One hallmark of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is its robust usage program. Hundreds of supplementary notes inform the reader about usages that are contentious (as at irregardless) or that frequently cause confusion (as at affect). We base many of these notes on the results of an annual survey of the approximately two hundred prominent and accomplished English language users who make up our Usage Panel.
Since 1964, five years before the publication of the first edition, the editorial staff has turned to the Usage Panel for feedback and guidance. Because we have collected five decades’ worth of information, we can show the change in opinion over time (as at impact).
Of course the makeup of the Panel has changed over the years. Only one member from the original panel, William Zinsser, remains. (Senior Editor Louise Robbins interviewed him for this blog a few months ago.) Usually panelists stay on until their deaths. We received James Michener’s final ballot, for example, very soon after his death; the ballot is quite likely one of the last items he worked on. Occasionally, a member will ask to retire. As a result, each year we invite a handful of people to join the ranks of the Usage Panel.
We look for people who make their living with words: novelists, linguists, professors, editors, journalists, poets, playwrights, and the like. Last year, we even added two cruciverbalists! Usually about three-quarters of the people we ask accept. In return, they are sent a complimentary print copy of the latest edition of the dictionary and their name is added to the official list of Usage Panelists.
Here are the 14 new Panelists that were added last year and this year:
· Katherine Boo (2013) is an author, a staff writer for The New Yorker, a MacArthur Fellow, and a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.
· Michael Chabon (2013) is a writer and a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.
· Ta-Nehisi Coates (2012) is a writer for The Atlantic.
· Connie Eble (2013) is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
· Margalit Fox (2013) is an author and a senior writer at The New York Times.
· Peter Gordon (2012) is a puzzlemaker and a crossword editor.
· Edward P. Jones (2013) is an author, a professor of English at The George Washington University, and a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.
· James Lindgren (2013) is a professor of Law at Northwestern University.
· Susan Orlean (2012) is an author and a staff writer for The New Yorker.
· Claudia Rankine (2012) is a poet, a playwright, and the Henry G. Lee Professor of Poetry at Pomona College.
· Mary Roach (2012) is a writer.
· Will Shortz (2012) is a puzzlemaker and the crossword editor for The New York Times.
· Tracy K. Smith (2013) is a poet, a professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University, and a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.
· Amy Tan (2013) is a writer.
The full list can be found at http://www.ahdictionary.com/word/usagepanel.html.
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