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with Mark Allen

4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesdays


Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition

Style guides differ on the Word of the Decade

It was the decade of the epicene pronoun, as the usually plural they gained new acceptance with its singular sense as a way to avoid assumptions or make generalizations about gender. • They was declared by the American Dialect Society to be the Word of the Decade at its annual conference on Jan. 3. In early December, they was chosen as Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year after a big spike in lookups. The online dictionary added sense of the word as a nonbinary preferred pronoun in September. • It’s good choice: the new sense of they has become established in the past five years and there is an emerging acceptance of they as a substitute for more specific pronouns. But they isn't fully accepted by the big style guides yet.


Click for a look at where we stand with singular they

What's new

  • The first webinar of the decade from ACES: The Society for Editing was "What's New in Style," a looks at recent style guide changes, including CMOS, APA and AP. The recording is available here.


  • Let me bring your editorial department up to speed on changes in the Associated Press Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style and the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association. Check here for a customized presentation.
  • My fourth webinar on using, loving, and sometimes ignoring your style guide took place October 10, 2019, and can offer a video of it for purchase. The Latest In Style: Updates To AP, CMOS And More is a 76 minutes and includes a two-page handout with most of the important updates to the two big style guides.
  • If "they" is singular, does "themself" naturally follow? I wrote about the question in a blog entry.
  • I examine the penultimate paragraph of The Great Gatsby in a blog entry. This is a topic I discuss with my Advanced Copyediting students at UCSD Extension.
  • I ran the American Copy Editors Society national conference in St. Pete, Florida. Resources are on the ACES website.
  • I presented Mnemonize Your Word Choices, a pecha kucha, (20 slides, 20 seconds each) at the ACES 2016. The handout contains dozens of mnemonics.

Questions I am frequently asked

Do I affect the effect or the other way around?

The noun is usually "effect," and "affect" is usually the verb. As verbs, to "affect" is to influence and to "effect" is to bring about, as in "effect change," meaning create change.


Did I lay down or lie down?

You "lay" something. Annoyingly, "lay" also is the past tense of "lie." If you just took a nap, you say "I lay down for a bit."  Many people say "I laid down for a bit," but we usually reserve "laid" for when there is an object involved: "She laid the scissors on the mantel."


Is it ever OK to use "they" to refer to an individual

We do it all the time in speech. In writing, it would sure be useful, wouldn't it? You will find that sticklers stickle, but "they" as a singular, genderless pronoun is gaining acceptance.


Beside or besides? Toward or towards?

"Beside" means physically next to. "Besides" means "other than." They used to be interchangeable, but they've grown distinct. Most -ward words are interchangeable, but Americans tend to leave off the "s" while British English writers tend to leave it on.


If I'm talking about a cat, is it "awe cute"? "aww, cute"?

Awe traditionally is fear, respect, wonder. Awesome things are usually not fear-inducing these days, but as awesome as your cat may be, you are looking for "aw, cute." Some dictionaries accept "aww, cute" for particularly cute cats.

Click for more FAQs

Clarity through copy editing

A good copy editor takes on the  role of reader, making sure the author’s point is understood. A good copy editor helps the author and reader connect.


Knowledge to share

Presentations range from a seven-minute look at confusable words to day-long workshops on writing, copy-editing, grammar, style guides, and other topics. I'm available via webinar or in person.


Writing that makes the point

Projects include researching and writing  marketing documents, business-to-business letters and newsletters, and internal newsletters. I also researched and wrote an institutional history book.

Mark Allen was the first freelance copy editor elected to the executive board of ACES: The Society for Editing, in 2012. He also is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

Rates are competitive, and we can chat about your budget and make a plan for what will work best. I can also provide proofreading, formatting, and design services.



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