Friday, April 30, 2004

A window into your editing

Anil Dash shares the story of a job seeker who sent a resume electronically with "Track Changes" enabled. That means a Word-savvy employer can see exactly how you edited your resume, all the tweaks to job titles and dates. Or, as Anil puts it, "It just means your potential employer can actually watch your lies being written in front of them."

The Track Changes function can be a handy way to edit a document but keep the original intact. You can go back later and decide if you want to keep all your changes. But without fixing the document at the end, everyone else can see the changes, too.

Safeguarding your document isn't as easy as turning off Track Changes before hitting send. Microsoft offers instructions:
1. On the View menu, point to Toolbars, and then click Reviewing.
2. On the Reviewing toolbar, click Show, and then make sure that a check mark appears next to each of the following items:
Ink Annotations (Word 2003 only)
Insertions and Deletions
Reviewers (Point to Reviewers and make sure that All Reviewers is selected.)

If a check mark does not appear next to an item, click the item to select it.

3. On the Reviewing toolbar, click Next to advance from one revision or comment to the next.
4. On the Reviewing toolbar, click Accept Change or Reject Change/Delete Comment for each revision or comment.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all the revisions in the document have been accepted or rejected and all the comments have been deleted.
This seems to make the Track Changes function less convenient after all.


Verbal Energy has another post, this one reconsidering when adolescent words (those undergoing a change in meaning) should still be used. (Her last post was on the oft-misused nonplused, discussed here.)

She discusses "madam," the "niggardly" case and "thrice."

Just the facts

Some files for quick fact-checking on the Google IPO filing:

A letter from the founders
The prospectus
Risk factors -- a note on their competition

Google management
Google history
Google timeline

And this site tracks news on the Google IPO.

Repeat after me

I have the best job in American journalism.

Don't use "presumptive nominee"

Doug Fisher, who teaches journalism at the University of South Carolina and runs the Common Sense Journalism blog, illustrates how a word that's correct may not be the one you want.

We should not call Kerry the Democrats' "presumptive nominee." It has been published thousands of times, and it's not wrong, but it can be misleading. Many people read presumptive as presumptuous.

Fisher slipped in a sentence on a recent quiz in a copy-editing class:
Smith said it was presumptive/presumptuous to think he'd do that.
More than a third of the 50 students -- juniors and seniors majoring in journalism -- got it wrong.

So what do you change it to? "Likely" or "probable."

On a similar note, if you think this advice is unfounded and use the term anyway, don't call Kerry a presumptive candidate. He has officially been a candidate since Sept. 2.

Today's exquisite corpse

For background, see this.

This is a coincidence, I swear. But today's exquisite corpse comes from Bill Walsh's "Lapsing Into a Comma." It's a great follow-up to yesterday's corpse -- about capitalizing proper nouns, even when companies (or people) don't cap them in logos.
In many, perhaps most, cases, these logo affectations aren't even intended to indicate the preferred style for proper names. E.E. Cummings, for example, used capital letters in his signature. I might sound like a lonely voice on this issue, but Tennis magazine and, believe it or not, illustrate the way capitalization is supposed to work in the grown-up world. For more than 20 years, Tennis magazine was tennis on the cover (it only recently dropped the mod '70s logo) and TENNIS in its own articles (a lot of publications like self-referential caps) -- but Tennis in real life. And those writers who try to be oh-so-modern and oh-so-accommodating by writing "" might want to double-check the way the on-line bookstore refers to itself outside logo-land (and even in some of its myriad logo styles). That's right: It's
If you're disturbed by Walsh's use of the hyphen in online, rest assured. He came around in his next book.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

At least it's not written in stone. ... Oh.

Read the last item in this Washington Post column -- about a typo carved in granite.

Let them eat!

My illustrious co-worker Jamie Knodel is organizing an AP-style potluck dinner in a few days. Everyone must bring an item that has an entry in the stylebook. Many have signed up already, with:
tollhouse cookies
Coca-Cola and Scotch whisky
cheddar (lowercase) cheese but Monterey Jack
blond brownies
Roquefort cheese
Churches (of Christ) fried chicken
Dr Pepper and Dixie cups
crawfish (not crayfish) etoufee
french fries and ketchup

Any other ideas? High points for creativity.

Today's exquisite corpse

For background, see this.

Today's is from the runaway No. 1 British best-seller "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," by Lynne Truss. There aren't five rules on Page 23, so I'll just go with part of the rule that takes up that page. We're still in the introduction here, talking about how capitalizing a sentence and ending it with a period haven't always been a part of the written word.
The initial letter of a sentence was first capitalised in the 13th century, but the rule was not consistently applied until the 16th. In manuscripts of the 4th and 7th centuries, the first letter of the page was decorated, regardless of whether it was the start of a sentence. ... Nowadays, the convention for starting a new sentence with a capital letter is so ingrained that word-processing software will not allow you to type a full stop and then a lower case letter; it will capitalise automatically. This is bad news, obviously, for chaps like e.e. cummings, but good news for those who have spotted the inexorable advance of lower case into book titles, television captions, company names and (of course) everything on the non-case-sensitive internet, and lie awake at night worrying about the confusion this is spreading in young minds.
When I see E.E. Cummings written in lowercase (when not attached to a poem), my heart hurts and my head spins. (Please see "I love K.D. Lang and her music, but ...")

I'll give her a pass on Internet, I guess, and I am glad to see non-case-sensitive hyphenated before it.

But to lowercase a name in a book about punctuation? I'm nonplused.

Style vs. substance

The New Yorker has an interesting piece on what it takes to change house style at the New York Times.
Among the many peculiarities of Times house style—such as the tradition, in the Book Review, that the word “odyssey” refer only to a journey that begins and ends in the same place—one of the more nettlesome has been the long-standing practice that writers are not supposed to call the Armenian genocide of 1915 a genocide.
Any of you who have worked on a stylebook committee (or who worked at a paper with some stilted style rules) should appreciate this.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

When to run a correction

Slate's Jack Shafer discusses when papers should correct the mistakes of their sources.

For example, the Washington Post published a story in 2002 that the administration suspected that al-Qaeda had received VX nerve agent from Iraqis. (Still with me?) That turned out not to be true, but no one ever heard about the claim again.

Does the paper owe it to readers to follow up on that story? At what point should a reporter go back to the sources and say, hey, how 'bout that VX?

The reporter on the story, Barton Gellman, makes a good point: There isn't a "nothing new here" section of the paper every day to give updates on these things. Writers are busy covering news. But he agrees that he should have followed up -- he says six to nine months later.

It's easy to let those stories slip under the radar (how many stories do you think Gellman had written in the nine following months?), but copy editors can help. How many times have you heard a colleague say: "What ever happened to that girl who was hit by that car?" "Did we ever find out how that new business was doing?" "What's the status on that project?"

Finding out can be as easy as a phone call or e-mail, or it could spark a much-needed folo.

Watch those comments

U.S. intelligence agencies consider tracking blogs.

Call me Miss Manners

A writer laments the disappearance of phone etiquette, longing for the niceties of "hello" before diving into the purpose of the call.

His first example of bad manners?
My son answers the phone and immediately hears an editor wanting to know if I really, really want to use a word in a way so much at variance with good taste, common language usage, Associated Press style and good taste. Or that new events have made the whole premise of a column nonsensical and what do I propose to do next?
It's easy to rush through those phone calls to reporters at home. We're talking deadlines here, people.

But you'll get much better results from your call if you start with a "How do you do?"

A little context

Becoming familiar with a place's history and significance can help put current events into perspective. I enjoyed reading Slate's Explainer on why Najaf is such a holy place: The assassinated father of the Shiites is buried there.

Today's exquisite corpse

For background, see this.

Today's is from Patricia O'Connor's "Woe is I."
The ics Files

Figuring out the mathematics of a noun can be tricky. Take the word mathematics. Is it singular or plural? And what about all those other words ending in ics -- economics, ethics, optics, politics, and so on? Fortunately, it doesn't take a Ph.D. in mathematics to solve this puzzle.

If you're using an ics word in a general way (as a branch of study, say), it's singular. If you're using an ics word in a particular way (as someone's set of beliefs, for example), it's plural.

"Politics stinks," said Sonny.
"Sonny's politics stink," said Gopher.
Statistics isn't a very popular course
The company's statistics are often misleading.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Headline advice

Cyberjournalist boils down the tips from an ACES session on online hed writing.
• be specific enough to hook readers
• have key words that refer to past stories in the news that are on people's minds during watercooler chat
• be written in a conversational tone
• be simple and straightforward
• give the pertinent information since online hedlines don't typically follow newspaper design strategies such as drop heds
• find a blend of sensationalism and exaggeration
• use "magic" words that everyone is curious about (e.g., babies, spam, the Web, viruses, taxes, reality TV)

Most of these apply to headline writing offline, too. And although the "sensationalism and exaggeration" advice seems like sacrilege, I'd describe it as going just a little over the top. I haven't tooted Slate's horn lately, so ...

Compare their front-page heds with the heds on the actual article:

Front page: Her Freudian Slip Is Showing (with pic of Condi Rice)
Inside: Condi's Inner Life: What Freudian slips do — or don't — tell us about politicians.
Front page: Goodbye, Friends. Hello, Sitcommercials!
Inside: Customers Like Me: Verizon uses race to make you look.
Front page: The Spies Tenet Can't Control
Inside: What's With Our 15 Intel Agencies? The CIA, we know. But what are the other 14?

These heads seem appropriate for Slate. Is that because it's online? I don't think so; they'd work just as well in a print magazine. But the tone online tends to be lighter, even in the Web portals for print newspapers.

Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

Compare this grammar column with this one.

Better yet, I'll save you the trouble: They are almost identical. That's not a big deal; they're both credited to Stephen Wilbers, who offers training in business writing. I read one weeks before the other, but that isn't a big deal, either.

What caught me off guard is that when I read the one published today in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the byline read "Special to the Star-Telegram." What does that mean? I'd assume the paper got some expert to write a column for them. But if the Startlegram published the same column as the Minneapolis Star Tribune had weeks earlier, I'd assume it was syndicated or distributed. If that's the case, the "Special to the ..." byline strikes me wrong.

Wilbers says at his Web site that he writes a weekly column for the Strib. I searched the Strib's site and found two others (you will have to register): Put your editing skills to the test and No cheer in using commas wrongly.

The use of "special" by the Star-Telegram isn't necessarily wrong. It can be used to mean "something that is not part of a regular series." But I've always read it to mean unique.

Today's exquisite corpse

For background, see this.

Today's is from John Bremner's "Words on Words," copyright 1980. It's just happens to be a classic.
You could lead a happy life thinking it's better to be fooled occasionally than to be suspicious constantly. But not on a copy desk. With accuracy, consistency, fairness and imagination, suspicion is a cardinal virtue for a copy editor. Not only must a copy editor know something about everything and where to find out everything about anything, but also he must distrust his own mother. If his mother tells him she loves him, he should check it out.

Suspicion is especially important when a copy editor writes headlines, which are set larger than body type and attract more attention than copy. ... A headline writer must check and recheck a head for clarity and single meaning or he may find himself with another embarrassing headline story to add to his reminiscences.

A headline doesn't tell an accurate story if its language is ambiguous, open to more than one interpretation. For example, in some contexts an innocent noun is found guilty of having more than one meaning: "Beauty Unveils Bust at Ceremony." ... "Mr. McClusky Will Give / Free Goose to 4-H Girls."

Sometimes the culprit is a verb: "Missouri Pacific to Drop / Passengers from 3 Trains." Or: "Avoid Having Baby / At the Dinner Table." Worse: "President Eats Turkey, / Lays a Cornerstone." ...

Be suspicious.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Quickly, what's an adverb?

Indian teacher aims to be listed in Guinness as world's fastest grammarian.

He says he can teach
tense in 30 seconds; change the voice in 50 seconds; indirect speech in one minute and 20 seconds; punctuation in one minute and 10 seconds; clauses in one minutes and 25 seconds; simple, complex and compound sentences in one minute 55 seconds; figures of speech in three minutes.
The only question left to be answered: Why?

Do you belong to ACES?

ASNE's release of employment numbers has sparked conversation on the ACES board and at Prints the Chaff: If there are 10,708 copy editors and designers out there, why are 10,000 of them not members of ACES?

The idea that rings most true with me is "tangible benefits." I'd venture that most copy editors think ACES is a great organization. But we all do a quick cost-benefit analysis before we pay a membership fee.

ACES lists the tangible benefits of joining on its Web site: the quarterly newsletter, the annual directory of members, access to the discussion board, reduced fees for the national conferences, and reduced conference fees with organizations such as the Society for Newspaper Design and the American Press Institute.

It was the reduced fees for the national conference that eventually spurred me to join. I think that's the biggest lure of the list.

The quarterly newspaper could be more a must-have if it was less person-driven and more issue-drive (see Copy Editor). The membership directory has been fun to browse through, but it doesn't help me at work every day. And the message board is easily accessible to nonmembers.

So, what is ACES to do?

We need to come up with great benefits besides the yearly conference. Although the conference is first-rate, from what I hear, we will never be able to get everyone to go -- because of money, because of time, and because someone always needs to stay home to put out the paper. (It's also interesting to note how many people attended the last conference compared with overall membership: 390 attendees, 700 members. And how many members have never attended a conference? It could very well be that the conference discount drives ACES membership.)

I like Vince Tuss' idea of discounts and incentives. Copy Editor offers two-year subscribers a copy of "Lapsing Into a Comma" by Bill Walsh. (And, at $128, it's still more expensive than ACES membership.) Vince also suggests discounts on items not exactly tied to work, like Apple, Starbucks, The Onion.

Any other ideas?

An exquisite corpse bonus -- take a deep breath

John McIntyre submits this exquisite corpse that was too long for the comments section. It's from H.W. Fowler, Modern English Usage, revised by Sir Ernest Gowers, from the entry on Americanisms. And, yes, it is one sentence. (For background, see this.)
Our growing preference for PHRASAL VERBS over simple ones with the same meaning ("meet up with," "lose out on"), the use of the plain SUBJUNCTIVE without an auxiliary in such a sentence as "he is anxious that the truth be known," the effects of HEADLINESE LANGUAGE, especially as an eater-up of of prepositions ("world food production" for "production of food in the world"), the obliteration of the distinction between SHALL and WILL that the few who understood it used to consider the hall-mark of the niceties of English idiom, the foothold gained by the American "I don't have" at the expense of the English "I haven't got" (see DO 2), the victory of "aim to do" over "aim at doing," the use of "in" instead of "for" in such a phrase as "the first time in years," the progress made by DUE TO towards the status of preposition and of LIKE towards that of a conjunction -- such things as these, trifling in themselves, are cumulatively symptoms of surrender by the older competitor to the younger and more vigorous.

Now, just a little bit smarter

I had no idea how calories were measured until I read this Slate Explainer. Fascinating.

Today's exquisite corpse

For background, see this.

Today's is from the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, copyright 1999.
anthems. Use quotation marks around their titles: "The Star-Spangled Banner." Lowercase the national anthem.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

A close call

James Kilpatrick's language column covers the difference between tint and shade, curtain and drapery, further and farther, founder and flounder. And a bonus: the etymology of "mnemonic."
The adjective owes its curious orthography to Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory, daughter of Uranus and Gaea and the mother by Zeus of the Muses.

Exquisite corpse -- for editors

Inspired by this post on Languagehat, I think it's time for some 23/5 Exquisite Corpses of our own.

First, some background. Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist technique "exploiting the mystique of the accident," according to an Exquisite Corpse site. (I first found this site looking for this site after hearing its editor, Andrei Codrescu, on NPR.)

The first Exquisite Corpse explains the origin:
Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.

The technique got its name from results obtained in initial playing, "Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau" (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). suggested a variation: Take the fifth sentence from the 23rd page of a book and post it.

Here's an editor's version: the fifth rule (or last rule if there aren't five) on the 23rd page of editing books. One a day, until I run out or get bored with it. (And with long, long rules, I will condense.)

Today's is from the spiral-bound Associated Press Stylebook from 2002:

attorney general, attorneys general Never abbreviate. Capitalize only when used as a title before a name: Attorney General Griffin B. Bell.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Eats, shoots and never leaves my blog

OK, OK, one more mention of Lynne Truss' book. Then I promise ... that there will probably be more. C'mon, guys, it's an editing blog.

This link is to another story in the New York Times, written by author Edmund Morris. The lead brought a smile to my face:
A Manhattan real estate broker has just notified me, on heavy stationery, that ''the New York market is remaining vibrant with the goal of buying a home being a principle interest for purchaser's to either upscale or downscale their homes.''

Syntactical incoherence aside, it is difficult to say what is most annoying about this sentence: the dropped comma, the misspelled adjective, the superfluous apostrophe, the split infinitive, the grating use (twice) of ''home'' as a commercial noun. I am tempted to reply, ''It is against my principal's to consider such illiterate letter's,'' but doubt that the sarcasm would register. As the journalist Lynne Truss notes in ''Eats, Shoots & Leaves,'' her forcedly jovial punctuation primer, ''the world cares nothing for the little shocks endured by the sensitive stickler.''
This is a different review, however. Morris is not thrilled with this book. For example, after Truss apologizes for calling apostrophes punctuation's fairies: "I'm sorry about the fairies, too, but I'm sorrier about her prose style, which is cloying even if you know where Minehead is, and have a stomach for mixed metaphor."

Morris mixes in some examples of greats who have broken the rules to great effect.
Truss errs in saying that P. G. Wodehouse eschews the semicolon, but I can see why she thinks so. He uses it, on average, once a page, usually in a long sentence of mounting funniness, so that its luftpause, that tiny intake of breath, will puff the subsequent comma clauses along, until the last of them lands with thistledown grace. By then you're laughing so much, you're not even aware of the art behind the art.
He even lets a few compliments slip through -- but not many.
Her scholarship is impressive and never dry. I didn't know, for example, that ''dash'' derives from the Middle English dasshen, ''to break.'' But she's a few years off in ascribing the first use of direct-speech quotation marks to ''someone'' in 1714. Daniel Defoe splattered them all over his ''True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal'' in 1706.
This review is a different take on a book many of us will read (if the bookstore ever restocks it).

But some editors (ahem) may be glad to know that reviewers can look at this book with a critical eye.

Friday, April 23, 2004

A lost cause?

This story about falling standards of grammar includes the usual litany of causes: text messages, e-mail, quick TV reports.

But check out the last quote from a language expert, who wants to abolish the apostrophe:
"It's better than having apostrophes littered through the text where they're not supposed to be and having the community in a constant state of nervous anxiety about where they're supposed to put the apostrophe," she said.
I bow my head.

Trademark humor

All this brand-names talk reminds me of a "Simpsons" episode, "The Otto Show."

Otto the bus driver hits a new low when he is fired (after arriving to school late because of an impromptu concert on the bus). Bart happens upon him while throwing away a chutney-flavored Squishee from the Kwik-E-Mart.

Bart says, "Otto-Man? You're living in a Dumpster?"

Otto replies: "Ho, man, I wish. Dumpster-brand trash bins are top of the line. This is just a Trash-Co waste disposal unit."

Casualty check

And while we're on the topic: "Casualty" does not refer only to people who have died. It can be a serious or fatal accident. It can be a person or thing injured, lost, or destroyed. And it can mean a military person lost through death, wounds, injury, sickness, internment, or capture or through being missing in action.

What I'm getting at here is that you have to find a different word if you are talking about the number of soldiers who have died.

Check those Dover photos

Some of the 361 casket photos on the Memory Hole are from people who died in Afghanistan, not just Iraq. Also, several organizations, including NASA, are reporting that most of the first page of the Memory Hole gallery includes photos from astronauts who died when the Columbia shuttle disintegrated.

So how can you tell if you ran the Columbia photos? has an example of one. They say they can tell because a man in brown slacks and a dark jacket is Deputy NASA Administrator Fred Gregory. The site says Columbia photos have been published by the Washington Post and CNN Headline News and distributed by the Associated Press and Reuters.

AP has a screen grab of the first page of the Memory Hole gallery, so you can also check that.

And here is NASA's press release.

UPDATE: Newsdesigner has a list of the papers (with Newseum links!) that ran front-page coffin photos.

The mark of the beast

Poynter's Matt Thomspon covers trademarks -- and when it's OK to use brand names in everyday copy. If you need a copy, can I Xerox it? When Bob is fired, does he take his Rolodex with him? When titles are dumbed down, are they Headlines for Dummies?

Having a product become a household name may be positive for start-ups. But it becomes a problem when companies have to worry about the dilution of trademark. They don't want their product's name to become generic because then they won't have a basis for their trademark and anyone could use the name. That's why it's worth it for them to pay armies of lawyers to send cease-and-desist letters to newspapers with haphazard mentions of "kleenex" and "dumpsters" and "googling."

Thomspon shares a great story about the Mail & Guardian newspaper of South Africa. It published a story about a new dumbed-down form of cricket, with the headline "Cricket for Dummies." The publishers of the "For Dummies" series of books, Wiley Publishers, told the paper to cut it out.

But the newspaper had a good defense. It wasn't writing a how-to on cricket. It wasn't using the phrase in a way that would compete with the books. It asked, "How can a company trademark words of the English language in such a way that we cannot use them for editorial purposes?"

The publishers have no problem with it: "Any words placed in front of 'for dummies' are not permitted by third parties."

Ridiculous, I say. I think John McIntyre of ACES agrees in the article. He pushes for restraint -- no need to use trademarked terms for metaphors, for example -- but that doesn't mean the letter writers are always right. And he shares a great anecdote about social workers in Maryland that is worth the price of admission alone.

Also, I'm glad to see Thompson covering issues with an editing bent. You may remember his article on copy-editing blogs.

>Trademark Law for ... Dunderheads [Poynter]
>Thompson interview with McIntyre [Poynter]
>Cricket for Dummies [Mail & Guardian]
>Voertsek for Dummies [Mail & Guardian] (Thompson wrote that voertsek means "bugger off.")
>Trademarks for Dummies [Mail & Guardian]
>Is Anyone Editing Their Copy? [Poynter]

By the numbers

The American Society of Newspaper Editors has released its Newsroom Employment Survey for 2003. The data includes (yes, includes!) a breakup of sex by profession, including copy and layout editors.

It says there are 10,708 people working on copy and layout desks in the United States. Of these, 59.0 percent are men, 41.0 percent are women.

The gender gap is less egregious for copy editors than for any other group. Percentages of women:
Copy/Layout editors: 41.0 percent
Reporters: 39.5 percent
Supervisors: 33.4 percent
Photographers: 25.9 percent
Though copy editors make strides in the gender gap, they fall short in diversity. Only 11.3 percent are minorities, a lower percentage than any other category, save supervisors. The best? Photographers, at 15.9 percent.

Find out more:
>Tables from the 2003 Newsroom Employment Survey
>Minority newsroom employment inches up in 2003 [ASNE]
>No News in Newsroom Census: Gender Gap Persists [Women's eNews]

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Things to do in Denver when your paper's being redesigned

Everything you wanted to know about the Denver Post's redesign -- at least, everything I could cobble together.

Newsdesigner shares some quotes from Visual Editors, from someone who went to the SND Quick Course in Denver and from the paper's managing editor for presentation and design.

From Visual Editors is this information: The redesigned paper will launch May 4, and it will remain a broadsheet.

Tom Mangan offers seven tips for surviving a redesign.
1) Get with the program. I know this is hard, but don't fight the change -- it'll happen whether you like it or not, so save your whining and grumbling for the bar after work and do your damnedest to be a good little do-bee and accept your fate. The suckage will be profuse, but it will be temporary. Remember, after you get a tooth pulled, your gums heal up and the hole in your jaw goes away.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A phenomenon on this side of the pond?

I went to Borders today to buy "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."

They were out.

The clerk said the store had sold out of their 14 copies fairly quickly. More will be in tomorrow or the next day.

I checked out the stats on Amazon when I got home and found a few interesting things.

First, the book is second on their Top Sellers list, second only to Bob Woodward's book. Ahead of three books on the South Beach Diet. Ahead of Richard Clarke's book. Ahead of "The Da Vinci Code" and an Oprah's Book Club selection. Wow.

Second, Borders was going to sell me the book for the list price of $17.50. has it for $12.25. Then I see this section that says "Available for in-store pickup now from $10.50." And, what do you know, I can get the same copy of the $17.50 book for $10.50 at the same store by going through Amazon.

I like saving $7, but I have a question for those of you who know such things: How does this affect the author's cut? Would she make a higher percentage from Borders than from Amazon? Does it matter? What if I bought a book an author's Web site?

Do editors and blogs mix?

Wired has an interesting story on the lessons from BloggerCon, a blogging conference at Harvard last week. The story says many bloggers, including some former journalists, are saying journalistic standards shouldn't apply to blogs. (No kidding, although when my blog publishers can afford for me to hire an editor, I intend to do so.)

OK, you can't expect single-person blogs to have the same standards as big organizations. That's a given. But some people are against Big Media's having blogs at all.
Some journalists-turned-bloggers see the entrance of big media companies into the blogosphere as an intrusion into an emerging literary form, which should be free of editors and centralized authority.
Give me a break. You can't have it both ways: People want some flavor in their news, but only the little guy is allowed to spice things up.

The story includes a couple of editing references: On the New York Times' campaign blog: "The Times blog also includes words and phrases liked 'nixed' and 'bunk up' that would ordinarily make a copy editor apoplectic. " My heart flutters at the mere mention.

But Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine misses having an editor.
Without an editor, Jarvis said he has had the complete freedom to become a blowhard.
"I plan on writing an entry soon," said Jarvis, "which I will call 'Blogging made me an asshole.'"
I guess we can add that to our resumes: Write headlines, edit for grammar and style, cover up reporters' inner asshole.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The future of AP

Associated Press is working on customized content. "The one-size-fits-all, which has been the AP approach, probably won't stay competitive forever," says Tom Curley, AP's president and CEO.

Corrections at The Times

I'm finally getting around to reading my "Kill Duck Before Serving: Red Faces at The New York Times." I doubt it's something I'll read straight through. But the introduction I can handle, and this caught my eye. It's written by Allan Siegal, about the introduction of computers to newspapers:
An economic salvation for the papers, no doubt, but a pity: those regiments of keyboard operators and proofreaders were the best-educated of craft workers, and their incidental discoveries rescued many a writer's reputation. Word processing, by contrast, ensures a narrow kind of accuracy -- "what you see is what you get" -- but leaves reporters at the mercy of their own typing and proofreading.

... Editors form the last bastion. Normally an article for the daily paper passes through at least three pairs of hands -- those of a story editor, a copy editor and finally the copy chief. The Times's copy desk, probably the largest in American journalism, numbers 160 men and women, each hired with years of experience. They are chosen for their news judgment, their grasp of language and their flair for arcana. Their first duty is to check stories for fairness, logic and coherent structure. They also write headlines. In remaining moments -- if moments remain -- they check first names, middle initials, dates, places and, for example, whether The Times's "house style" calls for East Side or east side, catalog or catalogue.
Food for thought.

Siegal also mentions this quote from Arthur Sulzberger that is worth repeating: "I don't think we lose anything by admitting our errors. Rather, I think it strengthens our position."

Monday, April 19, 2004

We command you to speak well!

The Prague Post published a story April 1 about parliament tacking on an amendment to a media bill requiring nationally broadcast commercial radio and TV news programs to use correct grammar.

Media types were not amused.

"Language is a living and constantly evolving thing, and punishing broadcasters for using language evolving in a different direction than that which appeals to communist deputy Ivana Leva is ridiculous," said a programming director, referring to the sponsor of the bill.

Leva taught grammar for 30 years and couldn't believe the amendment caused such a ruckus. "I, as a Czech teacher, had to speak correctly in the classroom, and moderators should, too, because where are people supposed to hear proper Czech if not in the media?"

The law doesn't specify what good grammar is. How could it? Nor does it list the consequences of bad grammar.

The story has a box with some common Czech phrases you might not hear anymore if such a bill were passed. And a picture of the sponsor.

Also, a nice headline: Parliament backs good grammar; Shoddy grammar is a thing up with which parliament will not put.

Yes, I considered that this might be an April Fool's joke. I mean, it's crazy, right? But here is a story from another source confirming that when the amendment went to the Senate, it was voted down.

Prisoner of war or hostage?

Is Pfc. Keith Maupin, being held in Iraq, a prisoner of war or a hostage? Testy Copy Editors debate the point -- although, I'll warn you, there is no consensus.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

No nationality required

I repeat my plea (from Oct. 17): Let's call an astronaut an astronaut no matter what country he's from. Singling Russians out as cosmonauts when we have Dutch and Chinese astronauts is ludicrous.

And while we're on the topic of space, a reminder: Although AP style allows for NASA on first reference, it does require the full name -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- to be spelled out at some point in the story.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Lacking a plot

My favorite quote so far today:
Ms. Mathams, 65, claims eight generations of relatives in the graveyard. “There’s Fred’s sister and her husband,” she said, gesturing to a grave after a dizzying tour of her family tree that somewhere included an explanation of where Fred fits in, exactly. “They were engaged for 40 years before they got married because his father didn’t approve.”
It's from a New York Times story on closing English cemeteries. A good read.

Tighten up

Tom Mangan has a good post about fixing dangling modifiers.
Writers get it wrong as often as they get it right. I think a sharp rap on the knuckles with a pica pole would properly discourage writers from backassward sentence structure, but they would avenge the affront by filing their stories later and longer. Don't need that. Besides, if writers got everything right I'd be wandering a street in San Francsico with a "please help" sign written in crayon.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Condi, Condi, what shall we call ye?

Condoleezza Rice's actual title is assistant to the president for national security affairs, not national security adviser.

I don't much relish the idea of writing Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Condoleezza Rice. And nor should you.

So, is it OK to call her national security adviser? Sure. That's what everyone calls the position. But, because it is not the official title, I wouldn't capitalize it before her name.

Some agree. Some don't. Some can't make up their minds.

Spreading the word

For those of you editing (or reading) the editorial pages of newspapers and magazines, watch out for "pollutocrat," a word coined by a reader of online environmental magazine Grist in a contest last year.

The word didn't catch on like the magazine had hoped, so its contest this year is to spread the word: The Pollutocrats Must Not Prevail Letter to the Editor Contest.
This fabulous contest sets the readers of Grist on unprepared editors as unto sleeping villagers awakening to the baying of a pack of eco-hounds. The pollutocrats must not prevail, my hounds. We must spread the alarm to the electorate.
The contest seems innocent enough. But watch out for form letters, which are a no-no on editorial pages and seem encouraged by the contest's rules (emphasis mine):
Write and send one or more letters to the editor that use the word pollutocrat. The letter(s) can address the environmental issue of your choice -- national politics, local concerns, environmental justice, toxic chemicals, cars, whatever. The same letter or different letters may be sent to as many publications as you wish. Admissible publications include almost everything: newspapers, newsletters (e.g., of national organizations, hometown churches, schools), Internet publications (excluding blogs and other personal journals), radio, academic journals, magazines, etc.
Happy hunting!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The Case of the Vanishing Tenses

Ruth Walker of Verbal Energy has a great post about disappearing tenses. Everything seems to be in the now these days.

She tells of a weatherman who says, "Thursday it rains."
Not, "Rain is predicted," not "it should rain," not even the concise but bold prediction, "it will rain." No. "Thursday it rains."

Welcome to the 24/7 news cycle. Who needs a future tense? After all, the guy said "Thursday."
But it's not just the future that's disappearing. It's the past, too. Consider ubiquitous present-tense headlines. (She points to this, showing that for people who aren't native English speakers, headlines might as well be a language unto itself. She also directs to this study showing that in headlines there is "the suppression of spatial and particularly temporal markers." Yeah.)

What about the old style of using imperatives in heads, such as "Fire Police Chief"?
Possibly these were understood as variations on the passive voice still common today ("Police Chief Fired"). But their potential for misinterpretation would seem to have been considerable. Imagine, for instance, to describe exuberant behavior by college students on break, a headline reading "Paint the Town Red," with a subhead, "And Then Set It Ablaze."
Still, I'd rather use a present-tense verb than no verb at all.

>Getting into tense situations [Verbal Energy]
>Newspaper Headlines [Learning English]
>Discourse analysis of newspaper headlines [University of Sydney]
>Verbs? Not needing them [A Capital Idea]

You want answers? We've got answers!

Australian copy editor and blogger Paul Wiggins was able to track down the story behind Lauris Edmond's quote mentioned here.

It is actually from a poem called "The Active Voice," which makes more sense. It is from a collection of her poems called "50 Poems, Lauris Edmond: A Celebration." It's published by Bridget Williams Books (P.O. Box 5482, Wellington, New Zealand), 1999.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Stop by

Good stuff at Newsdesigner, including Chicago Sun-Times' "Man Bites Dog" hed and a better-late-than-never entry on Fallujah photos.

Calling all designers

The New York Times is hiring "news design editors" -- one full time and permanent, and one part time.
We layout and output the foreign, national, metro and business sections, and the inside of the culture section.

The job requires someone who is at ease working on deadline to produce clearly designed pages. You'll work with photo editors, graphics editors, art directors, section editors and copy editors, so we're looking for someone who can smoothly manage all these relationships -- and their often-clashing interests.

Flexibility in a hours is a must: Expect to work many nights and weekends.

Experience in copy editing will be helpful.

We're in the process of installing a new software system, so you should be open to learning new computer programs and methods. Familiarity with Windows and Quark (on Mac) are a plus.


Alan Robertazzi
Acting Editor, News Design
The New York Times
229 W. 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036
Don't feel ready to throw your hat in that ring? The Boulder Daily Camera is looking for a copy editor who can also design. (Where would I rather live ... New York or Boulder? OK, New York. But that's my East Coast bias talking. It's a closer call than you might think!)
Be a part of a dynamic department that creates a high-quality product daily. The Daily Camera newsroom is seeking an enthusiastic, detail-oriented individual with strong editing and design skills to fill our opening for a full-time copy editor. Primary responsibilities are to edit copy and design news pages. Must possess excellent teamwork, interpersonal, communication and customer skills as well as the ability to work well under pressure and meet deadlines. Positive attitude and ability to thrive in a climate of change are essential. Work schedule includes nights, weekends and schedule changes.

Bachelor's degree or equivalent experience required, preferably in journalism. Previous experience as a copy editor is preferred. Strong command of grammar, style, punctuation and usage; creative headline-writing skills; an ability to compose captions quickly and effectively and sound news judgment are essential.

We offer competitive pay and excellent benefits, including a choice of medical insurance, dental insurance, life, AD&D, long term care plan, managed disability insurance, a company-funded pension plan, employee stock purchase plan and 401(k) investment savings plan. Please send a resume with salary history and requirements to the Sue Deans, Daily Camera, P.O. 4579, Boulder, CO 80306, or by email at deans(at)dailycamera(dot)com. EOE
And, no, I did not edit their postings. Maybe pointing out errors will help you get a job. (But probably not.)

Who was determined to strike where?

The White House declassified a memo this week that Bush received as his "president's daily brief" on Aug. 6, 2001. What was the name of this memo?

Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S. [Guardian UK]
Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US [KC Star]
Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US [Boston Herald]
Bin Ladin Determined to Strike Inside the US [Boston Globe]
Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in the US [Boston Globe]

Is it "Bin Ladin" or "Bin Laden"? Is it "US" or "U.S."? "In" or "Inside"?

The Smoking Gun has a copy, so we can answer that question for sure: Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.

Does capitalization matter? If you think so, the T in to is capped, but the I in in is not.

And while we're on the subject, there's no reason to call this a PDB just because the White House does. That B stands for brief, and that's good enough for me.

Monday, April 12, 2004

There's an expert for anything

Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words of Mathematics [link via Languagehat]

Quick AP reminder

SAT is the official name of the former Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test. There's nothing to spell out anymore, just like AARP and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

(As silly as NARAL's new name is, I'm glad it was changed. Saying NARAL stands for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League is silly. In Wichita, there's a distributor called MASSCO that is supposed to stand for Maintenance and Supply Co. Give me a break.)

Here's information on the new SAT, which will start for the class of 2006.

Quote of the day

This may have been said years ago, but I read it today. He's talking about New Zealand:
"It's true you can't live here by chance: you have to do and be, not simply watch or even describe," wrote Wellington poet Lauris Edmond, who died in 2000, in The Active Voice. "This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb."
And what an appropriate publication for such a quote: The Active Voice. I love it.

I haven't yet been able to discover what The Active Voice is, but I have found out that the quote is on a literature-as-art piece in Wellington. It is part of a Wellington Waterfront project that sets in concrete the words of writers with local ties.

One more reason our jobs are safe

"Monkeys are able to grasp simple rules of grammar but the key principle common to all human languages is beyond them, new research has shown."

>Learning a language is no monkey business [Sydney Morning Herald]

If at first you don't succeed ...

Headline writing is a thankless task. For the latest proof, see this column by the Hartford Courant's reader representative, Karen Hunter.

When UConn won the national championship, it was huge news there. An even bigger story was that it made the impossible possible: The women could win the next day.

So, sum that up in four words.

The first edition of the paper carried this front-page headline: Halfway there. Many argued that the headline writer was only halfway there. The hed plays down the men's victory.
Sports Copy Desk Chief Scott Powers agreed: "`Halfway There' was poor. I thought it diminished the Monday night accomplishment of the men, and I think if I were a fan I'd be upset. There are a lot of people who are fans of the men and not fans of the women, and vice versa. Although there is a lot of overlap in fandom, those who root for the men had a right to complain. Putting that headline above a picture of the UConn men might have conveyed that the UConn men are halfway someplace. They went all the way. Couldn't have done more. I know it was replaced, but unfortunately that seems to carry more weight inside The Courant's walls than it should.
Powers' next quote is interesting for several reasons -- it's harsh on the paper and it opens a can of worms that isn't further addressed.
"There is a finality to the paper that comes to your doorstep. People who live east of the [Connecticut River] got a sub-par paper because of early deadlines, compared to what readers west of the river got. They shouldn't be penalized for living where they do, but they don't get the same quality paper. ... If you lived east of the river, you didn't get a keepsake paper."
The second-edition headline was much better. Written by reporter Dom Amore, it captures both sentiments without down-playing the men: 1 Crown, 1 To Go.

That had its critics, too, people who wanted their keepsake "UCONN WINS" hed. But Hunter points out:
The Sports staff produced two sections a day - one devoted to the tournament, the other covering the usual sports events - in addition to contributing daily front-page and A-section stories. A 116-page glossy magazine will be published April 18, three commemorative posters are available and books about each winning team are in the works. UConn fans should be able to find something worth collecting among all of that.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

It's tax time

A Kansas columnist offers some revenue generators in the Topeka Capital-Journal for the cash-strapped state. You can tell he's a word guy:
• A $10,000 tax on public officials who use "grow" as a transitive verb. Trees grow tall and people grow old, but if politicians want to grow the economy and grow the government we would prefer they pick a word that lets us know who is picking up the tab. ...

• A flat $50,000 tax on anyone who uses the word "synergy" without a good reason. ...

• A $25,000 per-publication fee on newspapers that use the term "undocumented alien" without defining it. Are there documented aliens? If "undocumented" means no legal address, should we call these folks alien aliens? ...

• A $500,000 geek tax on people who talk about "blogs" and "blogging" as though the rest of us have a clue what they are talking about.
Funny, I was with him till that one.


Tired of reviews yet?

Here's another piece on "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," this one from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It includes some anecdotes from her days as a copy editor.
"I was a terribly arrogant sub," she says. "I used to move whole bits around. Now, of course, I can't stand for my writing to be changed.
It also says she got the idea for the book during her popular radio show.

A radio show. On grammar and punctuation. What is this mystical land they call England?

I disapprove of the headline: The Punctuation Nazi. I know it's become cute to call people Nazi this and Nazi that since the Soup Nazi made appearances on Seinfeld. But, really, think about it. (Also, it seems strange for a headline writer [presumably a copy editor] to vilify a punctuation expert. But that's another point.)

Saturday, April 10, 2004

It's all well and good

The Deseret Morning News has a story on the new grammar section of the SAT that takes effect next March. It says the test will include:
An essay (for which about 20 minutes will be allotted) on an assigned, but general, topic.
• A multiple-choice grammar section in which students specify the part of a given sentence that contains an error.
• A multiple-choice syntax section in which students select the most well-constructed sentence or the best-organized paragraph from several options.
It will be worth 500 of the SAT's 2,400 points (21 percent). I let out a cheer.

But I do have a quibble with the lede of the story:
James Brown feels good. The Stones can't get no satisfaction. You've got mail. Ten items or less. Got milk?
Butchered English has begun to play a leading role in today's pop culture, and a new grammar section on SAT exams could be bad news for some students in the college entrance race.
Feels good? What's wrong with that? Nothing.

AP explains:
Good is an adjective that means something is as it should be or is better than average.

When used as an adjective, well means suitable, proper, healthy. When used as an adverb, well means in a satisfactory manner or skillfully.

Good should not be used as an adverb. It does not lose its status as an adjective in a sentence such as I feel good. Such a statement is the idiomatic equivalent of I am in good health. An alternative, I feel well, could be interpreted as meaning that your sense of tough was good.
As for the "Got milk?" item, it's not eloquent, but it certainly is catchy -- advertising genious. And just look at all the copycats out there, probably even in your publication. Got lemons? Got plans? Got kids? Got script? Got Money? Got Time? (Got old? This is where I remind the audience that this campaign is more than 10 years old. Riffs on it should be used with caution. Save 'em up till it really works.)

Friday, April 09, 2004

A symposium on grammar

Western Michigan University's Department of English will address "the controversy on teaching grammar." I had no idea there was a controvery, but that explains some things.
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Date: Tuesday, April 13
Place: 10th floor of Sprau Tower, WMU, Kalamazoo

I love this part of the press release:
Noted grammar teacher Harry Noden has described conversations about grammar as being similar to "stepping between two opposing 350-pound NFL linemen just after the ball is snapped."
I think some people felt that way at the ACES conference.

Expand your vocabulary

Brian Garner (of the Grammar and Usage section of the new Chicago Manual of Style) offers some schooling on palliate and mordant, examples recently culled from newspapers.

Job news

Former copy editor Paul Moore has been named the new public editor at the Baltimore Sun. He begins May 3.

His first job out of college was as a copy ed at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is now deputy managing editor for news at the Sun.

We've all been there

Media Bistro has an excerpt from "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" here.
At The Listener, where I was literary editor from 1986 to 1990, I discovered that any efforts I made to streamline the prose on my pages would always be challenged by one particular sub-editor, who would proof-read my book reviews and archly insert literally dozens of little commas-each one of which I felt as a dart in my flesh. Of course, I never revealed the annoyance she caused. I would thank her, glance at the blizzard of marks on the galley proof, wait for her to leave the room, and then (standing up to get a better run at it) attack the proof, feverishly crossing out everything she had added, and writing "STET", "STET", "STET", "STET", "STET" all down the page, until my arm got tired and I was spent. And don't forget: this comma contention was not a matter of right or wrong. It was just a matter of taste.
She also includes two of her favorite comics. One's pretty good:
The first shows a row of ten Roman soldiers, one of them prone on the ground, with the cheerful caption (from a survivor of the cull), "Hey, this decimation isn't as bad as they say it is!"
There's a lot more; it's a long excerpt. And I noticed Britishisms (cancelled, the classic was stood mistake) intact, but punctuation is American. This tempers my excitement for the book. Again. I'm so up and down on this.

If you can find one without a signature, it's worth a fortune

Bill Walsh has been busy signing copies of his book in Washington.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

A quick reminder

Condoleezza Rice's first name has two Es and two Zs. (It's easy to miss a Z and get it wrong.) (Or a D.)

Richard Clarke's last name ends in an E. (It's easy to write "Clark" and get it wrong.)

That's the definition? I'm nonplused!

I'm reading back posts of Verbal Energy, and I'm in love. This blog is great. I had to stop after reading this entry on the real meaning of "nonplused," which doesn't mean "unimpressed" after all.
Instead it means perplexed or bewildered. The word derives from Latin words meaning "no more." The metaphor behind "nonplused" — its backstory, as they say in Hollywood — is the idea of being so befuddled — by someone else's bizarre behavior, for instance — that one can go, speak, or act "no more" or no further; one is left, at least figuratively, speechless and paralyzed with bafflement.
So where did it come from? Could it be ... French?
"Nonplus" looks a lot like French, which gave us "nonchalant," a word that lives in the same neighborhood as "unimpressed." One can imagine a couple of hip young Frenchmen at their favorite cafe trying to appear detached as they check out a passing damsel. "I'm not much impressed," one might say. "Moi non plus ("Me neither!"), the other might counter.
I so want that to be the etymology. Alas, American Heritage says it has Latin roots: [From Latin non plus, no more].

So, what to do with a word so misused? Back off.
All this reminds me why I don't use "nonplused" much myself. Sometimes words go through a phase something like adolescence when they morph from one meaning to another, and it's well to leave them alone until they have settled securely into a new identity. Smart writers do well to focus on words whose popular usage is in sync with what the dictionary calls for.
Fantastic advice from a fantastico blog.

Sometimes, being a stickler's tough work

If I weren't so heartless, if I weren't so humorless, if I weren't such a hard-ass ...

If I didn't believe in keeping plays on names out of headlines, this "Daily Show" hed on an Iraq roundup would have really made me laugh last night: Sadr House Rules

OK, maybe I did chuckle.

When it displayed, the crowd busted up, making Jon Stewart muse: "Enjoy that pun? We have a team of pun specialists."

Stewart gets cheap laughs from the puns, but he addresses them with a smarminess I can appreciate. Is there a lesson in this?

See the clip here.

I'm sensing a comma theme here

In comments somewhere below, Vince Tuss points out that the New York Times has reviewed Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots & Leaves." It's a good review — not just because it's positive, but because it gives more reason to enjoy the book than simply "The Brits just fawned over it." It also includes a cute picture of Truss impishly adding an apostrophe to a movie poster.

The review is a fun read (here I am reviewing a review) for such remarks as this:
Ms. Truss has not succeeded solely on the basis of her punctuation acumen (though that is considerable — and by the way, she finds dashes and parentheses annoying). Her mission to "engage in some direct-action argy-bargy" has helped the book, too.
In historical reference comes this fun musing:
She goes all the way back to Aristophanes to identify the comma as a signal for actors' phrasing. When it comes to Shakespeare, she has heard of someone playing Duncan in "Macbeth" and reading the line "Go, get him surgeons" as "Go get him, surgeons!"
But I must point out a disturbing trend in these Truss reviews: more thievery from Bill Walsh.
The cleverness of Ms. Truss (no apostrophe needed) does have its cute side. She mentions the writer who "lapses into a comma (ho ho)" and people "who don't know their apostrophe from their elbow." But the passion and fun of her arguments are wonderfully clear. Here is someone with abiding faith in the idea that "proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking."
There is more in the review to enjoy. It's the first I've read to lift my expectations of the book. I now look forward to its Monday release even more.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Training opportunity

Copy editors may now apply for the 2004 Summer Institute for Midcareer Copy Editors.
What: A one-week workshop financed by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
When: July 11-16
Where: At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Why: I've heard really good things about this workshop
How much: Training is free, and they cover your flight, lodging and breakfasts. You cover most other meals and pay for your hotel parties.

They are taking applications through May 7, and the 18 people selected will be notified before June 1.

Here's the application.
Here's the tentative schedule.

Copy editing wins!

The Treasury Department has ruled in favor of a scientific journal that protested the department's restrictions on editing articles from four embargoed nations. (Yes, that's right, fixing even the smallest of spelling or grammatical errors was forbidden.)

The Scientist reports:
The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said that "style and copy editorial changes" made in accordance with the standard practices of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) in its 100+ journals are exempt from OFAC rules regarding Iran, Cuba, Sudan, and Libya.
Other academic groups are not sure whether the ruling applies to them, as well. And many want more answers -- on why the government thinks it's OK to intervene in scholarly publishing, for example.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports: "By approving IEEE editing practices -- practices that may differ from those of other publishers, who fear they still could be singled out -- the government is crossing the line and stepping on press freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, said the Association of American Publishers, the Association of University Presses and the PEN American Center, in a joint statement."

The Star-Ledger also says that the department said spelling and grammar corrections, along with certain formatting and labeling procedures, are allowed. The IEEE's copy editing is allowed because it doesn't "constitute substantive or artistic alteration or enhancement of the informational material and is intrinsically related to and necessary for its dissemination through publication."

The Treasury Department made clear that the ruling does not apply to peer reviewing or editing done differently than described by the IEEE, which seems to underscore how limited this ruling could be.

>US reverses journal embargo [The Scientist]
>Group allowed to edit articles from embargoed nations [Star-Ledger]

Blogging and mainstream media

Editor & Publisher interviews Mitch Ratcliffe, former writer for MacWeek and editor of Digital Media, about blogging's power to change journalism.
The tools will definitely transform the news as we know it, because many more people are able to contribute to the recording of the news. Individual citizens can tell stories instead of waiting for "the media" to do it. Look at OhMyNews in Korea, where "Every Citizen's a Reporter," which has broken into the top five media outlets in the country. Here in the United States, we have individual bloggers, like Glenn Reynolds, who are breaking into established media outlets by blogging. They build an audience and that will always catch some company's attention.
And what about the little bloggers?
They will fact-check, criticize and debate with the news media, remaking stories and spreading links. Most news blogs wouldn't have anything to write about if they weren't pointing to existing news stories about which they want to comment, so the proliferation of blogs should be generally good for the readership and traffic figures at commercial Web sites.

Copy editing and indie rock collide

Tiny Mix Tapes gives daily updates about bands and writes a tongue-in-cheek headline atop each item. Yesterday's top headline:
This Just In: mclusky Considers Uppercasing "M" But Decides to Wait Until +/- and !!! Get Real Names

For the record, the other bands are pronounced "Plus or Minus" and "Chk Chk Chk." No, they didn't check with me first.

And I will resist the urge to rail about why all proper nouns should be capitalized. But I bet you could find a few rants with my new handy dandy search function.

What's the story behind this story?

Chris Lawrence at the blog Signifying Nothing points out some kooky passages in this New York Times story by David Stout that appears on the Web. Some examples (with emphasis mine):
Regardless of the real figure, President Bush has threatened to veto the measure as too costly at a time that he and Congressional Republicans are supposed to be serious about holding down the federal deficit.
They're supposed to be serious about? Is the author implying they're not serious? Is this a news story or an editorial?
"Thirty billion, when you are cutting the deficit in half in five years, is real money," Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said the other day, apparently with no humor intended.
I'm guessing that the author was too busy with asides about Duffy's humor to look up the date.

There are a couple of other weirdly worded passages and sloppy editing ("spending over $256 billion over six years" and "their constituents use highways [and bridges and bike paths and other incidentals wrapped into the bill.])

What's the story behind this story?

The Memory Hole points out a similar passage by Stout, about the CIA leak, in October that the New York Times deleted from the story (without noting):
The scandal over the leak is hard to define in one or two sentences. It does not seem to involve issues of constitutional gravity, like Watergate or the Iran-contra affair, or at least not directly. It does not have to do with greed. Nor does it seem to involve matters of national security.
Now, every reporter makes mistakes. (And every copy editor, too.) I'm just wondering if this is stuff that slipped by a copy editor before it made it to the Web, or if that copy isn't always being edited before it is published.

>Odd stuff in the Times [Signifying Nothing]
>House Backs Highway-Spending Bill [New York Times]
>New York Times Deletes Paragraph in Article on Plame Affair [The Memory Hole]

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

How much did you like "Lost in Translation"?

Enough to move to Japan? Kyodo News in Tokyo is hiring full- and part-time copy editors who are native English speakers.

What readers really care about

Slate writes that a Washington Post picture of a possibly-upside-down book being read got more calls than the Fallujah photos.

I'm just going to throw that out there.

Grammar-book-ophiles, take note

The Christian Science Monitor has a nice review of the Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots and Leaves." The headline raises an eyebrow, however: Don't lapse into a comma.

The review includes this nice anecdote on the editor-vs.-writer, comma-vs.-no-comma debate.
One of the comma heavyweight championship bouts of the 20th century played out between Harold Ross, the legendary editor of The New Yorker, and the equally legendary humorist James Thurber. Ross was a pro-comma kind of guy. Thurber was of the less-is-more school, but since Ross was the editor, he generally had the last word. Thurber was asked by a correspondent why he used a comma in the sentence, "After dinner, the men went into the living-room." Truss writes, "His answer was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. 'This particular comma,' Thurber explained, 'was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.' "
We get an assurance, as well, that the American version of this book has been altered for differences from British rules, which was to be expected but deserves confirming. The U.S. version will go on sale April 12.

And I also learned that the author, the chief copy editor at the Monitor, has a blog about grammar. The latest entry champions the semicolon, and I can find no fault in that. (I would say she and I may be the only two fans left, but I know there are dozens who are members of a semicolon group on Orkut.)

>Don't lapse into a comma [Christian Science Monitor]
>"Eats Shoots & Leaves" []
>Verbal Energy [Christian Science Monitor grammar blog]

There's no way to relate this to copy editing ...

... But who knew that I would love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps" even more after seeing the video?

And this, both terrifying and fascinating, makes me want to subscribe to Reason. This idea could say a lot about how databases could be used by newspapers to target extra stories to readers.

Resumes -- from the receiving end.

And let's hear it for Newsdesigner!

Monday, April 05, 2004

Did we do the right thing?

Freelance writer Jim Lewis argues, in Slate, against using the grisly Fallujah photos. And he's not just an armchair editor; he's been there.

Lewis was in the Congo for a GQ assigment when he heard of a village massacre. At the scene he jotted down a few notes and took many photos, photos that trouble him today. They were never published, and he has come to see why.

He makes the easy comparison to the Fallujah photos.
In general, the argument in favor of publishing raw and grisly photographs of war—and as I say, I once endorsed it myself—is that they're necessary to bring home to people what's at stake, the real and ferocious damage that combat does to cultures and to human bodies. Photographs, according to this position, are more immediate and convincing than words. But what, really, did these pictures show? That the people of Fallujah don't want Americans occupying their city? We knew that. That Iraqis are capable of appalling savagery? We knew that, too. And besides, so are the members of any nation, given the right circumstances.
So why run the photos? He says you shouldn't.

That hasn't always been his position, he admits. Before he went to the Congo, he was involved in this discussion on photography and morality, in which he argued that it was newspapers' duty to publish such photos.
If anything, I think there's been a colossal failure of nerve on the part of the American press, in its patronizing attempt to spare the delicate sensibilities of readers by not showing exactly what the consequences are of mayhem around the world and American foreign policy. To put it bluntly: How are we supposed to vote if we don't see the bodies our voting affects? Isn't that part of journalism's job?
I'm glad to see coherent, informed arguments for and against the publishing of the photos. It's interesting that they would come from the same person.

Ultimately, I still think the decision to publish was the right one. Lewis seems to argue that there is never a compelling reason to publish such gruesome images because the lack the history, context and culture of the written word.

But we can all think of photographs that brought reality home in a way no word could.

>Front Page Horror [Slate]
>Regarding the pain of others [Slate]

My impression on the oldest profession

A woman who runs a prostitution ring is a madam, not a madame.

Madam is pronounced MAD-uhm. Madame is pronounced m'DAM.

Some pubs get it right, and some get it wrong.

Pulitzers announced

They include five for the LA Times, two for the Wall Street Jounral, one for the New York Times, one for the Washington Post, and one for the Dallas Morning News.

The complete list (This uses a preliminary finalists list that could be wrong; will correct when Pulitzer publishes):

Atlanta Journal-Constitution -- Cynthia Tucker
The New York Times -- Nicholas Kristof
The Miami Herald -- Leonard Pitts

Los Angeles Times -- Nicolai Ouroussoff
The Philadelphia Inquirer -- Inga Saffron
Los Angeles Times -- Dan Neil

Universal Press Syndicate -- Garry Trudeau
Minneapolis Star Tribune -- Steve Sack
The Journal News, Westchester, N.Y. -- Matt Davies

The Miami Herald -- Columbia shuttle tragedy
Los Angeles Times -- brush fires
Newsday, Melville, N.Y. -- New York City blackout

Los Angeles Times -- Andrew Malcolm
Los Angeles Times -- Bill Stall
The New York Times -- Andres Martinez

The Seattle Times -- "Coaches Who Prey"
Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal -- "Justice Denied"
The New York Times -- death of American workers

The Wall Street Journal -- anuerysm
Orange County Register, Santa Ana, Calif. -- hospital costs
Baltimore Sun -- baby who died

Los Angeles Times
Copley News Service
The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal -- Daniel Golden, white affirmative action
The Washington Post -- Barton Gellman, investigating weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
The Boston Globe -- Ellen Barry, mental health

The Washington Post -- Nature Conservancy
The (Toledo) Blade -- Vietnam atrocities
The New York Times -- workplace safety

FEATURES (no award given)
Los Angeles Times -- Robert Hotz, the Columbia investigation
The Washington Post -- Anne Hull and Tamara Jones, inside Walter Reed
The Boston Globe -- Patricia Wen, Barbara's Story

The Wall Street Journal -- Roger Thurow, Third World Hunger
The Washington Post -- Anthony Shadid, Iraq
Los Angeles Times -- David Zucchino, Iraq

Associated Press -- Iraq
The Dallas Morning News -- Iraq
Getty Images -- Liberia

Los Angeles Times -- Liberia
San Jose Mercury News -- recall election
Reuters -- medic with child

>2004 Pulitzer Prize Winners Announced [Editor & Publisher]
>Pulitzer Juror's Tale [Poynter]

Today's Pulitzer Day

Winners are to be announced in minutes.

Here's the complete finalist list so you can play along as if it's the Oscars. (Find other Oscar comparisons here.)

>The Pulitzer Prizes [official Web site]
>The Complete Pulitzer Finalist List? [Editor & Publisher]
>Pulitzer Prizes: Keeping the Little Guys Down? [Editor & Publisher]

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Career shift?

Become a Typophile intern.
Be a business copy editor at the New York Post.
Make your play for the New York Times.
Teach English in Japan.
Work on the moon for Google.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

A big piece of the puzzle

Copies of Joseph Wilson's book are circulating through Washington, this Washingtonian piece says. And with the story of the CIA leak inching back into the spotlight as the book's release date nears, I'll revisit a plea from when the story first gained steam:
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.
To say only that it may have been White House retaliation for Wilson's criticism of the administration is not the full story. The theory goes: It's not that the White House was hell-bent on outing Plame. It's that they wanted to prove that Wilson got the assignment because of his wife's position. One Knight Ridder paper put it nicely:
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.
Don't forget this important part of the equation.

Friday, April 02, 2004

AP reminder

Most of us will switch to daylight-saving time at 2 a.m. Sunday. Note that it's not savings and that there's a hyphen.

We spring forward, which means we lose an hour.

In pictures

Editor and Publisher reports that only seven of the top 20 newspapers published front-page images of the charred bodies. Here's a rundown of the top 20 and what they ran:

USA Today -- front-page charred corpses
Wall Street Journal -- no photo
New York Times -- front-page bridge photo
Los Angeles Times -- Iraqis dancing atop a burned car
Washington Post -- front-page charred corpses
New York Daily News -- different SUV photo
New York Post -- front-page bridge photo
Chicago Tribune -- front-page bridge photo
Newsday -- burning SUV with "graveyard" leaflet
Houston Chronicle -- burning SUV with "graveyard" leaflet
Dallas Morning News -- burning SUV with "graveyard" leaflet
San Francisco Chronicle -- front-page bridge photo
Chicago Sun-Times -- burning SUV with "graveyard" leaflet
Boston Globe -- burning SUV with "graveyard" banner
Arizona Republic -- Iraqis dancing in front of burning car
Newark Star-Ledger -- burning SUV with "graveyard" leaflet
Atlanta Journal-Constitution -- burning SUV with "graveyard" leaflet
Minneapolis Star Tribune -- burning SUV with "graveyard" leaflet
Philadelphia Inquirer -- front-page bridge photo
Cleveland Plain Dealer -- burning SUV with "graveyard" leaflet

Wall Street Journal and Star Tribune info now complete, thanks to, who has a nice roundup here, including different crops of the charred corpses photo.

Also, a nice discussion has started on the ACES board: Is this photo newsworthy enough to justify running it? Why or why not? (Sounds like a J-school entrance exam.)

By the numbers

The good people at do the quality work we've come to expect of them:
Of the 163 American newspapers on the Newseum today...

118 ran no pictures of bodies on the front page.

45 ran pictures of charred bodies in some form on the front.

33 led the front page with pictures of bodies strung up or burning.
Find out more details here.