Editing for Liberty #10: Presidents and Prepositions

Mises (1881–1973)

Can You Spot the Error?

  1. Obama came into office without a strong set of economic ideas, as former Presidents Reagan and Clinton did.
  2. Since Mrs. Jefferson moved to Baltimore in the 1990s, she was not aware of the underlying complexities.
  3. Murray Rothbard and other economists of the Austrian school have rejected the concept of indifference and have developed an approach based on Menger’s law of diminishing marginal utility and von Mises’s axiom of action.

Read on for the solutions!

Personal Titles Used in Apposition

Sentence #1 is one I would have gotten wrong. Because it’s correct to write, “Former Presidents Reagan and Clinton came into office with a strong set of ideas,” I would have left sentence #1 exactly as you see it above. But that all-important modifier, “former,” changes the rule. Here’s what Chicago 8.23 says:

When a title is used in apposition before a personal name, not as part of the name but as a descriptive tag, and often with the, it is lowercased.

  • the empress Elizabeth of Austria
  • German chancellor Gerhard Schröder
  • the globe-trotting pope John Paul II
  • former presidents Reagan and Clinton
  • chief operating officer Susan Raymond
  • the then secretary of state Madeleine Albright

So the correct version of the sentence would be

Obama came into office without a strong set of economic ideas, as former presidents Reagan and Clinton did.

Since When?

Technically, sentence #2 is correct, but it’s ambiguous. Here’s the usage statement on since from my New Oxford American Dictionary:

When using since as a causal conjunction to mean ‘because’ or ‘given that,’ be aware that in some contexts or constructions the word may be construed as referring to time. For example, in the sentence, Since Mrs. Jefferson moved to Baltimore in the 1990s, she was not aware of the underlying complexities, it is not clear, esp. at the beginning, whether since means ‘because’ or ‘from the time when.’ It is often better to simply say ‘because,’ if that is the intended meaning.

Prepositions in Names

Prepositions in names are usually not capitalized and are dropped when only the last name is used, e.g., Ludwig von Mises, not Ludwig Von Mises. Mises, not Von Mises. (And in Invisible Order’s baseline style, we capitalize the school in schools of thought, like the Austrian School and the Chicago School.)
So sentence #3, corrected for our house style, would be

Murray Rothbard and other economists of the Austrian School have rejected the concept of indifference and have developed an approach based on Menger’s law of diminishing marginal utility and von Mises’s axiom of action.

Name That Reference

Spiritually, despite, or because of, their absurdities, I am much more at home with Saint-Simon and Fourier. While I would do much to avoid meeting Marx — for this Diotrephes of the socialist church would merely bark at me in his hot displeasure …

In this line from The Socialist Tradition, why does Alexander Gray refer to Marx as a “Diotrephes”?

Just for Fun

Here’s another Name That Reference, just for fun:

Do you get it?


Is there something you’d like to contribute or see covered in Editing for Liberty? Post a comment! Cartoons, quips, and contributions to “Spot the Error” and “Name That Reference” are especially welcome.

1 Comment

Filed under Editing for Liberty

One response to “Editing for Liberty #10: Presidents and Prepositions

  1. Pingback: Editing for Liberty #11: (Be)cause & Effect | Invisible Order

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