Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Keep opinion to self

Don't be afraid of adjectives. Just -- oh, treat 'em with respect, in case they turn around and bite you:

The town of Matthews will soon get two new, family friendly restaurants.

So much sheer editing, so little time: snick the comma after "new," put a hyphen in the preposed compound ... wait, what exactly is that compound up to?

Modifiers don't automatically make news writing bad. Color adjectives -- "red," for example -- are pretty straightforward. Even in the food realm, some things that look tricky have widely known neutral meanings. "Family-style" doesn't mean "reliving the agony your demented parents foisted on you"; it means "people bring your table platters of stuff until you tell them to stop."

Allow me to suggest that "family-friendly" isn't in that category. Especially:

Just down Independence Boulevard, between Boston Market and Audi of Charlotte, a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is already under construction.

Ah, Cracker Barrel! Home of all sorts of good old family values, like ... oh, never mind.* Adjectives are harmless creatures, until you lift one straight out of the ad copy and you're up to your elbows in venom-dripping adjectival fangs.

"Family-friendly" is on the out-of-bounds list. Eschew it. Don't be surprised if it's on a Com3210 exercise.

* They've gotten much better! They promise!


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Normally I agree with you. But not this time. We know exactly what "Family friendly" means. And it has no real relation to families and friendliness to or from them. I kind of like seeing it there; tells me I won't be stopping in if I'm in the neighborhood.

10:40 AM, August 13, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

Sure, that's the way I read it too. But (not to steal any baggage from the English dept or anything) this one raises some unavoidable questions about authorial intent. If the writer is encoding one meaning and many (or most) readers are decoding another meaning entirely, we have a real communication problem. I score it as an editing issue because some editor should have pointed out the likelihood of an oppositional reading. If the paper avoids coded terms, it reduces the suspicion that it buys into the code.

It's kind of like the "heritage" argument about the Confederate battle flag. I'm pretty sure I know what it means when a news source uses it, but when it's in the paper's own voice, it's really hard to tell whether somebody is winking or not.

11:57 AM, August 13, 2008  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Hmmm, yes. I see your point.

3:28 PM, August 13, 2008  

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