulged unnecessarily, as when
there is already existent a good word for the sense to be expressed.

“Barrow-pit” is the only form that principle and commonest usage
will justify for this word--but the same principle gives also
“advertisement-writer,” “complexion-soap,” “cucumber-juice,” and
“road-machinery,” each of which you write as two words. Your decision
to use the hyphen in “barrow-pit” is in accordance with all text-book
teaching on the subject, and unless such teaching is applicable in all
strictly similar cases it is _all bad_. It can hardly be necessary to
reach any such pessimistic conclusion as that expressed in a letter
from a country superintendent of schools--“I do not know anything about
it, and I do not believe any one else does.” Our grammarians are not
all idiots. What possible principle could justify such a difference
as “advertisement writer” and “proof-reader” (for “one who writes
advertisements” and “one who reads proof”)? If one of them is one
word, the other also is one, the only difference being that some such
familiar short words are written without a hyphen.

       *       *       *

=You in a recent edition, speaking of Roman type, used lower-case
_r_. We write to ask what, if any, warrant you have among grammarians
or lexicographers for the lower-case initial letter in an adjective
of this class. Would it by the same authority be proper to use a
lower-case in the word “Parisian,” “Chicago” used as an adjective,

No rule as to capitalizing has wider acceptance or better basis in
principle than that an adjective derived from a proper noun should
be capitalized, and “Roman” is such an adjective. However, in the
connection this word has in the matter with which we are dealing,
the lower-case letter is not wrong, though “parisian,” “chicago” in
any use, or any other such use of a lower-case initial letter would
be wrong. Reasons will be given after some authorities are cited.
The “Century Dictionary” says: “Roman, _a._ ... [_l. c._ or _cap._]
Noting a form of letter or type of which the text of this book is an
example”; also, “Roman, _n._ ... [_l. c._] A roman letter or type, in
distinction from an _italic_.” The “Standard,” under the noun, “[R- or
r-] A style of ceriphed type. ... also, a black gothic letter, etc.”
The “Imperial,” the standard Scotch dictionary, says of the adjective,
“applied to the common, upright letter in printing, as distinguished
from _italic_,” and of the noun, “A roman letter or type.” Benjamin
Drew, in “Pens and Types,” page 199, in speaking of specimens of
old-style type given in his book, says: “The next is a Fac-simile of
four roman and three italic Lines.” He says on page 57, in introducing
two lists of foreign words: “The roman list is destined to be
continually lengthening, while the italic, save as it receives new
accretions from foreign sources, must be correspondingly diminishing.”
Webster and Worcester missed the point of distinction in usage that was
discerned by the other lexicographers, and they capitalize “Roman” and
“Italic.” The questioner does not say anything about “italics,” used
in the same paragraph with “roman,” yet evidently the two words should
be treated alike. In fact, neither word in this use has its literal
sense, nor conveys a thought of Italy or Rome. When this literal sense
is expressed the words should be capitalized, just as “Parisian” and
“Chicago” should be. Webster actually says that “Roman” means “upright,
erect,” which is plainly not a meaning showing connection with a proper
noun, and, in fact, is not a true definition for the word with which it
is given. The word has no real sense other than its literal one, but
the literal allusion is so far removed from conscious apprehension in
the printing use that it is proper and prevalent usage to write it as
a common noun or adjective, just as such form has become prevalent in
many other cases, as--


Have our correspondents ever noticed these words in books? The writer
of this answer has no hesitation in asserting that “italics” and
“italicize,” which have far more literary use than “roman,” will be
found with a lower-case initial much more frequently than otherwise;
and the same is true of “roman” in printers’ use, which must be looked
for mainly in printers’ books. What is here said, however, should not
be applied too strictly; the word in question should be capitalized in
special work such as that of our correspondents, where probably all
similar words have capitals, as Gothic, Doric, Ionic, etc.

       *       *       *       *       *


=Kindly permit me to make a few comments. As to “honour, fervour,
ardour,” etc., you say that “undoubtedly the American way (_i. e._,
honor, etc.) is better than the other, historically as well as
economically.” I suppose that “economically” means the saving of one
letter; that I do not consider as worthy of note at all. As to the
historical point, the words in Latin are all “honor, ardor, fervor,
labor, color,” etc.; but then in French, through which they came into
English, they are “honneur, couleur,” etc., so that it seems to me that
the _u_ is historically defensible.

“Sceptical” or “skeptical”--a matter of indifference; the hard
_c_ represents the Greek kappa in any case. I suppose you spell
“speculator,” yet the Greek is σπεκουλάτωρ; so “sceptre” is the Greek
σκήπτρον. So we might write “spektakle” if we cared to do so; indeed,
many Greek scholars do use _k_ where ordinary people would use _c_, as
“Asklepiad, Korkyra,” etc.

“Ascendant, ascendancy”--the usual plan is to take the letter found
in the supine of the Latin verb; thus, “dependent,” from Latin
“dependens,” “intermittent,” from Latin “intermittens,” “dominant,”
from Latin “dominans,” and so on. On this plan “ascendent” and
“ascendency” would be right, as “scando” and “ascendo” make “scandens”
and “ascendens.”

You say, “Each of the large dictionaries is worthy of acceptance as
final authority in every instance.” Not by everybody, by any manner of
means. There are many better scholars than the dictionary-makers. Would
you expect Mr. Gladstone, John Ruskin, Andrew Lang, Archbishop Temple,
Bishops Lightfoot and Westcott, Dean Farrar, and many others to accept
the dictum of a dictionary man in every instance? Why, I do not do it
myself. Indeed, though I possess Greek, Latin, and French dictionaries,
I have never possessed an English one, and do not much regard them or
the people who think them infallible. Educated people in England have
no such opinion about dictionaries; in fact, they consider _themselves_
the source of authority in matters of usage and pronunciation. Oxford
and Cambridge men and members of the educated classes in England are
the sole arbiters in such matters; there is no appeal against them.
Richard Grant White thoroughly grasped this and expressed it very well.
Just as all classical scholars try to write Attic Greek, _i. e._, the
Greek of the inhabitants of one Greek city, and entirely disregard
the millions of other Greeks (even though so eminent as Homer and
Herodotus), so all English-speaking people should model their language
on that of the educated classes of Great Britain.=

“Economically,” as used in the article criticised above, meant the
saving of one letter, and as many scholars, both English and American,
are noting such economy, and making it very important, it may be
concluded that it is worthy of note. Certainly the spellings “honour,”
etc., are defensible historically--but no assertion has been made that
they were not; the saying was merely that the other way is better
historically. The words came into English through French, but the Latin
spelling is preferable for more reasons than one. If we are to preserve
the _u_ because it is in the French words, is not the reasoning
equally applicable to the whole syllable in which the letter is used?
Would it not be equally reasonable to preserve the other _u_ in the
first syllable of “couleur”? The French themselves once spelled these
words--or most of them--_or_. They changed them probably to represent
better the natural French sound of such syllables. Because Englishmen
first learned such words from Frenchmen does not seem a valid reason
why the former may not revert to the historical original, which is more
in keeping with English analogy, and better represents the English

As to “sceptical” and “skeptical,” one who knows the need of a vast
majority of English-speaking people of an authoritative choice
between the two forms can never admit that the spelling is “a matter
of indifference,” even if it could be reasonably admitted on any
ground. Our correspondent is unfortunate in his selection of an
example here, for σπεκουλάτωρ seems to be not a true Greek word, but
only a transliteration of Latin “speculator,” the true etymon of the
English word, which does not come from Greek. We might have written
“spektakle” if we had cared to do so, as it is spelled with _k_s in
some Teutonic languages; but in the close connection here there is a
strong suggestion that this word might also be Greek, which it is not.
The reason for preferring “skeptical” is that there is not another
English word in which _c_ in the combination _sce_ is hard, and so
“sceptical” is a very bad spelling, even if it is prevalent in Great

On the plan mentioned in the letter “ascendent” and “ascendency” are
right; but the other spellings are copied from the French, so potent
with our correspondent in the other case, and are prevalent in present
usage. “Ascendant” and “ascendancy” are preferable for this reason,
and because the use of these spellings removes one of the puzzling
differences which most people can not understand or explain. The plan
mentioned would also give “descendent,” which has no currency as a
noun, though it has been used as an adjective, and “descendant” and
“ascendant” are so much alike in their nature that it is better not to
make them different in form.

“Each of the large dictionaries is worthy of acceptance as final
authority in every instance” was intended only as an assurance that
those who desired such an authority--and there are many such--might
reasonably accept the one chosen, without trying to make exceptions.
There could be no intention of dictating that scholars should “accept
the dictum of a dictionary man” in every instance, for that would be
“putting the cart before the horse” with a vengeance. One need feel no
hesitation in saying, however, that the English-speaking educated man
does not live, and never will live, who can afford to ignore utterly
dictionaries of English. No dictionary is made as our correspondent
seems to assume that all are made, though probably every one of them
has provided employment for some men not so thoroughly educated as men
can be. Educated people, in America as well as in England, make the
scholarly part of the language, though it contains much that is made by
the common people and that finds just as thorough establishment as that
made by the scholars. Dictionary-makers never pose as language-makers.
They are recorders of what is already made, which is so great in
quantity that no scholar can hope to master the fiftieth part of it
so thoroughly as to need no record of it. Even supposing that Oxford
and Cambridge men and members of the educated classes in England are
the sole arbiters in such matters--it is not supposable, though--how
is the rest of the world to know their decisions if they are not
recorded? Any record of them will constitute a dictionary, for that is
exactly what a dictionary is--namely, a record of the accepted details
of diction. As a matter of fact, also, our actual dictionary-makers,
those who are vested with authoritative decision, are selected from
among the very men for whom independence of dictionary men’s dicta is
claimed. Noah Webster, Dr. Worcester, Professor Goodrich, Professor
Whitney, Dr. March, President Porter, Dr. C. P. G. Scott, and Dr. J.
A. H. Murray--not to mention the many other English scholars who have
been dictionary-makers--rank with the men named in the letter, if some
of these do not outrank some of those in scholarship, and they are
the ones who choose where there is a choice in making the record.
Dictionaries contain errors, and scholars are independently above
acceptance of the errors; but we may repeat the saying that when once a
large dictionary is chosen as authority it is better, as to matters of
spelling, to accept it in full.


A handbook for printers by T. B. WILLIAMS.

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                                 ◉ ◉ ◉

          _The above for sale by The Inland Printer Company,
     150 Nassau Street, NEW YORK.    214 Monroe Street, CHICAGO._

The Inland Printer.

What it is.

THE INLAND PRINTER is a monthly magazine of from 100 to 120 pages,
9 by 12 inches in size, devoted to printing, publishing, engraving,
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Its pages are filled with the most instructive and interesting original
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The full page illustrations and those worked in with the text are
all of a high order, and include half-tone, zinc etching and other
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The Text.

Taking up a copy at random one finds articles on proofreading, the
point system in type founding, notes on bookbinding, natural colors
in the printing press, newspapers and newspaper men, the country
newspaper, typographical make-ready, advertising, convention notes,
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These are as important in a way as any other part of THE INLAND
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                      The Inland Printer Company,
                150 NASSAU ST.,    212-214 MONROE ST.,
                     NEW YORK.            CHICAGO.

Transcriber’s Note:

The text has been preserved as closely as possible to the original

Page 79 refers to the use of a different type to distinguish question
and answer text. The questions start and finish with equals signs = in
this ebook.

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