Editorial Blind Spots

As always, the best internet discussions are over at The Passive Voice Blog. Today on the chopping block is the word “snuck.” I am a Southerner, and I was raised with “snuck” as the past participle for sneak. “Sneaked” sounds…like someone trying to be grammatical but getting it wrong. It sounds ignorant. But yet to many people my word choice sounds ignorant.

Anyway, several of the commenters noted that they write snuck and their editor corrects it to sneaked.

I…have had a pretty ruthless training in line-editing, and I had to fight my English department in college to get the number of grammar/usage/editing classes I wanted. If I had the ambition I could edit professionally. But this kind of usage is a huge blindspot for me–it’s a colloquialism that I had no idea was a colloquialism. I mean, I get that “all y’all” and “used to could” are not in everybody’s lexicon of English. But this? It’s a word I would never have questioned usage on, because to me the “American colloquial variant” is the correct term, but to “proper” English speakers (and I don’t just mean Brit’s there, but also professional grammarians here in America) it is wronger than wrong.

I think my biggest take-away from this is a reiteration of the point that you don’t know what you don’t know, and also that you should probably vet your editor geographically in order to get some sense of their blind spots.


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