Sunday, October 02, 2011

War on Editing

Today's dispatches from the front include a case of Instant Metaphor Mix (just add cliches):

As political hot cakes go, Gov. Rick Perry's support for his state's guarantee of lower cost in-state tuition for illegal immigrants attending Texas' public universities sizzled at a recent Republican presidential debate.

Next is an illustration of the S&W maxim about putting stuff in positive form. That doesn't mean news should be exclusively about puppies and kittens and birthday cake; it means you generally get to the point quicker -- and with less chance of confusion -- if you talk about what is, rather than about what isn't:

Following Michigan State's 10-7 victory over Ohio State on Saturday, it's probably no longer a question of if Luke Fickell isn't retained as Buckeyes coach, but a matter of when.

The sentence would work with "fired" or "dismissed" (surely no one would want to make the verb active): It's not a question of if he's fired but when. But pinning down when something didn't happen is a lot harder than saying when it did.

The next one, I think, is a scope issue. The main clause is vague, but the relative clause demands that it be specific:

For at least 12 years, a charming, well-dressed man moved from woman to woman, who accuse him of leaving behind empty bank accounts, black eyes and raw fear.

None of these are unfixable. None of them would take very long to straighten out. It's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the writers might appreciate the help. But if we don't build in the time and the staffing that would make even minimal editing possible, our first rough draft of history is going to look rougher all the time.



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