Don’t make ‘drug’ a habit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 7, 2016

By Bill Ward

Special to the Salisbury Post

When I read the column by Josh Bergeron on April 30, “Political notebook: Edds says county has no authority in school consolidation,” I was reminded of the late James J. Kilpatrick. He was not only the youngest editor of the Richmond News Leader — following the renowned Douglas Southall Freeman, biographer of Robert E. Lee — Kilpatrick was also a stickler for proper grammar, especially in the written word.

I have seen many of his newspaper articles in which he lauded good writing and took to task bad writing, from the smallest to the greatest names in publications. If a sentence was grammatically wrong or poorly constructed, Kilpatrick used it as an example, whether it was from the New York Times, The Charlotte Observer or Time Magazine.

I can’t say that I can even touch Kilpatrick’s knowledge of grammar, but, on the other hand, I know when something isn’t quite right. Such was the sentence in Bergeron’s column in which he quoted Greg Edds, who claims to have attended fancy private schools as a child of privilege. One of Edds’ sentences contained this statement: “We’ll probably be drug into (consolidation discussions)….” And that’s as far as we need to go.

“We’ll probably be drug….?”

A drug is something we take, usually prescribed by a physician, when we’re sick. Drugs can be administered orally, through an IV drip or with a hypodermic needle.

However, when you anticipate moving any object or subject from one place to another, you drag it. Or, “We’ll probably be dragged into (consolidation discussions)….” And yes, that is correct grammar. Refer to “The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage,” edited by R.W. Burchfield, or any similar authoritative source.

And finally, months ago, the real kicker was when a Salisbury Post writer wrote a sentence using “per se,” which means “by, of, or in itself.” And why did this stand out? The writer wrote it as “per say,” which is the way it’s pronounced but not spelled. Perhaps it was just a typo driven by a closing deadline.

The one Post writer whose work I always notice is the boss editor, Elizabeth Cook. She differentiates correctly between further and farther and that and which. That’s not to say that there’s not others — for example, I don’t read the sports pages much, but I do like the Sunday book page. I remember way-back-when in elementary school, a teacher told us that newspapers provided good examples of vocabulary usage. Does that still hold true today?

Bill Ward is an MIT-trained technical writer-editor who has written a 400-page manuscript on the subject. He has taught technical writing and editing for adult professionals at Queens University in Charlotte. Contact him at .