On occasion you will find a writer and an editor who work together with warmth, understanding and mutual appreciation of the other's worth. I am particularly fortunate, I have three dependable backstoppers.
For the most part, however, there is understandable friction between writers and editors. When I was younger, it occupied much of my time and energy. I used to fight 'em on the beaches with such tenacity that on a few occasions the brass was moved to reconsider its "stydle" edicts and permit common sense to triumph over policy.
In later years, I argued less. In part, this was because I was learning to appreciate contrary points of view. But mostly, I'm afraid, it was because as one grows older the tiger in his tank begins to turn into a pussycat.
For example, a few days ago I referred to "all of the big gifts to Children's Hospital." The redoubtable William J. Brady was on my back at once. "What function does the 'of' serve?" he wanted to know. "All the big gifts," without the "of," would be better, wouldn't it?
I looked up Brady's point in Roy H. Copperud's handy "American Usage: The Consensus." Here's what it said:
"Copperud and Fowler object to of with all where it is unnecessary, as in all (of) the money .Bryant says all is much more frequent than all of where of is optional, as in the examples cited. Bernstein and Evans approve all of in such circumstances by analogy with none of , though Bernstein concedes of may well be omitted as superfluous when it is optional. Flesch says a good writer or editor automatically changes all of to all (presumably he means only when of is optional, for there are instances, as with pronouns - all of them - when it is essential. Random House and Webster accept both forms; American Heritage gives a slight preference to all where of is dispensable. This is obviously a morass of conflicting opinion. The point is hardly an important one, since the choice has no effect on meaning and is unlikely to be noticed by the reader."
A young writer finds basis for argument in such an opinion. An older writer accepts the point without making a fuss over it. The "of" adds nothing and should therefore be eliminated in most instances.Bill Brady, you are right, I was wrong.
However, even at my age there are some edicts from on high that turn my pussycat back into a tiger. One such came down from Olympus a few days ago. The Washington Post's preferred spelling for the word "employee" is now "employee," we were informed. Heavenly days."
For all these decades, the "ee" suffix for nouns denoted one who is the object or recipient of an action, or one who undergoes something or receives something. Now The Washington Post's style arbiter is suddenly going to change that.
Deprived of ee endings, lawyers will have no legates or payees or assignees or designees. We laymen will have to startd writing about a drafte, a truste, an appointe, a traine and a stande - in short, we'll have to start using such absurd spellings that the average reader will wonder what we are trying to say.
One can well wonder why draftee, trustee, appointee, trainee, standee or employee must be tampered with at this late date. But you will no longer find me fighting 'em on the beaches. I'm 4-F in this war.
If The Washington Post's preferred spelling is now "employe," I'll either spell the word that way or, more likely, "write around it" and use a euphemism.
But if anybody asks for my opinion of the change, I'm going to have to reply: I think too many young whippersnappers are tampering with what used to be a pretty good language.