Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Question heds: The plague continues

If the arguments trotted out already against question heds -- they risk shilling for the causes they report on, and they look dumb -- don't work for you, how about ... GRAMMAR?

You can't form a question in English by tacking a question mark on the end of a declarative sentence. You need to do some reworking, either inversion:

I am going to Isle of Capri/Are you going to Isle of Capri?

or what's known as "do"-support:

I went to Isle of Capri/Did you go to Isle of Capri?

Adding a question mark changes the meaning, but it doesn't create a question based on the original:

I went to Isle of Capri/*You went to Isle of Capri?

The question version might mean something like "Gee whillikers! I bet you had fun!" or "You b#$%&*%*&, you know we needed that money to pay the rent." But it does not mean "Did you go to Isle of Capri?"

So a hed like this, to the extent it isn't outright meaningless, suggests that the paper thinks the proposal at hand is a pretty bizarre idea:

To fight prostitution, educate 'Johns'?
Courts turn attention to men paying for sex

It doesn't mean (and there's nothing in the structure of English to suggest it could) "this is somebody else's idea." Or "We haven't verified this independently, but somebody else said it." The most grammatical meaning for it, again, is on the order of "You've got to be kidding."

Please, please, please, stop it with the question heds.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Amy Fiscus said...

That's odd.

The print heds are:
Educating the johns/
Courts trying to reform prostitutes now turn attention to the customers

Here's the PDF.

2:22 PM, June 28, 2005  
Blogger fev said...

Now ain't that weird. Go chastise your online colleagues, OK?

(The Supreme Court sez it's OK to throw a reporter in jail for not ratting out somebody else's source, and you're leading with the BTK case?)

4:36 PM, June 28, 2005  
Anonymous Amy Fiscus said...

Yesterday I thought, with all this news breaking, plus advance stuff from Fort Bragg and a BRAC hearing here next week, how will we fit it all out front?

Then I wake up to not only BTK but also the johns CP and a feature on shark bites. I have no defense for any of this. We're not even overly fascinated with BTK.

4:50 PM, June 28, 2005  

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