Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Bad Wording from the World of Copy Editing and News Headline du Jour

I edited a rather problematic article the other day about a new music venue. It contained some good examples of the ways that wily words can mutiny. Here (disguised, as always) is one example:

“The Blues Room holds high stakes for its performers by having the reach of a global audience through onsite TV and radio production broadcasting facilities.”

One problem with this sentence is that the writer relied too heavily on a “by” phrase to introduce a lot of information. But MY biggest problem with this sentence is “the reach of a global audience.” Here, the writer just took a powder -- stopped paying attention to her own words.

What is “the reach of a global audience”? Sounds to me like the distance that audience can reach. That's not what she meant to say. She was talking not about the audience's ability to reach but the venue's ability to reach (an audience). So she should have written, “because it can reach a global audience” or something like that.

I see this type of thing a lot with novice feature writers. They let their words squirm out of their grasp and lose their meaning. This writer wanted to mention the venue’s “reach.” She had this word in her head as a noun and she just refused to abandon it even after it abandoned her.

* * * *

News headlines often crack me up. The dropping of "is" and other forms of "to be" along with the dropping of many articles and prepositions can sometimes dilute a headline to the point of meaninglessness. Add to that extreme space constraints headline writers face and you end up with stuff like this headline from yesterday's L.A. Times (with original line breaks intact).
'Hour of
Crux of
Ah, yes, the old "crux of schism" angle. What an attention-grabber.
Wait, it just got funnier. I searched the L.A. Times website for the article to link it here, and saw the same article with the headline, "Schullers' rift centers on 'Hour of Power.'" But that's not how it showed up in the print edition yesterday. I guess that proves the headline writer was actually competent and our "Crux of Schism" hed was truly the result of space constraints. I guess I should have titled this post:
Crux of

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Joel said...

For some reason, I've been thinking about headline writing a lot lately. Those who've never had to do it should give it a try, I think. But I'm all for the verbal adventuring.

I'm not sure it would be the same in this WYSIWYG world, though. Damned kids and their technological crutches.

June Casagrande said...

Hurray! I know what WYSIWYG is! (Though it took me a minute to remember the one time I learned it): What You See Is What You Get.

See, me speaky your tekkie thingie.


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