Teacher Edits White House Letter


Yvonne Mason, a retired high school English teacher from Atlanta, marked up a letter she received from President Trump. She criticizes language choices, capitalization, and other issues, but some choices are by convention.

A New York Times article uncovered a federal government style guide, which is a whopping 465 pages. The guide suggests capitalizing some words, such as Nation and Federal when used to refer to the United States.

Then again, the style guide covers unusual topics, such as "Leaderwork":

14. Leaderwork

(See also Chapter 9 “Abbreviations and Letter Symbols” and Chapter 13 “Tabular Work”)

14 .1.

Leaderwork is a simple form of tabular work without boxheads or rules and is separated from text by 4 points of space above and below in solid matter or 6 points of space in leaded matter. It consists of a reading (stub) column and a figure column, leadered from the bottom line. It may also consist of two reading columns, aligning on the top line.

Mason skipped a more serious grammatical error: "I did not mention the dangling modifier. I focused mainly on mechanics.”


  • On social media, people criticized Mason, with someone imagining her as "a lonely bitter hag with a lot of cats." Do you agree, or do you see Mason as doing an important service, or something else?
  • What is the dangling modifier?
  • Can you find a simpler way to explain leaderwork in the style guide? What is the value of such detail in a style guide, and what are the drawbacks?