Monday, October 27, 2003

Well, folks, I'm signing off for a while — at least a week. The Internet will be turned off in hours, and it won't be set up for weeks. I start my new job a week from Tuesday.

Happy editing! See you in a week. (Unless I sneak something in during the move, which would be sick sick sick.)

Sunday, October 26, 2003

An actual sentence in copy tonight:
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush had good discussions on his recent trip to Asia on moving forward with multinational diplomacy to persuade the North to move forward to end its nuclear weapons program.
Even on my last night here, with heavy doses of sleep-inducing medication, I could tell that needed to be rewritten.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Poynter has some tips on copy editing for diversity, with specifics. A sneak peek:
Dedicate yourself to remembering this one point: Diversity is not just racial; it can be political, and it can also be economic. And also remember that no one person speaks for any one group. There are leaders who are black, but there is no such thing as a "black leader." Any community includes a wide spectrum of people. Would we ever say "white leader?" Say what you mean, and be specific.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

AP calls for "copyright" as an adjective: The disclosure was made in a copyright story. It sounds bizarre, I know. And almost every story about MP3 lawsuits comes over using "copyrighted." But change it (unless you have a compelling reason not to; if so, let me know).

Copyrighted is fine as the past tense of the verb. The band copyrighted the song. But under no circumstances is the past tense "copywritten," no matter what Missy Elliott says.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Elliott Smith is dead.

Elliott Smith's idea of heaven was modest, like everything else about the songwriter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The best headline I've seen all night: (on a story about Haloween treats for adults)


Sunday, October 19, 2003

The worst headline I've seen all night:

Sniper killing trial faceoff

Aaron Bailey discards his media fast, and I don't blame him. Living in New York and not reading the Sunday Times would be tough to stomach.

(An aside: I'm thrilled at the idea of living in a city that has Sunday delivery of the New York Times. I'd forgotten the millions of less-obvious benefits that come with big-city living.)

Aaron makes the point that amNewYork is terrible. Jeff Jarvis expounds. And here's the straight news story published in sister paper Newsday.

Friday, October 17, 2003

With China's recent Earth orbit in the news, can we just settle on calling everyone "astronauts"? It seems silly to call people from Russia cosmonauts but then call people from China astronauts. (And I tried the jingoistic suggestion that we make it house style to call the Chinese "cosmonauts," too; that didn't fly.)

I've seen "taikonaut" in several stories, based on "taikong," the Chinese word for space. But this creates some problems.

"Cosmonaut" is the anglification of the Russian "kosmonaut." It's not much of a stretch — both use Greek roots to arrive at a similar meanings; the main difference in use seems to be political more than anything else.

"Taikong," however, is not Greek. And how does one translate the "naut" into Chinese?

Simply using the term taikongren or taikongyuan (taikong person) is problematic since that term is used already to mean space alien.
It appears that the Chinese media predominantly use "yuhangyuan," or space navigator.

But why all the fuss? Let's call everyone "astronaut" and be done with it. Use the other words for some flair if you'd like. But there shouldn't be nationality requirements on being an astronaut.

Sometimes, a job is so bad, you just have to say: "Screw it. I'm drinking."
Both sides in Bryant case take shots

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Overheard from the rim: "Should cops really be handcuffing people for S&M-related crimes?"

My stepfather just pointed out a great headline. I love compelling my relatives to think like copy editors!

Aaron Bailey's media fast enters Day 2, and his description of amNewYork makes me even hungrier for big news holes and long stories.
Noteworthy on the OpEd page is this headline: "It's official! Readers love amNewYork." Patricia Gordon, Adam Carson and Raymond T. Figlesthaler write letters to the editor heaping praise on the new tabloid. No "hate mail" is re-printed, leading me to wonder if "Raymond T. Figlesthaler" is indeed an amNY intern in disguise.

Why black (to describe race) and not Black? Poynter discusses.

This includes discussions with Norm Goldstein, editor of the AP stylebook, and John McIntyre, president of ACES and desk chief at the Baltimore Sun.
"Newspapers ... don't impose language, they follow the language," McIntyre said. "The terms 'black' and 'white' with lowercase have a long history," he said, noting it's not a wise idea to veer away from what readers use. "It's very difficult to alter traditional uses. It's been 20 years we've been encouraged to use 'African American' instead of 'black.' And it's still not a settled usage."
The author, Aly Colón, notes one of the difficulties newspapers face in changing style.
However, what I understood by talking to both Goldstein and McIntyre is that many publications use AP style and AP determines its style by watching what other publications do. I see the possibility of circular thinking that may make change difficult.

Twenty-something NYC blogger Aaron Bailey decides to go a full week with no print media besides the new amNY tabloid.
All this talk that my generation doesn't read newspapers and that tabloids like amNewYork can change our habits got me thinking. To prove their theory that man can live on free daily tabloids alone, I've put myself on a "no print media except amNewYork" diet. That's right -- for an entire week, I'll read not a single source of print media except our lovely new tabloid.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Just came across this link from API: How copy desks can handle big stories well. It was published Sept. 11, 2001.
* Be sure that several copy editors are assigned to handle all non-disaster copy -- the material that is unrelated to the big, breaking story. Don’t fall into the trap of pulling those editors away from what they're doing to help close a page or deal with other production tasks. That kind of action will ultimately result in missing deadlines, anyway, and it will destroy the integrity of the disaster-story action plan.

* Appoint one person from the desk to be the liaison with the rest of the newsroom. Any decisions from other desks or higher-ups that have to be transmitted to the copy desk should go through this person. Don't allow a bunch of reporters or assigning editors to bother copy editors. Let them go through the liaison.

* Check for conflicts. One editor should look at all stories for consistency -- and this should be done throughout the publishing cycle. You don't want the main story to say that 82 are dead and a sidebar to say that the number is 79. You don't want the main story to say that the father's name is Albert and a sidebar to say that his name is Alfred.

* Avoid word-play headlines at all costs.
There's more. Check it out now to be prepared for later.

In the "Copy Editor" newsletter for October-November, AP editor Norm Goldstein explains the stylebook's rule on when to capitalize the adjective in food names: Why french fries and manhattan cocktails but Russian dressing and Manhattan clam chowder?

Well, I read the column three times and ... I'm thoroughly confused. I will memorize the lowercase ones and cap the rest, I guess. But that makes me uncomfortable.

So, a list of the lowercase foods mentioned:
french fries
brussels sprouts
manhattan cocktail
buffalo wings
After that, we're on our own.

The New York Times reviews the Author Gelb memoir "City Room." Gelb began working for the Times in the 1940s, eventually rising to managing editor.

The review gives the impression that he wasn't always too fond of copy editors.
He remains annoyed by the calcified orthodoxies of Times style as imposed by the nomenklatura of the copy desks.
And then a bit later:
But Mr. Gelb also gives great credit to those less famous rewritemen, (good) copy editors, headline writers, photographers and art directors who make every newspaper a daily miracle of craft.
I'll bet that the book's a good read anyway.

Barbara Wallraf writes in Atlantic Monthly about style variances in Presidents' Day and Veterans Day, airborne vermin, the misuse of "plethora," and buttocks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

There is no such thing as 28 staff -- or crew or family or whatever. Make it staff members or crew members or relatives (not family members!).

Therefore, one shouldn't say that a plane crash "killed all 59 passengers and crew" or that "140 friends and family attended."

Slightly related: Let "troops" continue to mean a group of soldiers. There's no reason for it to mean individuals. "Soldiers" will suffice for that -- even if some of them belong to the Marines or Air Force.

Monday, October 13, 2003

This headline is explanation enough:
Researchers: Monkeys use mind to move objects

Keeping us accountable.

This gossip about Madonna offspring Lourdes has absolutely nothing to do with copy editing, but, boy, is it funny.
Lourdes Ciccone is turning into a proper little madam. At a recent Top Of The Pops appearance, she demanded a Diet Coke. When a crew member brought her a normal Coke, the seven-year-old's reply was: "I said diet, asshole."
From Elizabeth Spiers' new blog, The Kicker, via Popbitch.

Sunday, October 12, 2003 links to a review of "Kill Bill." So where's the requisite snarky comments to warrant such a link? This reviewer, too, complains about Tarantino's splitting the movie in two.
Audiences could be milked of $16 instead of $8, assuming P.T. Barnum's dictum about suckers holds true.
And that is just hilarious to Choire Sicha, Gawker's editor. He writes: "Heh. Eight dollars. That's cute."

OK, I get that New Yorkers think it's provincial to pay less than $28 for a movie ticket. Fine.

But what's funny to me about this item in Gawker is that the review is from the Charlotte Observer. But Gawker gives a link to the review on, The Wichita Eagle's Web site, rather than Charlotte's. Why?

I can only assume that wheat-chewing Kansans who pay $8 a ticket are a lot more comical than the hipsters in Charlotte who do it.

Heh. That's cute.

I like the Boston Globe's ploy to make fun of Quentin Tarantino a bit for cutting "Kill Bill" in half for a second movie rather than edit it down to one longish film. It starts
(Note to ed.: This piece may exceed assigned length. Working in film-history angle is challenging -- those academics sure can talk! -- plus my word-count software seems virally disabled. No trims please unless OK'd by me.)
The review isn't bad, but the "ending" is downright clever.

Poynter has an article worth reading -- especially if you'll ever be in management -- about how newspapers can attract better leaders and keep them around.
Building newsroom careers for the future and finding ways to anchor high performers on a growth track will demand different thinking from the leaders of today. We must search for qualities in addition to a solid grounding in the skills and values of journalism that we've prized for so long.
As someone who often thinks about the fields I left behind (politics, the law and, yes, elementary education), I've put a lot of thought into "Why journalism?" Sure, I love it. But I love other industries, too, some that look as if they'd promise more challenges and more rewards.

I think the leaders of newspapers realize they could lose their "best and brightest" to other papers, other careers. It will take the providing of more training and a commitment to enticing leaders to stay. And recognition that good leaders are not just the best editors, the best reporters. Management skills are important, too, and rookies with promise should start developing those attributes early.

Friday, October 10, 2003

It's a drive-through, not a drive-thru.

Let's make a deal: Allow McDonald's to leave style up to the copy editors, and we'll leave the mass production of Happy Meals up to them.

Forgive the infrequent posting. Between illness and job search, life's been in an upheaval.

But it has paid off (the job search, not the illness).

As of Nov. 4, I'll be employed in Dallas.

That leaves me a lot to do in the next three weeks, but blogging is on the list.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Condoleezza. Two Es, two Zs.

Schwarzenegger. One Z, two Gs.

So who is getting them wrong?


The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran a column on how easy copy-editing is. (Just learn these basic rules!)
Copy editing may not be as hard as you may believe. The bulk of what you have to do is learn how to identify three common errors -- comma splices, lack of subject-verb agreement and nonparallel structures -- and you'll probably find a good proportion of the errors in any given document.
To think that all this time, my employers have been expecting so much.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

(cough) Still sick. (cough) But can't help myself.

Yeah is pronounced "yah" but is not spelled that way.
Yea is pronounced "yay" but is not spelled that way.

Both can mean "yes," but they are used differently.


Saturday, October 04, 2003

Sick today. Will try to blog tomorrow.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Salon has a great, couldn't-ask-for-more article on common editing mistakes in airline copy. Read it. Twice. Take notes as if you were in college. Print out a copy for your co-workers. (Salon will make nonsubscribers jump through hoops to read this. Actually, you just have to watch an ad. Look for "Ask the pilot.")

Here's a preview:
* There is no Delta Airlines based in Atlanta, Ga. There is only Delta Air Lines. The legendary Eastern also shared this old-timey three-word style.

* All right, but even I get confused by the Koreans. In the old days one flew to Seoul on KAL, as everyone called it. But did that stand for Korean Air Lines, or was it Korean Airlines? I've got photos of aircraft on which both are painted. No matter, in 2003 it's a short and simple Korean Air. That is, until you read the fine print and realize the corporate parent is something called Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd. So KAL remains KAL, doing business without the "L". Got it?

* China Airlines is the national carrier of Taiwan, Republic of China (ROC). Air China is based in Beijing, in the People's Republic of China (PRC), sworn enemy and claimant of Taiwanese sovereignty. The names are not interchangeable, and China Airlines and Air China crews are known to engage in airport brawls and run one another off taxiways.

* There is no such thing as British Air. British Airways is what you mean. If you can't remember, impress your travel agent by calling it "BA," as savvy fliers like to say.
There's plenty more where this came from. Read on!

Recent searches leading to this site. Hmmm.... Could there be an election coming up?

Google:  atlanta magazine + junod  
Yahoo:  hot cubin girl  
MSN Search:  jumpers+world+trade+center  
Google:  stockdale writer  
Google:  "maria shriver" "damaged goods"  
Google:  picture britney "jean jacket"  
Yahoo:  Shriver damaged goods  
Google:  chuck palahniuk entertainment weekly article  
Yahoo:  Monica blog penis  
Google:  maria shriver, rape, damaged goods  
MSN Search:  schwarzenegger, credibility  
Google:  "Capital Idea" chicago  
Google:  maria shriver ethnic background  
Google:  rap songs and gucci  
Google:  "richard drew" jumper  
Yahoo:  schwarzenegger womanizer apologizes  
Google:  maria shriver damaged goods  
Google:  maria shriver damaged goods rape  
Google:  German translation of the word schwarzenegger  

Thursday, October 02, 2003

A line worth reading:
At the next Nuremberg trials, the defendants won't say, "I was just following orders." They will say, "I was just being ironic."

(short rant) Don't use "thanks to" to show cause unless someone would actually give thanks to the occurrence.
Out of the question: The town was in ruins, thanks to a tornado that killed 14 cows and three people.
Permissible: The crops were fine up north, thanks to plenty of rain in the growing season.
(/short rant)

Want to make yourself an instant expert on the news behind the news? I recommend Slate's "Explainer" series. Recent items include:
How deep is CIA cover?
How are ticker symbols allotted?
Can Wham-O sue over Dickie Roberts?
Which depressions become hurricanes?
Seven hundred sixteen of these are waiting for you. Go learn.

(And, no, I am not on Slate's payroll. But I'd like to be.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Avon's new makeup line aimed at youngsters prompted an interesting thread at Testy Copy Editors. Avon styles the product line as mark. (lowercase and with the period). What should editors do? Here's my take:
Proper nouns are capitalized. That goes for Mark and E.E. Cummings and Matchbox Twenty.
And punctuation is a device meant to clarify the language, not muck it up. So that means Mark and Yahoo and Guess.

Avon can do whatever it wants with its logo. But we make the rules on capitalization and punctuation.
So who has it right?
ABC News (last item)
Edmonton Journal
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Huntington (W.V.) Herald Dispatch

And who has it wrong?
Denver Post
Associated Press, rerun a lot
Southwest Florida News-Press
Winchester (Va.) Star
Florida Today

A teaser to Bill Walsh's new book, "The Elephants of Style." He writes, "You could say that whereas "Lapsing" was for editors and writers, "Elephants" is for writers and editors."

"Elephants" is due out in spring and promises to include tips on the most frequently confused elements of good writing, another "Curmudgoen's Stylebook" with entries on Snarky Specificity and Actually is the New Like, and how writers and editors can better get along.

I already admitted my obsession with the CIA leak story. Here's how that obsession is manifesting itself today.

A Knight Ridder story published today includes this graf:
The mushrooming controversy also signaled a growing schism within the administration over Bush's handling of Iraq. The Justice Department launched the investigation at the request of the CIA; some CIA officials think the White House misrepresented intelligence information to make the case for war.
This seems to create a link that hasn't been backed up: The only reason for this investigation is that the CIA is pissed at Bush for Iraq. That may be true, but I want someone besides the reporter telling me so. Back it up.

But I'm finding that most stories need to create more links: Why did Robert Novak publish Valerie Plame's identity? That's important information, to show that he wasn't just fed a leak that he published for the hell of it. He was trying to establish that nepotism helped Joseph Wilson get his yellowcake-seeking job, not Wilson's experience. This Knight Ridder story does have this connection.
A week later, conservative columnist Robert Novak reported that "senior administration officials" had told him that Wilson got the Africa assignment with his wife's help, implying that Wilson wasn't qualified to determine whether Iraq had sought enriched uranium in Niger.
But most don't; they simply say the identity of Wilson's wife might have been leaked for political reasons, to retaliate against Wilson. That's important, but not the whole story.

I actually turned on my heater yesterday. To help usher in fall and celebrate the first of October, I bring you Halloween style reminders:

Halloween is always capitalized. (It's short for All Hallow Even, or All Hallows Eve, and is sometimes written Hallowe'en. But not in newspapers.)
Trick or treat is the noun. It's hyphenated for the verb and trick-or-treater.
Jack-o'-lantern has an apostrophe after the O.
Don't forget: Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster.
Bats are mammals, not rodents.
The only full moon in October happens Oct. 10.
Lowercase devil, but capitalize Satan and Lucifer.

Now, is it candy apples or candied apples? I like candied, but I think candy is winning out over time. It's definitely candy corn.

And waxed lips means something entirely different from wax lips.