Monday, March 14, 2011

If you have to write fluff ...

Bad things happen on the weekend feature piece front:

It was cloudy and cold at Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Parade in downtown Detroit, but for thousands of revelers who turned out for the 53rd annual event, it might as well have been sunny and warm.

Or not. It's still "March" out there: a high of 40 in downtown Detroit on Sunday, a high of 45 in Dublin. What, you were expecting the tropics?

“This is beautiful weather,” beamed Patrick McQueeny, a Clinton Township lawyer who served as a parade marshal.


Bzzzzt! Never -- that's never, as in "never" -- use a verb that doesn't describe the physical act of speech to attribute a direct quote. "Said" and "asked" worked for Raymond Chandler. They will work for you too.

... Nearby, Wyandotte Roosevelt High School freshman Amy Wylie, shivered in a short baton twirler skirt waiting for her band, the Wyandotte Marching Chiefs, to step in along the eight-block parade route on Michigan Avenue west of the Lodge Freeway.

“It’s fun,” she said, shaking off the cold.


We're getting the literal and the figurative mixed up. The participial phrase here wants to talk about what the speaker is actually doing: "wrapping herself in the pelt of a warg," "reading the entrails of birds," "reaching for another potato." When we get metaphorical, we're into the sort of mind-reading that doesn't belong in a 10-graf feature. (And no, don't use a comma to separate the subject and the verb.)

... “They like to party, too” Hall laughed, tugging at her Rottweiler, Bella, which was trying to get a mouthful of someone’s lunch sitting on a nearby tailgate.

See Rule 1 above. Never do this, and especially never do it twice within eight grafs. If you have to write fluff, at least do it right.

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2 Comments:

Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Is this a journo thing? Because I don't mind "Hall laughed" (instead of "Hall said, laughing" or "Hall said and laughed"). Not to excess, of course, but "twice within eight grafs" doesn't seem excessive.

10:53 AM, March 14, 2011  
Blogger James A. Brown said...

I believe the Pulitzer was given to this man not for how he put his words together but what he did for those words. The level of spite apparent in your post only diminishes you. Are the corrections meant to help someone write better or knock them off the swing?

3:05 PM, March 14, 2011  

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