Friday, September 28, 2012

That pesky 'not'

Bad day for "not" on the Fractious Near East desk at the Times:
An article on Thursday about Syrian rebels’ efforts to neutralize the country’s air force rendered incorrectly a comment by Jamal Marouf, a rebel commander. He said that if the rebels are supplied with antitank weapons and shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, they “will destroy this regime in less than 30 days.” He did not say “in not less than 30 days.”

Because of an editing error, an article on Thursday about comments by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggesting a link between the Qaeda franchise in North Africa and the recent attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya, paraphrased incorrectly from comments by Benghazi residents about the brigade that carried out the attack. The residents said the brigade could easily have managed the assault on its own, not that it could not have managed it.
I get the "because of an editing error," but there are times when the mere juxtaposition of it all makes you wonder whether we should get a little more information about the genesis of some of the other errors we see.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Out on a limb

Srsly? A four-byline story to point out not just that "forecasters say it is hard to say right now what the winter months will bring" but -- ready?

Although it's too early to tell, this winter's weather could be near normal or just a bit warmer than normal.

Perhaps with a little less risk-taking in the forecast department and a little more attention to the end product, we could address sentences like this one too:
The prices will be 54 cents per cubic feet for the utility's 1.7 million natural gas customers in 45 counties around the state, down from 62 cents in February, he said.

As a customer, I hate to guess -- 54 cents per how many cubic feet?


Friday, September 21, 2012


Could it get any better than this? Fabricated scandal "gets closer to White House"! (Should you be scoring along at home, the long and short of it is that someone who "may have had contact with foreign nationals" also "'may have been' affiliated with the White House advance team.") "Frustrated lawmakers" don't think we say "TERROR!" often or loudly enough. Republicans are nicer than those Occupy people! White women are still missing!

I'm tempted to note that it's going to be a long campaign season, but it's not. Fast away the old year passes, and it's no longer idle to speculate what the Fair 'n' Balanced Network is going to look like if it has to endure another four years under the jackboot of Kenyan Muslim communist oppression.



Wrong fudge word

Hed writers have a small but fairly ordered bag of tricks they can use for squishy quantities -- those "at least" or "up to" figures that fall somewhere between one and three figures.* "Dozens" is a good one. "Scores" is pretty handy too, even if it's not the sort of tally anyone uses in conversation anymore.

The trouble with the fudge words is that they have real meanings too, and they form plurals in the good old-fashioned way. "Scores" needs at least two score to be true. "Dozens" would have worked, but the hed at hand is simply wrong.

Copy editors often go unmentioned when new rounds of buyouts are lamented. That doesn't mean their absence is unnoticed.

* Any hed in which you can say "thousands flee," of course, is the sort of hed that writes itself.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Kids these days

The War on Editing continues its global march with this from This Is Plymouth:

The couple had two sons, 38-year-old Ashley and 28-year-old Ben, who had got married in August last year.

As the youngerns are learning in 3210, it isn't that the grammar is wrong, it's that the grammar is right about so, so many things.

h/t Strayhorn

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

But enough about ...

... the scary Kenyan Muslim socialist colored guy. Let's talk about you! What scares you most about the scary Kenyan Muslim socialist colored guy?

Granted, this isn't the whole of the WashTimes. It isn't even the whole of the front page; there's a column of international developments down the left. (Hint: Buy gold and freeze-dried food.) But it is a pretty effective reminder that -- when correctly viewed -- everything that ain't about how bad he's made it should surely be about how much worse he's going to make it.

Must be interesting days at the WashTimes copy desk.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Is that like "guilty guilty guilty"?

Even on the editorial page, "Normal 0 false false false" is a pretty stiff grade for the capstone event of the biggest party in your town since, oh, the 1994 Final Four. Wouldn't you say?

If you don't want it to be mistaken for your political opinions, keep the coding off the page. And, you know, maybe look at the page itself every few hours or so. This grab is from before noon, and "false false false" is still there as of this writing.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Shouldn't that be 'allegedly murders car'?

On the heels of Wednesday's uptick in human-vehicle violence ("Cirencester teenager breaks jaw in alleged attack by kebab van"), the humans strike back:

Girl found alive in France murders car

A four-year-old girl has been found hiding inside a British-registered car in which three bodies were discovered eight hours earlier, French police say.

Think of how close the crash blossom came to being averted. "Twins found alive in France murders car" or "Girl found alive in France murder car" would just be noun piles.

Anyway, if I was the taco truck over by the undergrad library, I wouldn't be using the ATM by myself at 2 in the morning. Thanks, kebab vans.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I can has clueburger?

This just in from the Nation's Newspaper of Record:

An art review on Friday about “Robert Adams: The Place We Live, a Retrospective Selection of Photographs” at the Yale University Art Gallery, misidentified the subject of the photograph “Sally, Weld County, Colorado.” Sally is a dog, not a cat.

Zoom in
and ... you make the call!

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

No, they didn't

Let's chalk this up to overstyling -- grabbing for the first style rule that looks handy, rather than one that fits the content at hand.

They said, 'What?!' follows the form given -- twice -- on page 304 of the 2012 AP Stylebook for a direct-quote clause that follows the attribution. (Franklin said, "A penny saved is a penny earned.") But that's not what "said" is doing in this hed. The Twitter users here are saying a lot of things, but "what?!" isn't any of them.

The hed is trying to represent an "echo" question, often used to clarify something you either didn't hear or didn't believe.* The form is clear when you substitute another verb for "say":

I saw the candidate eating the rat before the witches' sabbath.

You saw what?

If you need to show emphasis (you probably don't), you might want to tweak the typeface:

She said, "Just had my bag peed on by a bomb-sniffing dog."

She said what?

So unless anyone said "what?" you say "said what?" rather than "said, 'What?'" And don't say the stylebook says otherwise.

* More than you may ever want to know about echo questions can be found in Huddleston & Pullum's awesome Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.

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