Sunday, January 25, 2009

When zombies handle the paperwork

Diagramming party to action stations: Who did what before whom in this spine-tingling 1A hed?

You probably have no trouble getting the point if you've been writing a lot about Cherry Hospital and its troubles, or slotting all the Cherry heds, or hearing about it in the news meeting every other day. Your civilian readers, opening the paper while the coffee is still brewing, might be more inclined to ask when Cherry was buried.

The easiest solution is to ignore the "rule" about omitting auxiliaries in favor of the bigger rule about not being any more confusing than you need to be. Without too much playing around, you can get "Patient was buried before/Cherry filed mandatory papers." But that's still taking the eye off the ball a bit; it sounds as if the issue is when the patient was buried, not how late the paperwork was. From a quick glance at the first three grafs, something like "Cherry was 10 weeks late/in filing report on death" suggests itself. (That's assuming we've decided, as the original indicates, that the hed doesn't need attribution.)

As Czarina notes, things would be clearer still if only one of the heds had been in the present: "Patient buried before Cherry/files report to pathologist." And there's always that NYT participle-first approach: "Buried before Cherry, patient/files report with pathologist." Evidently too much time is being had on the hands here at the Manor this morning.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I know nothing about Cherry, but I had no trouble with the hed - unless thinking Cherry was a person, probably a doctor, is "having trouble".

I think that's because I don't believe that patients (regardless of when they're buried) file reports to pathologists.

8:45 AM, January 26, 2009  
Anonymous rayb said...

I blinked a bit at that. Figured it out by quizzing self: Why would it matter whether a patient was buried before Cherry (was buried). Self couldn't give a good answer, so we started over. 33rd verse?

5:08 PM, January 26, 2009  

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