Friday, December 4, 2009

Writing WTF of the Month

Here, modified just enough to keep me from getting into trouble, is a sentence from an article I copy edited yesterday.

"It was a lot of work," said Joe Mason of the 1968 Chevy Camaro he built using parts purchased at a half dozen local junkyards as well as a chassis and quarterpanels given to him by his dad, James Mason, an accountant at Bank of America, and assembled in his front yard over the course of six months to create what Joe had always said was his dream car.

And if you think that's bad, consider this: There was no previous mention of the Camaro anywhere in the story. That "It was a lot of work" referred to nothing the reader could yet know -- stuff that would only be explained retroactively in the quotation attribution.

The lesson here: "Of" in quotation attributions is a recipe for disaster.

To fix this monstrosity, I explained, in separate sentences, that Joe had built the Camaro, and put those sentences before the quotation.

Flabbergasted ...
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