My favorite Halloween treat so far is a new video from Mary Norris, the New Yorker's comma queen.
Norris, a longtime copy editor for the magazine, wears a charming costume in the latest installment of her video series, which brings clarity to familiar dilemmas regarding usage and grammar. Displaying her benign and witty rule, the Comma Queen gives her usual good-sense advice, this time on the difference between further and farther.
I discovered Norris by reading her witty book, "Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen," which delved into her career at the New Yorker, known for its rigorous fact-checking and grammatical exactitude, along with a few spelling and grammatical idiosyncrasies. Norris recalls the famous New Yorker copy editor Eleanor Gould, whose extensive queries on page proofs - known as Gould proofs - made writers quiver. Gould's pen has been taken up by Norris, who seems a bit less fearsome.
Norris got her moniker from advocating that writers use more commas, favoring the Oxford comma, rejected by the AP stylebook. That reputation for rigidity is not borne out by Norris' videos, which counsel good sense and flexibility.
With the presidential campaign lowering political discourse, the urbane Norris' videos give me hope that precision of language will prevail.