Sunday, July 15, 2012

Your friend the preposition

Most of the "bad grammar" you run across in a day of editing won't involve out-and-out mistakes. Damage is much more likely to result from perfectly grammatical constructions that do something other than what the writer (or editor) intended, as in today's example.

Stuff is found in Indiana all the time. It doesn't take long to find cases in which "found in Indiana" is central to the topic at hand:

Glyphosate-resistant weeds found in Indiana
Fugitive Couple Found In Indiana
Missing Wyoming woman found in Indiana

.... but none of those are the sort of "in Indiana" we're dealing with here. Here's the AP story from which the brief appears to have come:

SALEM, Ind. - Police say a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his father after finding the man's loaded handgun in a southern Indiana home.

As long as we're trimming and adding (which is how the father's age moved up from the second paragraph), why not make it "police in Indiana say"? It doesn't take a lot of work to make readers appreciate your prose better, but it does take some.

And the subhed? I'd avoid "quick hit" when there are two blurbs in the "quick hits" section, as there are today. And if episodic handgun death shows some signs of being a regular feature, I might look for a less giggly way of approaching news summaries.

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