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A pleasant coincidence

A commenter on the limn kerfuffle uses the occasion to give The Sun a slap in the chops:

“But then of course The Sun is no longer a major newspaper; apparently it's been reduced to using artsy-fartsy terms instead of reporting news.”

You may be amused to notice that this comment appeared on the day that the paper reported that a subcommittee of the United States Senate will hold hearings on police departments’ underreporting of rapes—a hearing prompted, in part, by articles by The Sun’s Justin Fenton on such underreporting in Baltimore. In addition to the Senate proceeding, publication of his articles has led to an investigation by the city and a public apology by the police commissioner.

Disparaging the local paper is as venerable a tradition as explaining in bars how you could run the local sports franchises better than the current management. But even though The Sun plainly has more limited resources than in the era when newspapers across America were fabulously profitable, it is equally apparent that there are still journalists on Calvert Street doing serious work.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 11:03 AM | | Comments (11)
        

Comments

I could run the paper better than that jumped-up landlord Zell!

In first sentence of last paragraph, you wrote, "a venerable a tradition." You must have meant "as venerable a tradition."

john: I've noticed a plaque of dangling phrases, such as John Smith discussed the battle in a speech at the club today, rather than John Smith at a speech at the club today discussed the battle. I see this in New York Times, Washington Post and many others. Writers and copy editors used to go out of their way to not allow this. Thanks. Louis Mayeux

john: I've noticed a plaque of dangling phrases, such as John Smith discussed the battle in a speech at the club today, rather than John Smith at a speech at the club today discussed the battle. I see this in New York Times, Washington Post and many others. Writers and copy editors used to go out of their way to not allow this. Thanks. Louis Mayeux

Louis, if they really used to go out of their way to write sentences as your second example, I am very glad they no longer do that, because it is not a natural construction, where your first example is a natural construction and reads very well.

There is nothing dangling anywhere.

If you had inserted commas into your second example, as follows, it would not be as bad:

"John Smith, in a speech at the club today, discussed the battle."

In that case, both sentences are fine (and still nothing dangling) but which you choose will depend on the context. If the battle is more important, then the first example is the better choice. If the speech at the club today is more important, then the second example is the better choice.

I am not a journalist nor an editor, I am a technical writer and technical editor, so Mr McIntyre may well have a different view.

@Louis: Yikes. I MUCH prefer John Smith discussed the battle at a speech today.

If you think all those adverbials belong between the verb and the subject, I would recommend you read up on Early Immediate Constituents and Ease of (Linguistic) Processing. Adverbials fall much more neatly at the beginning or the end unless they are quite short. Otherwise, the sentence becomes difficult to comprehend (a difficulty mitigated, it's true, in writing, but not eliminated).

@Thomas: I would far rather see a passive (The battle was discussed) than even the version with commas, though that one is indeed far preferable to the comma-less version.

The Ridger bravely comes out in favor of the much-maligned passive voice!

Sometimes passive is a better choice. (See, I just did it!)

English sentences are frequently constructed one of two ways. They start with the thing you know the most and end with the thing you know the least, or they start with the thing that's most important and end with the thing that's least important. If a passive construction loads your sentence in one of these two ways and that's what you need to get the job done (reader comprehension), then that's what you do.

Thomas wrote: Sometimes passive is a better choice. (See, I just did it!)

Well, no, you didn't...there. "Is" as the main verb is not passive.

Thomas also wrote: English sentences are frequently constructed one of two ways.

Now you did! "Are constructed" is a passive voice verb.

Thomas: WTF is wrong with you?

Limn: one of my favorite words of all time. Like mnemonic, it holds a secret consonant in tow.

Louis, you are one of those irritating pedants who likes to point out "errors" of construction in sentences that confuse no one and that would sound awful if rearranged in the way your pedantry demands. Pop off down to the life emporium and purchase youself one immediately.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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