Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hed ambiguity: Real and realerer

The Basic Rule on phrasal verbs and their friends is pretty straightforward. Two words if it's a verb:
We will kick off the new season with a picnic Friday
You could screw up a two-car funeral

One word if it's a noun:
Kickoff is at noon Saturday
That was a pretty impressive screwup

Two examples from today's N&O homepage suggest how distinct the effects of a "rule" violation can be. Sometimes you get just a momentary glitch with no real chance of confusion; sometimes you're out-and-out ambiguous -- if not rather clearly saying something other than what you meant.

Here are the heds (both from sports, which may or may not hold a lesson):

UNC baseball send off scheduled for Thursday
Lawson finally makes Nuggets work out

First one's a stumble but a quick recovery. Even if you read "baseball" as a plural noun governing "send off" ("Arsenal send off losing skipper"), there's no object to be sent off, so no real chance of ambiguity.

The second? Maybe the old receptors are too thoroughly primed by all the Brave New Coach coverage up here, but I can't help reading "makes" as "causes" and "work out" as a verb. Somebody has finally gotten the Nuggets to run up and down the floor a few times, and Lawson gets the credit.

Not, alas, what the writer had in mind:
Ty Lawson finally arrived in town for a workout with the team. He was originally scheduled to have gone through the drills on Sunday, but didn’t show up after an apparent case of miscommunication between the school and the Nuggets.

Moral of the story? Not all ambiguity is equal. That doesn't mean some of it isn't distinctly real. And please -- edit online stuff as if you expect people to read it. Sometimes they do.

Labels: ,


Blogger Strayhorn said...

I noticed this morning that the N&O is adding a public comments section below each story.

This oughta be fun.

3:47 PM, June 11, 2008  
Blogger Fred said...

Comments, can't wait! Best argument I've seen against the Demise of Editing.

3:03 PM, June 12, 2008  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home