“Patchy dense fog,” the guy on the radio said this morning. I guess they can’t say “lovely wisps of water vapor will cling to low-lying areas, including creek bottoms and golf courses, catching the early morning light in opaque streaks of loveliness that remind us of the dying of the season,” but that’s what it looked like as I drove Kate to school this morning. I’m not supposed to drive the morning shift, but as I said yesterday, it’s good to get out of your rut from time to time. Sometimes you see the morning light in new ways.
Then I came home and read this story, from AnnArbor.com, which replaced the daily newspaper there a few years back, and discovered I’m the same old grump. On just one readthrough, I spotted facts repeated in adjacent paragraphs, the governor’s name misspelled and windy quotes that needed a trim. Argh:
Dennis says, if passed, the bill would be an insurmountable blow to U-M.
“Surmount” and its variants apply to obstacles and other things you have to get over or around, not blows, even figurative ones. I’m sure two or three more reads would turn up more fat and gas, but editing brave new experiments in journalism isn’t my job. (Well, yes it is, but not this one.) Point these things out to people who aren’t in the journo-biz, and they look at you funny, but dammit, EDITING MATTERS. Proper use of quotes matters a lot. This is how you don’t do it:
“I am concerned for the university as a whole,” Dennis said. “It would be a really damaging blow to the university’s reputation as a fair and humane employer. I think it would cause us to lose faculty and never get them back.”
“It would just be tragic for the university,” he added.
I tell my students: Avoid using quotes to carry information. Use them to comment on the information. They are the pinpoint spotlights of storytelling, drawing your eye to important or interesting facts. The first and last lines of that four-sentence quote are unnecessary. In a squeeze, so is the second one.
Everybody loves the last scene of “A River Runs Through It,” but my favorite is the Zen writing lesson:
NARRATOR: Each weekday, while my father worked on his Sunday sermon, I attended the school of the Reverend Maclean. He taught nothing but reading and writing. And being a Scot, believed that the art of writing lay in thrift.
NORMAN turns in his essay.
REV. MACLEAN: (handing it back) Half as long.
NARRATOR: So while my friends spent their days at Missoula Elementary, I stayed home and learned to write the American language.
NORMAN turns in another draft.
REV. MACLEAN: (handing it back) Again, half as long.
NORMAN turns in a third draft.
REV. MACLEAN: Good. Now throw it away.
Throw it away! Now that’s a man who knows the value of words on paper. Every so often a group of Buddhist monks show up at the Allen County Public Library and spend several days making a sand mandala in one of the public spaces, after which it is poured into the river. That’s all we do, although newspaper people have the added thrill of knowing their words are now lining my rabbit cage.
Let’s hop quick to the bloggage, so I can get a workout in today:
The Onion proves, once again, that it is America’s truly indispensable news source:
A team of leading archaeologists announced Monday they had uncovered the remains of an ancient job-creating race that, at the peak of its civilization, may have provided occupations for hundreds of thousands of humans in the American Northeast and Midwest.
The latest from Chest magazine (yes, it exists): Your blue jeans may have killed Turkish garment workers. Have a nice day!
One for Connie, Beth and the rest of you librarians and archivists, via MMJeff, a library mystery that reminds me, a little bit, of the guy who leaves cognac and roses on Edgar Allen Poe’s grave every year.
Jon Corzine, financial genius, nearly bails out of the company he ruined with a measly $12 million severance package. I can’t stand it.
Happy Tuesday to all.