accessory, accomplice

accessoryfixBy LAWRENCE FELLOWS

An accessory assists in an illegal act, although he need not be at the scene of the crime. He can be an accessory before the fact if he helps plan or set up the crime, or he can be an accessory after the fact, if, say, he helps the culprit get away.

An accomplice is a partner in crime. If he assists in a lawful enterprise, don’t call him an accomplice, call him an assistant. If he assists in a crime, he is an accomplice. An accomplice usually plays a secondary role in a crime, but as the French poet Charles Baudelaire noted that role is sometimes an essential one:

“What is irritating about love is that it is a crime that requires an accomplice.”

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The Writer's Stylebook is a unique collaboration between two former journalists -- my father, Lawrence, and me. Mr. Fellows, an impassioned wordsmith and journalist of long standing, created the original Stylebook, which he distributed to Connecticut newspapers and worked on for over a decade until his death 16 years ago. In 2003, the Connecticut Press Club published "Wordwatch: A Writer's Guide to Linguistic Distinctions," a compendium of nearly 300 of my father's word features. Unfortunately, that book is out of print and my father's features have been languishing in the attic of our family home in Westport -- until now. With the blessing of my mother, Ruth, I'm reviving the Stylebook and putting it online in the hope that it will find new readers. I think there's a need for a lively, illustrated guide to words and word usages that isn't wordy -- especially in today's fast-paced world!

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