When the Story Has a Word That Readers Will Have to Look Up in a Dictionary

By Jack Limpert

When art critic Robert Hughes wrote a story for The Washingtonian about the Phillips Collection, a much-loved Washington museum of modern art, it included this sentence:

“And yet the Phillips has never lost its aedicular quality, its gift of intimacy and unhurried ease in the presence of serious art.”

Howard Means, the editor on the story, remembers it this way: “You almost fainted when I sent you the manuscript without removing that word.”

I wanted to change aedicular, figuring that almost all our readers would have to stop reading and look up the word in the dictionary. Howard countered that Robert Hughes was so good and respected as an art critic that he deserved to be allowed to write it his way and let the readers look it up.

We left it the way Hughes wrote it.

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