Monday, November 01, 2004

An ode to the period

James Kilpatrick (happy birthday) rips apart an article in the New Yorker.
On Oct. 4, The New Yorker magazine carried 1,500 words of truly abominable editing. The piece was a think-piece of little thought. It started nowhere, went nowhere, and arrived at no interesting destination. Even so, the content was not improved by the style. All of us may learn something here.
He includes some stunning examples of paragraphs that go on forever, such as this:
"The sorry episode, in which the authenticity of documents used to buttress a story about the president's National Guard service three decades ago was called into question, enjoyed only a brief life as a flap - when it looked as though CBS had the goods to back its story and the attacks were anti-big media gun spray from the trigger-happy right - before becoming a scandal, when, last week, it came to light that CBS could not authenticate this document after all."
and this
"This time the Internet - blogs in particular, many of which are part-time enterprises, written and compiled by guys sitting at home waiting to pounce on the mainstream (excuse me, elite) media - played a more important and more active role in the story, by immediately questioning the validity of the means that Dan Rather, the correspondent of the '60 Minutes' piece, used to support the well-established claim that Bush received preferential treatment during his now-you-see-him, now-you-don't service in the Texas National Guard."
And he makes a good point; readers are usually turned off by a sea of gray:
It may be that some of my irk stems from The New Yorker's peculiar animosity to the paragraph. The editors historically have regarded the paragraph's indentation as a loathsome interruption. Nevermind that columns of good gray type tend to stupefy the wandering eye. This is New Yorker style: 1,500 words, six grafs.
I found the original article here. And he's not kidding. There really are only six grafs.


At 3:33 PM, November 02, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other hand, it's a GOOD thing that different pubs have different styles. New Yorker readers LIKE words, so long paragraphs that give you time to savor a twisting sequence of thoughts seem natural.

I also wondered whether the style of the opening part of the article might have been a conscious attempt to play on the breathless pace of the blogosphere, where thoughts collide minute-by-minute as stories unfold. Most of the thoughts are false threads or fawning admiration of the medium's speed, but they do come really fast and really tangled up.

At 11:02 PM, November 04, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

I like words, but I still get lost in a sea of gray. I will sometimes have to fight myself to keep reading. It's the same in books.


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