Thursday, January 18, 2007

Giving style a bad name

Ever wonder why writers are wary of trusting us with their babies? Consider this, from the crosstown competition:

"I think in a perfect world where there’s justice and equality, the police would be arresting Sen. Bond and" President "George" W. "Bush for aiding and abetting war crimes," Jacobs said.

What Steve said, one gathers, was "arresting Senator Bond and George Bush." But owing to two house style quirks -- the phobic avoidance of (parenthetical) clarification in quotes and the insistence on spelling out the incumbent president's full name, with initial -- it's hard to tell what's going on. "George" ends up looking like a bad case of scare quotes. What the President and W. are up to is anybody's guess. (I don't know whether the paper in question also ignores AP's rule on spelling out titles in quotes.)

Writers (should) rightly hate this sort of stuff. One is hard-pressed to think of the sort of planet on which readers would find it clearer or more edifying -- let alone easier to follow. Why do we keep doing stuff if it confuses readers and makes us look like tin-eared idiots?


Blogger Strayhorn said...

That is truly ugly. At first I though it was Yet Another case of Microsoft Word adding things automatically that you didn't want in the first place.

Art Buchwald est mort. That's a shame. He was the first columnist I ever read regularly and I guess my skepticism of our Lords and Masters comes from early exposure to his wry style.

9:04 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger fev said...

Art made for a good exit, tho, didn't he?

11:15 AM, January 22, 2007  
Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Yes, unbelieveably ugly.

Just a note: AP no longer has the rule of spelling out titles in quotes. It is now all abbreviations. The 2005 stylebook failed to fully correct all the entries -- Norm says 2006 will after I outpointed.

See from March

2:11 AM, January 31, 2007  

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