Sunday, July 10, 2011

Annals of 'after'

More on the random syntax of news:

A tractor-trailer barreled into a Kroger in Harper Woods on Saturday evening after the driver was cut off on eastbound I-94, lost control, shot up an embankment and crashed his cab into the side of the market, authorities said.
So the truck hit the grocery store after it hit the grocery store?

Probably not. I think this one's a distinctively journalistic "after," meaning something on the order of "as part of this sequence of events" or "as a result of something I'm about to explain." (Or, if you're writing for local TV news, "Here's how it all went down.")

Part of the problem -- stop me if you've heard this before -- is the urge to jam the sequence of events into the lede, rather than starting with an outcome and giving the process a chance to catch its breath. In the course of all that, a fairly important outcome is relegated to the second graf:

The driver was killed and another was person injured.

"Another was person" looks like an editing error; was "killing the driver and injuring another person" (or something) part of the original lede? Whatever happened, it's another reminder of a good principle: When in doubt, slow down. You aren't going to beat TV anyway, so you might as well make the medium you're stuck with sound better.


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