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AP? Nah. FakeAP's better

The Associated Press Stylebook is so episodic that if you were to read it for plot, as Dr. Johnson said of Richardson’s novels, you would hang yourself. Characterization is pretty sketchy, too, though a starchy authorial voice can be discerned in its imperatives.

Write More Good (Three Rivers Press, 253 pages, $13) by the authors of @FakeAPStylebook on Twitter, is not much on plot and characterization either, but at least it’s funny. (The AP Stylebook is only unintentionally laughable.)

Gag writing, like mine clearing, leaves little room for miscalculation. And while the wags behind @FakeAPStylebook are well above the level of open-mike night in the comedy club at the mall, there are misses among the hits.

Many of the entries feature a cheerful adolescent irreverence:

fiscal year Like a dog year, but for money

Founding Fathers Always capitalize out of respect for the wise men of two hundred years ago whose opinions on Internet porn and the right to own a bazooka guide us today.

objectivity Hey, it’s not our place to say if the earth is flat or not

Scientology Our legal department informs us that Scientology is just swell.

Occasionally entries rise to an actual wittiness:

Schrödinger’s cat Always simultaneously capitalized and not capitalized

The book is more, however, than an anthology of tweets. The authors have expanded the scope of Twitterature with longer entries, which, like the short ones, serve to indicate what journalists really think about the subjects they cover.*

In reviewing theater: “[J]ust write that it’s a deeply resonant examination of the fractured American family. (Someone may write in to correct you that Henrik Ibsen was Norwegian, but you can either respond that his themes are timeless and not fettered by geography or just throw the letter away.) If there’s a TV or movie star in the play, his or her performance was surprisingly nuanced.”

And about other journalists: “In reviews of hip-hop albums, be sure to use words such as ‘tight,’ ‘flow,’ and ‘thumpin’ so that readers will know that you, a college-educated suburbanite who wears Buddy Holly glasses, are down with the streets.”

Mark Hale and Ken Lowery are happily pessimistic about the newspaper industry that gave rise to the AP Stylebook and theirs. Their advice on headline writing: “Use small words, go for the cheap laugh, and don’t be afraid to utterly contradict the story. After all, Rupert Murdoch might be reading, and you’ll be needing a job when this rag goes belly up in eighteen months, tops.”

The writing is, yes, uneven. On the Web, their tweets are like psychics’ predictions; you read them one at a time and only remember the good ones. In a book it’s all preserved for examination. I wish I liked the whole production better than I do, but there’s still a good deal of pleasure in its gleeful subversion.

 

*Well, in the short ones, too:

folo Slang for “follow-up story,” i.e., the same story you ran yesterday with two paragraphs of new information.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 11:52 AM | | Comments (5)
        

Comments

It's "open mic" - while "open mike" is acceptable, Google shows 24,300,000 hits for the former and only 1,350,000 for the latter.
(Before there are any objections that appealing to Google is this century's equivalent to appealing to the dictionary, remember that google.com catalogs actual websites, and hence, how people are actually using the language.)

Get off my lawn.

And stay off.


Yikes!''

And I thought I could occasionally be the most overzealous, hyper-picky nitpicker in these parts, but w/ blogger Tim's "open mike" versus 'open mic" quibble, I'm beginning to wonder. HA! (Just pulling your chain, Tim. No disrespect intended.)

Prof. McI., resign yourself to the fact that on occasion your 'lawn' is bound to attract some unwanted 'crab grass', but IMHO, for the most part, it's a fine, flourishing, well manicured 'lawn', indeed.

"Write More Good", and the comedic stylings, and spoofings of its authors at @FakeAPStylebook on Twitter, sounds right smack-dab within my wheel-house of groaners-and-boners-type satire-------- basically clever, bordering-on-the-'sophomoronic', adolescent-leaning humor.

Hmm..... I wonder if indulging in internet porn, and owning a bazooka are mutually exclusive? (No conflated inference of mammoth male endowment intended, here. HA!)

I imagine one's viewing of online porn is protected by the 1st Amendment right to one's individual freedom to lead a life of moral degeneracy, and allowing one to own a bazooka would come under the rubric of a citizen's constitutional right to bear arms. I'm not too sure bazookas were what our enlightened Founding Fathers had in mind back in the day? More like muskets, six-shooters, derringers, swords, and Bowie knives, I'd imagine.

As for Scientology, the worldwide cult that tries to pass itself off as a bona fide, not-for-profit religion, from my direct experience w/ this "org" (organization in Scientology-speak), some twenty-five years back, the label, "just swell" wouldn't be the two most descriptive words I'd have chosen to describe this controversy-plagued 'church'............ w/ due deference to the aforementioned legal wizards at @FakeAPStylebook.

Perhaps, "very scary" , and "rip-off charlatans" might be more accurate. The only thing swell(ing) about The Church of Scientology is their coffers, where the de riqeuer 10%- of-income tithing expected by most of today's organized religions is left in the dust by Scientology's exponentially rising fee structure, as one ascends to their exalted plateau of "Clear", attaining the god-like powers of the true Thetan.

Boy that L. Ron Hubbard could spin an incredible other-worldly yarn. Sadly, he based his whole theory of dianetics, and his Church of Scientology's ethos on this sc-fi-esque dreck, and applied it to the here-and-now. But I digress.

Just my 2-cents worth, fiscally speaking.

Ducky "The Skeptic" Isaksson.................. beware of any so-called 'church' that requires you to pay big bucks on your path to eternal salvation. Amen!

The greatest evidence of AP Stylebook's lack of (intentional) humor was when it ran the UPI Stylebook's "burro/burrow" entry without its last sentence.

For young folks, the UPI book said: "burro, burrow: A /burro/ is an ass. A /burrow/ is a hole in the ground. As a journalist you are expected to know the difference."

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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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