You just can't win
In this space on Nov. 1, I wrote: "Last week, I saw a reference in a wire service article to that hoary term, a candidate’s war chest. Those of you who watched Lou Grant a quarter-century ago (and if you did, you were probably a journalist) may recall a sardonic remark by Charlie Hume, the managing editor, played by the late Mason Adams. A green reporter who had been sent out to cover a political campaign for the first time was turning in substandard work. Someone made a weak defense of the work, and Adams, his lip curling, said, ‘I know. I read it in the story about the war chest.’"
The front page of The Sun for Nov. 14 carries an index item about Sheila Dixon’s fundraising in the campaign to be elected mayor, with the headline — you guessed it — "War chest."
On Oct. 27 a post resisted the tendency to indulge in phonetic spellings such as helluva, gonna, shoulda. Then, on Oct. 31 The Sun published an article with gonna in a headline. A headline!
On Nov. 4 I re-posted the annual prohibitions on seasonal cliches, such as "’Tis the season."
A colleague at the Testy Copy Editors Web site
then posted, "Well, I spammed the newsroom with the text of the column and a link to it. Two section editors responded, one saying I was a party pooper trying to take all of the fun out of the holiday season, and one defending his right to lazy writing on the grounds that Christmas is about tradition (I guess implying that cliches are traditional?)."
Another colleague reports an identical response in a different newsroom.
None of this should come as much of a surprise. I have at my desk copies of The Sun’s various in-house newsletters on writing an editing for the past 30 years, and the same errors recur with depressing regularity. The mistake of referring to opening arguments at a trial instead of opening statements. The almost universal failure to use comprise properly or to refrain from saying that something reaches a crescendo. The apparently insoluble who/whom conundrum. The inability to make the heroic effort to discriminate between it’s and its.
Yes, it is the task of the copy desk to correct errors small and great. (We also serve who sit and fume.) But just once it would be nice to leave work after rolling the rock to the top of the hill and to return the next day without finding it at the bottom.