Thursday, August 28, 2014

Word matters order

Does this mean official cookouts can finally begin after Labor Day? Or (alas) that another editor failed to step in and help a food feature say what it meant, rather than what it said?

Here's a handy tip. If you can put a comma between two adjectives before a noun, their order doesn't matter:

A cold, rainy morning

A rainy, cold morning

If you can't, that should be a sign unto you that their order does matter. Some textbooks call these "cumulative" adjectives, because the meaning builds up as they go along:

What kind of cookout? An unofficial one. What kind of unofficial cookout? The last one.

What the writer means, you'd like to suspect, is that Labor Day is somehow the informal end of cookout season, or the unofficial last cookout (why Michiganians don't mind being characterized as such complete weenies about cooking outside, I don't know). Sometimes, word order really does matter.

While we're at it?

Brining chicken can add a layer of flavor and provides a cooking cushion, taking the guesswork out of overcooking it, even boneless, skinless chicken breast.

If you've tried it before, you'll recall that there's almost no guesswork involved in overcooking a chicken breast. The story got its feet crossed somewhere between "takes the guesswork out of cooking chicken" and "reduces the risk of overcooking chicken."

And a few more points for the Never Do This list from the food section. Never tell people what "we" usually think, and never use exclamation points to end your lede! Especially if it's as exciting as this one!

(Updated to fix a couple of the things editors catch, with appreciation to the editor who caught them)

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