Interview with John McIntrye

  • John McIntyre

    John McIntyre

    John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls “the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing,” writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty in his blog, “You Don’t Say.”

    Please introduce yourself and provide some background information.


    John Early McIntyre, night news editor at The Baltimore Sun, where I have worked since 1986 with the exception of 2009-2010 (laid off and then rehired). I have taught editing at Loyola University Maryland since 1995. I grew up in Elizaville, Kentucky, got an undergraduate degree in English at Michigan State University and a master’s degree in English at Syracuse University. Miscellany: bookworm, high-church Episcopalian, bow-tie wearer, extremely amateur pianist and organist, bourbon drinker (actually omnibibulous), former pipe smoker, married thirty-one years to Kathleen Capcara, two children, Alice and John Paul.

    How did you first start blogging?

    When The Sun first introduced blogs in 2005, I approached the editor and offered to blog on language and journalism. There would never have been any interest in my writing for the print edition, but the capacious Web has many niches.

    How many followers?
    Complicated question.

    More than 5,600 on Twitter. Many more who read and comment on the postings through Facebook. Averaging 15,000 page views a month.

    Why not traditional approach?

    No room at the print inn.

    Why do it?

    To have a chance to write. To engage with readers and colleagues about issues. To establish and maintain a reputation. For vanity; why else does anyone write?

    What is it about “You Don’t Say” that has made it such a successful blog?


    Remember you called it successful. I suppose because it has a distinctive voice and addresses issues of interest to a small but dedicated audience. Just say that it is witty and wise.

    How has blogging changed language? How we get news? How we use language?

    I wouldn’t say that blogging has changed language any more than any other form of journalism. It does reflect the increasing reliance on electronic sources for news rather than print. And it certainly has helped to accelerate the shift in tone from formal to conversational that has marked journalism for the past century.
    What is so interesting about language/grammar to you?
    Everything. Where it comes from. How it works. How it’s used and how it’s misused. Prose style, lexicography, linguistics. The whole shebang.

    What do you think is your unique contribution to the English language?

    My voice, such as it is.
    And any wholesome influence I may have had.

    What kinds of people were you hoping to attract? Has that changed with time?

    I hoped to reach fellow journalists, but my audience has expanded widely, and now professional linguists and lexicographers, in this country and abroad, take an interest in what I write and join in conversation about language.

    What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment in the world of language/grammar/blogging?

    That I have kept going.

    About Rebecca Engleberg


    1. There is room in print for this helpful instruction . Many do not have access to the computers and networks.

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