Thursday, October 25, 2012

War on Editing: 'Such as'

Sorry, can't help it. Whenever I see a "such as" in an already cluttered lede like this one, I reach for the Googles and ...

Mitt Romney abruptly moderated his foreign policy positions in this week's debate on issues like ending the war in Afghanistan and averting another* conflict in Iran, hoping to neutralize one of President Barack Obama's main strengths with the election only two weeks away. But the move toward the political center comes with potential pitfalls.

Granted, you can find some hits -- 134, including the local paper -- for the "issues such as" version, but with 2,500-some for "issues like," I'm more inclined to think some dozens of bitter-enders have too much time on their hands than that the AP moved a writethru to mend the notional error of its ways.

Which would be one thing if it happened in isolation, but things don't. They happen in the context of, oh, this from Tuesday, under the (print) hed "Man being sued over slanderous robo-calls admits it was his voice."

Couple slight problems here. One, whether the communication at hand was "slanderous" or not is the sort of question juries -- not reporters -- decide. Not much point in trying the lawsuit if we know the outcome, is there? That's the sort of question editors were once paid to ask of reporters who thought "asserted to be slanderous" was the same thing as "slanderous."

And two -- "didn't see anything gregarious"? Did we consider asking about that?

With rare exceptions, you can't simply teleport into the future, grab the few moments you frittered away on changing the entirely grammatical "like" to the sniffy "such as," and zip back to keep your reporter from looking like a dolt. But it does seem fair to infer that there's a fairly skewed set of priorities in effect downtown. Come the next round of buyouts or layoffs, the desk will not do well if its claim is something on the order of "Well, we changed lots of stuff that wasn't wrong, but at least we didn't get in the way if writers wanted to take sides in lawsuits over slimy campaign tricks."

* Yes, it would have been nice if someone had edited this in such a way as to indicate we don't already have one.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Ooo, ooo - they could have put their "such as" after the word Iran (adding something like "the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan" of course!)

What if the guy said "gregarious"? Then do you just quote him or quote him with a (sic)?

5:56 AM, October 25, 2012  
Blogger Theophylact said...

You're worried about "such as" and don't blink at "effectuate"?

10:31 AM, October 25, 2012  

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