Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A writing rant, because I just couldn't stand it any more

I can't even read the flipping NEWS without seeing mistakes in grammar, spelling, and syntax.

As Mother of Acts of Hope would say, it's The Decline of Western Civilization.

To: The Associated Press (AP) (I sent this to the general e-mail on the news website, so my letter will probably end up in the cyber-trash, but I couldn't stand it any more. If anything drives me away from teaching, it will be the pain of correcting bad writing. Especially since I am not a professor of writing.)

Dear AP,

Aargh! As a college professor, writer, and daughter and sister of journalists (including two AP staff or former staff) I am appalled. Your writer Devlin Barrett managed to make not one but TWO mistakes in the final sentence of his story on Senator Obama and former Vice President Gore.

See below for the mistakes and corrections.

It's bad enough that I have to correct these very same mistakes in my students' papers. What am I to do when they read the news and find the very same problems there?

This is not the AP with which I grew up. Please watch your copyediting and proofreading.


Jane Redmont

Obama would consider Gore for major post

By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 43 minutes ago

WALLINGFORD, Pa. - Democrat Barack Obama says as president he would consider putting Al Gore in a Cabinet-level position — or higher.

A woman at a town hall asked the Illinois senator if elected president would he consider tapping the former vice president for his Cabinet, or an even higher level office, to address global warming.

"I would," Obama said. "Not only will I, but I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem. He's somebody I talk to on a regular basis. I'm already consulting with him in terms of these issues but climate change is real."

Gore, who's work on climate change earned him a Nobel Prize, he is popular among Democrats.
* * * * * * * * *
Attention, AP:

That should be whose work on climate change. There is no need for the word he.

Gore, whose work on climate change earned him a Nobel Prize, is popular among Democrats.

(Either that or change the sentence to: Gore's work on climate change earned him a Nobel Prize. He is popular among Democrats.)

Please stop using people who write like junior high school students to write your stories!

Okay, now I'm all peaceful and nonviolent and centered again. OOOMMMMMMMM...

Previous pet peeve rant about language here.


pj said...

Those are heinous mistakes, but they might just be typos. I'm inclined to blame the SPEED at which stories are typed up and sent in nowadays. For all we know, the reporter thumbed the whole thing on his Blackberry.

The copy editor, however, should be fired. And his/her job should be given to me. I need a job, and I would love to be a copy-editor. (Grins maliciously.)

johnieb said...

Anything not to write, PJ?

Ducks and runs for cover.

Fran said...

PJ grinning maliciously! I love that.

Oh Jane, you and your like um - you know, like standards.

Seriously- it is maddening and I think that PJ is correct.

johnieb said...

It seems to me clear evidence that there is no longer any position "Copy Editor".

I'm with Mother of AOH on this; in the East I think it has to do more with the quality of brush strokes.

Jane R said...

BlackBerries (or however one spells the plural of BlackBerry, the machine, which has some kind of weird spelling, maybe not the one I gave it) are NO EXCUSE for using who's instead of whose. That is not a typo. The punctuation problem is a different story, happens to me and you and everyone else. And you are right about copyediting. (Did I mention I once worked as a copyeditor for a book on zoos? I'm serious. It was one of my many freelance jobs. You haven't lived till you've copyedited and proofread zoo maps.) Give La PJ the job! But I too fear that the days of copyeditors, like the days of customer service, are gone, gone, gone.

I have to go teach Malcolm X pre- and post-Mecca pilgrimage.

johnieb said...

I think your spelling is correct, and I certainly do not excuse anyone, copy "editor" or "cub reporter", who confuses who's and whose.

Off with their fookin 'eads!

Jane R said...

Aaaah. We started class 10 mn late but it was a good one. We also were looking at some writings about Malcolm and Martin to complicate our thinking about both of them and about their relationship within US society, both in their day and in our consciousness. (James Cone, Malcolm and Martin in America: A Dream or a Nightmare?, and Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.. No, not the whole books, but important selections.

I had them read the "Beyond Vietnam" speech by King for last week, of course. And parts of the Autobiography of Malcolm X for today. The pilgrimage to Mecca and his transformation during and after that, etc.

Next week we watch the excellent documentary on Bayard Rustin (the organizer of the March on Washington who was a gay African American Quaker man), "Brother Outsider." We also read Audre Lorde, from her book Sister Outsider. (The title of the Rustin movie is intentionally patterned after Lorde's book title as far as I know. She was a Black lesbian poet and her essay on the erotic is also about creativity and spirituality and is a must-read.)

Jane R said...

P.S. I am officially an Old Fuddy-Dud. My language rants prove it. Oy. This is what is happening to us Baby Boomers.

At least I can spell.

But will this get me into heaven? Of course not. Matthew 25, darlings, it's all about Matthew 25.

Padre Rob+ said...

Lord knows that I can be lazy in colloquial speech and use the wrong tenses (for effect of course, as we Southerners love to do, but you are absolutely right; those are appalling errors. As a sad side note, Luiz recently told me that a composition professor recently remarked that she feared that within her lifetime the English language will have evolved to remove the different spellings of there/their/they're, whose/who's, its/it's etc. How tragic is that? She could be correct.

Ken said...

What is not to believe? This is the age of corporate illiteracy and the forbidden universe of multisyllable words that some people really are too stupid to understand; of high school students who emerge with a diploma they cannot read (even if it's in English), of "txtng" n yr Dingleberry. Sadly, it's also the world of most blogs, including mine. Anyone can write fast, ignore the niceties, and either not bother to revise or be under time pressure to deliver a bunch of words. Would any of us like to see our first drafts presented to the world? That is what happens all the time, in blogdom as well as corporations. The copy editor probably was under the gun as well. Literacy is no longer valued. Output is what matters. There is another word for "output" that is rather rude, and I will not use it.

Murray Kempton wrote better after a fifth of scotch than most of these people do cold sober.

And I didn't proof this either.

Caminante said...

The insertion of the apostrophe into every plural has become rampant in English these days. I have seen the possessive 'its' even in the formerly august New York Times as it apostrophe es. It is (it's) enough to make one weep. Then add in LOL writing as a cat makes comments about its world and the game is up. Makes you wish for French (son, sa, ses) or Spanish (su, sus), right?

pj said...

All right, calm down everyone. (I nearly typed "clam down" but I caught it in time.) I truly believe that errors like 'it's/its' are often a function of typing too fast and not checking your work. Not in every case, but often. Now and then I find myself typing "their" instead of "they're" and staring blankly at my sentence, wondering why it seems wrong. Fortunately I have enough discipline to check everything I write before I hit the send button, otherwise I'd look pretty dumb.

That said, the AP reporter's story should NOT have made it onto the Web in that sorry condition. Editors are necessary. That is all.

Um... I'm afraid I'm gonna have to defend lolspeak here. For people who like to play with language, it can be addictive. (You can get too much of a good thing, however.) Im in ur comments box, Jane, annoyin ur reederz.


Jane R said...

Oh, lolspeak can be way fun. I think intentionally playing with words is great. So go rt ahd n mk mee laff.

Yes, editors...

I make typos all the time. That's why it's always good to have one or better, two people to proofread brochures and other public documents. Not that we have time for this in the blogosphere. (No, I am not going to monitor people's language. LOL Though this is a pretty literate crew, self-selected I suppose.) Interesting how rants get more comments and conversation than theology ;-). Except when the fabulous Fran and the fabulous Tobias post theological things, or when MadPriest asks his friends about the Trinity. (!)

Thanks, all y'all (even Padre Rob, de-lurking) for the company and empathy. Yeah, Peedge, we should chill...

I gots to go work. (Actually, I am at work, but I gots to go WORK at work.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Jane, we must not give up the fight for proper use of the language. Standards must be upheld, because language matters. This doesn't mean language can't keep transforming with new genres and styles emerging. My favorite example of a literary classic in a new genre is the Dec. 29, 2007 post at TitusOneTen of a message from the BlackBerry of Deacon Thorndike Andrewes:

Shannon said...

This must be "Correct the Damn Spelling" Week. There is a drive-in movie theatre on my way to work. This week's feature is, according to BOTH sides of the sign: "Horten heres a who"

I sent an email and we got the "heres" corrected. Then I sent another to point out the misspelled name of the main character. I told them Dr. Suess would not be amused. The manager was quite befuddled.

I'm forever correcting the handouts and posters that are created by the offenders in my office. I try to pound into their heads that anything coming out of this office should be correct in all ways. Doesn't help when the administration (or HQ, for that matter) sends out material that is poorly written or never edited.

Jane R said...

Mary Clara, that was from Brother Causticus's blog, I believe. (I didn't check your link but I'm pretty sure what it is.) It was a howl and certainly is an Anglican Internet Classic.

Shannon, nothing surprises me any more, but that movie sign is unbelievable!

Kirstin said...

What?! Most kids over five can spell Horton.

(Now here I am, sounding old.)

June Butler said...

Jane, I am with you 100%. I make mistakes and, like Rob, I talk southern deliberately, knowing it's bad grammar, but I'm not writing for the AP. The "who's" is not a typo, IMHO. I see "your" for "you're" so often that I'm beginning to think it's correct. Same with "its" and "it's". Anyway, it drives me batty, too, to see stuff like that from writers who should know better.

And so does Johnieb, too, talk southern bad grammar.

Now, I'm in fear and trembling that Teacher Jane will find a terrible grammar gaffe in what I wrote here.

Jane R said...

Mimi, *I* was in terror that my grammar was off when I dashed off my rant to the AP. There probably was something wrong with it. Heck, I made typos all the time. But this who's/whose is really egregious.

That said, I loves me some casual language and I am a adopted Southerner, remember, even though I am but a newbie here. Plus I curse like a truck driver. Just not on my blog.

I am going off to bed, but wanted to say hi and thanks for stopping by and PLEASE do not worry about language with me, I rant but I am really a pussycat and a softie. I just hate it when the newspeople can't get it right -- it pains me even more than when my students can't write because I come from a family of journalists and they taught me by osmosis to love and pay attention to language. Plus, my brother was an AP bureau chief for a gazillion years.