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Words, Jan. 29



Nickolas S. Jovanovic writes:

“From the Arkansas Blog Jan. 16 – ‘I can barely sit still, waiting for the renewal of “Friday Night Lights.” Lindsey Millar, more up-to-date than me in all things, has already seen the season opener on DirectTV.'

“Methinks the blogger should have written ‘more up-to-date than I,' ” Jovanovic says. “Perhaps the broader question is whether writing on web logs should conform to the rules of standard written English or to the lower standard of colloquial speech patterns.”

The usage manual Success With Words says: “Only an old-fashioned minority now say You're no better than I or He's older than she in their natural everyday speech. … But the change is not yet complete. In highly formal, and especially written, usage, than I, than she, etc., are still preferred.” Because most newspaper writing is informal, and usage has relaxed even more since SWW was published, I personally don't object to “more up-to-date than me” in print. Some authorities do.

Whether blogs are allowed to be even more casual than newspapers is a question I'm not qualified to answer. I asked the Times' blogger-in-chief if he sets the bar higher when he's writing for the newspaper, and he said yes.


Stuart Jay Silverman also has a bone to pick with the Times. He quotes: “She [a librarian] didn't know why it wasn't, and she'd try to assure that the omission wasn't repeated.”

The columnist probably meant “she'd try to make sure” or possibly “insure,” Silverman writes. “As the sentence stands, the reader is informed that the librarian will make an attempt to offer assurance, but it is likely that the librarian intends to make an attempt to correct the fault (after which she can offer assurances).” Assuredly, I thought, until I checked Random House, which says one meaning of assure is “to make (a future event) sure; ensure.”

The Associated Press stylebook, used by most newspapers, says that ensure means “guarantee” and insure refers only to insurance. Though not as emphatic, Random House seems to agree. I'm not sure I do. 


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