Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Copy Edit du Jour

What's more -- aside from a specialized curriculum -- private schools are notoriously known for their smaller classrooms.

Changed to:

Private schools are known for their smaller class sizes.

(Other bad choices aside, I can't BELIEVE the writer used "notoriously known" -- and for something positive, no less. That's the kind of thing I might make up as a ridiculous example of a bad adverb/flabby writing.)

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Novice said...


Please forgive my ignorance; what is wrong with "notoriously known?"

June Casagrande said...

"Notorious" and "notoriously" suggest fame, making it somewhat redundant with "known." Also, they usually have a negative implication. (As puts it, notorious means "well known for an undesirable trait or for any particular trait.") And small class size is touted as a good thing.

But, from an editing standpoint, the biggest thing wrong with "notoriously known" is that it can be summed up with just "known." So "notoriously" makes the sentence more wordy while adding nothing of substance.

A common rule of thumb in professional writing and editing is (as Strunk & White are famous for saying) "omit needless words."

Of course, "needless" is always subjective. But in this case, not very.

Hope that helps!

LL Blackwell said...

Dude, that sentence was pretty awesome!

June Casagrande said...

What really gets me is that I write stuff like that, too. Then I look at it an hour later and wonder when and how I ever incurred such serious brain damage.

I guess as long as people keep writing them like that editors will continue to have jobs.

Unknown said...

i often gnaw on writing bones like that. am i, or the person i am helping, trying to express something here, only i've made a bad/clumsy word choice, or am i just throwing words around like confetti? what's going on in this particular situation? is the writer trying to say that there are two things private schools are known for above else, namely a specialized curriculum and smaller class sizes? even if that is the case, is it important to talk about these two issues or should they just stick to one? often this comes from people - again, me included - who are extremely aware of the complexities of an issue and even paring it down to just two is painful.

on the other hand, there is the distinct and notoriously remarkable possibility or chance that the writer, attempting to express him or herself correctly and without mistakes - which would prompt the discerning reader to not castigate the writer for annoying inaccuracies - to festoon and embellish his or her writing material, including the one before us, with as many superfluous information and unnecessary or even redundant additions as humanly possible.


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