I’m a copy-editor. Another way of putting it would be to say that I’m a nit-picker. I do write quite a bit: I write other people’s stuff when they can’t string two words together for themselves, and I write my own stuff too. But essentially I look for the mistakes that other people make in their written work. When I find them, I pounce on them – not with glee; more often with a sense of profound despair – and I put them right. That’s to say, I put them into a version of English that conforms to my idea of how English ought to be written. That’s what I do. I can dress it up, valorise it, say that I test arguments, increase the reader’s apprehension, blah blah … But essentially, I make my living from other people’s mistakes. Read more…
Every so often I come across a few words or a couple of lines that seem to encapsulate a small section of the zeitgeist. I scribble them down, but sometimes they never see the light of day again.
I found this at the bottom of my wardrobe this morning:
If I were tempted to try to defraud a railway company by travelling without a ticket, the fear of disgrace in the event of discovery would be a far more powerful deterrent than the legal penalty.
Not so any longer; there is now no fear of disgrace.
Whoever wrote the original, I salute you.