James Thurber noted 31 points about good writing made by New Yorker editor Wolcott Gibbs. They include the following (via Charles Miller on the CoJo blog):
- Writers always use too damn many adverbs. On one page recently I found 11 modifying the verb 'said'. 'He said morosely, violently, eloquently, so on' … It is impossible for a character to go through all these emotional states one after the other.
- Word 'said' is OK. Efforts to avoid repetition by inserting 'grunted', 'snorted' etc are waste motion and offend the pure in heart.
- Our writers are full of clichés, just as old barns are full of bats. There is obviously no rule about this, except that anything that you suspect of being a cliché undoubtedly is one and had better be removed.
- The more 'As a matter of facts', 'howevers', 'for instances' etc, etc you can cut out, the nearer you are to the Kingdom of Heaven.
- On the whole we are hostile to puns.
- Try to preserve an author's style if he is an author and has a style.
Times Higher Education – Students armed with sub-editing skills are given tools for life March 27, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Excellent subs are not disposable relics of a bygone era. They are the keyhole surgeons of journalism; fast, precise and adept at ensuring that prevention averts the need for expensive or embarrassing cures. At best they write attention-grabbing headlines and turn convoluted codswallop into plain, comprehensible English.
Crucially, subbing skills should be praised and taught at each and every university that makes any claim to educate journalists.
Ironic errors online February 20, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : Online, Subbing , add a comment
I tend to think of formatting errors cropping up more in print than on paper. But here’s a Telegraph article with more than a few lines going awry
– and some erratic italics, too (below).
The article is about, well, paid subscriptions to online newspaper content…
Such errors are easy enough to make, eg if one is taking formatted copy from one system to another and inadvertently carries over code with it. It will be interesting to see if it gets corrected!
School chief's spelling howlers on internet | The Sun |News February 5, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
At least it suggests that the education minister writes his own blog posts… but doesn't use a spellchecker. It's also another of that genre of news stories based on someone spotting something online (often on Facebook) with the potential to embarrass. How many journalists are now checking MPs' blogs etc. Might boost their site hits a little.
"EDUCATION minister Jim Knight was warned yesterday that he must try harder after his internet blog was found to be littered with spelling mistakes.
The Cambridge-educated Government chief’s website also contains uncorrected typing errors and a grammatical clanger.
But it appears the howlers have gone unnoticed for months because no one reads the minister’s blog."delicious links , 1 comment so far
On the importance of good writing in blogs, from Computer World's 'top ten' list:
" 'People get bored pretty quickly with sloppy writing and sloppy thinking, and that's true whether you're publishing online or in print,' [Nicholas] Carr told me by e-mail and, as always, he makes a good point.
Stringing together a sentence with a strong noun and verb combination might not seem all that difficult, but many bloggers write like they are on the school bus using a crayon."
Read furious email from senior staff member to Sunday Express editorial department | Media | guardian.co.uk October 10, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Email highlights mistakes by subs and writers that made it to print (issue of 10 August 2008):
"Last week's Sunday Express was riddled with appalling, slapdash and lazy writing and subbing. The style sheets handed out were studiously ignored, as can be seen by the list attached to this e-mail.
There were also two errors so horrendous they moved one reader to email [editor] Martin Townsend to point them out.
The kind of bilge submitted last week will not be tolerated any more. The rest of this email is a list of the drivel that made it into the paper but doesn't include the numerous dashes scattered liberally through copy, counties being abbreviated (Hants and Wilts were two that appeared), the headlines that were centred instead of set left, the ignorance about how the word 'but' should be used, the literal in one of the phoneline questions and the inability to grasp the simple idea that companies, organisations and political parties are referred to in the singular."
David Marsh: The Guardian style guide hasn't banned the word 'grandmother' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk October 9, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Guardian style guru responds to critics — outraged commenters as well as Rod Liddle and Stephen Glover — and on much more than the use of 'grandmother'.
Scope for endless debates here — which is one reason for having a style guide…:
"The diatribe was prompted by the Guardian Book of English Language, given away free with a recent edition of the newspaper. If you missed it, the book was a condensed version of the style guide used by our journalists, which has long been available to anyone, including Spectator readers, with access to the world wide web."