Friday, October 21, 2005

More dreadful writing from the stars

The problem with the soi-disant "writer's papers" is not that writers are given more leeway to write well. It's that writers are exempted from any critical assessment of how good -- more to the point, how awful -- their high-flown writing might be. Here's another example from the Miami Herald's designated Big Story wordsmith:

Hurricane Wilma prowled closer Thursday to a collision with Mexico, edged a bit farther from Florida, and slowed down again.

Time for some bold editor (and since nobody at the Herald seems willing to do so, it looks like a job for rimsters at other K-R papers who have to wade through this slop) to put on his/her sunglasses, shade his/her eyes against the refulgent brilliance of the prose, and point out, uh, that a hurricane and a country can't collide unless the country is moving too.

And this just in from a major southeastern daily's shameless feel-good guy:

Comedy, music, running -- it's all part of the continuing effort to help those devastated by Katrina, even as Americans wait to see who needs help after Wilma.

Not much point in expecting this scribe to be embarrassed at claiming a byline for yet another tripe lede and some bullet items, but perhaps some assigning editors might be.

2 Comments:

Blogger sixten said...

"a hurricane and a country can't collide unless the country is moving too"

Are you sure that's a real rule? Googling on "collided with a parked car," for instance, gets numerous hits linking to edited writing.

5:14 PM, October 21, 2005  
Blogger fev said...

Whether it's a "real" rule depends a lot on where you stand along the prescriptivist spectrum. The OED says a collision is a "violent encounter of a moving body with another" (the first cite being mid-15th century), and the caution is widespread in stylebooks and usage guides (NYT, "Only two objects in motion can collide"; AP, "Two objects must be in motion before they can 'collide'"). Stylebooks aren't perfect (see, e.g., Vultee, 2004), but as rules go, this one strikes me as better founded than, say, the NYT's stance on determiners before occupational titles or the AP's fear of adverbs between auxiliaries and main verbs.

I know collide=~hit shows up in a lot of edited writing; not all edited writing is either carefully written or carefully edited. Nor do all newspaper articles follow newspaper stylebooks (check out the Guardian's excellent stylebook intro for a painfully accurate surmise). I'm not suggesting that it's "wrong" in the sense of being confusing or misleading, but it strikes me as a line worth holding in careful writing.

"Is that a real rule?" remains one of my favorite questions, tho, so tnx.

6:00 PM, October 21, 2005  

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