Sunday, June 12, 2011

Misspent resources

Interesting to note how and where a resource like time is spent, isn't it?

The upper graf is from a Saturday story. I'm not sure we can call it an out-and-out error, but it certainly has some giggle potential, because "women" and "priests" are such nice objects for "for." "Women priests" isn't necessarily wrong, but "female priests" would be a much better choice here, and a longer object (maybe "expanding the priesthood to include ...") might be better yet. And neither change would take much time off the clock.

The other one ran today (it's after the first subhed in this online version, which combines the 1A billboard and the full story inside.) Why "just more than" instead of "just over"? Another stylebook rule -- "over" and "under" only apply to spatial relationships, not to numbers -- that's unfounded in its best cases and simply silly in cases like "just over" and "just under." On top of that, "she has just over two weeks" will probably get the paragraph down to three lines.

Somehow I think both writers would be happier if the time and energy put into zombie rules went instead to giving stuff that's written in a hurry another few seconds to catch its breath. I'm fairly sure readers would appreciate it too.

Today's Q&A
Q: Did the world really need to know what Mitch Albom thinks of Weinergate?
A: Not that I've heard.


Anonymous raYb said...

I'd agree that "female priests" would be far better, but "women priests" just clangs for me. There's a lot of blurring, sure, and that's how language changes, But "women" is a noun. Why can't we let nouns be nouns and adjectives do the work adjectives were intended to do? Would you let "men priests" go though?

11:11 PM, June 12, 2011  
Blogger fev said...

I wouldn't let "men priests" through, but that's because nouns-modifying-nouns occur on a scale ranging from innocuous to annoying -- not because nouns don't modify nouns, as more (ahem) journalism textbooks ought to admit.

I've been in or near a lot of those arguments over the years, and in my dotage, I've come to think that we'll win more of them if we frame them as well-seasoned preferences about good writing rather than immutable laws of grammar. Otherwise, someone will point out that no one blinked when Reuters referred to Jill Abramson as the NYT's "first woman executive editor," and we're gonna be in trouble.

Ready for a beer?

11:48 PM, June 12, 2011  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Noun-noun modification is what English does.

House dog. Sports car. Race horse. Beer mug. Guitar player. Magazine reporter. Novel writer. Book store.

That said, I don't care for "women priests" much - but I'd love to see a time when "men priests" wasn't the default and needed the modifier...

11:28 AM, June 13, 2011  
Anonymous Mtarnowski said...

Our local ran a Sunday story about a pain in the foot caused by "female shoes."

12:02 PM, June 13, 2011  
Anonymous raYb said...

"Female shoes" is a true atrocity. Sounds like someone just finished a French lesson and extrapolated from there. But I'm not sure what gender "shoes" is en Francais. "Women _____" is often some sort of denigration that we need to get past. Beyond that, call me a stick stuck deep in some thick mud, but I prefer words with specificity and nuance. Like "decimate," which came from Roman retribution by killing every 10th man. Now it just means "devastate," a much more broad word that doesn't even cover loss of life. That's the kind of "good writing" argument I think could be won.

4:19 PM, June 13, 2011  
Anonymous LisaMc said...

And in the second one, is "has got" really necessary? "Has" is fine in this sentence.

8:06 PM, June 13, 2011  

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