Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Stupid Question rides again

Abu Ghraib case climbs ladder?
Army says it will charge officer who ran interrogation center
WASHINGTON -- The Army plans to charge Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, the former head of the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison, with dereliction of duty, lying to investigators and conduct unbecoming an officer, the officer's lawyer said Tuesday.

Two questions for the hed writer:
1) What's the hed supposed to mean?
2) Why do you think anyone would interpret it that way?

OK, maybe a third:
3) Do you really think the guy's lawyer is the Army?

Copyeds, stamp out the question hed. The free world is counting on you.


Blogger aparker54 said...

Stamp out the question hed? I know, only too well, that question heds aren't fashionable, but I beg to differ.

2:30 PM, April 26, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

A couple thoughts on that. Well, three thoughts:
1) If only they were out of style. That's the problem here; they've become the first fallback for attribution in tight heds, and that's awful.
2) The question is inappropriate. This story's about an assertion. Pretending it's a question -- by way of suggesting that it's somebody else's assertion, rather than the paper's -- is disingenuous at best.
3) Worst, THIS ISN'T EVEN A SENTENCE IN ENGLISH. (Or if it is, it's an exclamation, not a question.) English questions need inversion or tensed do-support or something to become questions. This one would be marginal if it used a bare participle instead of the present. In "Abu Ghraib case climbing ladder?", the deleted auxiliary might as easily have been in the proper position:

(Is) Abu Ghraib case climbing ladder?
* Abu Ghraib case (is) climbing ladder?

As it is, it's gibberish. And lazy gibberish at that. Grr.

11:28 AM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger aparker54 said...

In this instance, I don't disagree. But some stories don't give an answer, just the evidence, and there the question hed works, I think. I dislike many pronouncements on headlines and other copy-editing matters because, when the edicts trickle down, people who enforce them often don't understand the finer points. Would fev be a rogue enforcer? Clearly not.

12:13 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

Nah, _that'd_ never happen.

11:32 PM, April 27, 2006  

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