Monday, December 23, 2013

Acceptable and unacceptable!

The Sunday Times headline that I highlighted yesterday -- "How death changed her life" -- was an especially bad howler because of its absurd unintended meaning. The headline literally killed off the newsmaker!  So I was glad to see an ST headline today (Dec 23) that was a clever and effective play on words:

Sadly, going beyond just headline writing and delving more into the craft of journalism, there seems to be more misses than hits these days. Many such "transgressions" go against established journalistic common sense or the particular newspaper's house style.

Like the English teacher in the cartoon above, I "snap" when I see meaningless cliched phrases like broad daylight being used. Journalism 101 drilled into the old-timers that there is neither broad nor narrow daylight...


Another commonsensical newspaper tradition is to keep sentences, especially the article's introduction, reasonably short because long sentences are, well, unwieldy and tiresome to read. Some purists insist on no more than 25 words in an introduction but this may be too pedantic. Still, this example below has 100 words in the "intro"!...

There is also no excuse when a question is begging to be answered...

Okay, Ms Pontarelli is the world's oldest competitive pole dancer. Surely, readers will want to know how old she is!

There is also a hallowed tradition among journalists to refer to women as women, not as ladies. The exceptions would include someone with a recognised title such as Lady Pamela Hicks (first cousin to Prince Philip), or someone with a stage name like Lady Gaga. It may also be used in such turns of phrase as "the lady doth protest too much". But there is certainly no reason to use "ladies" in the example below:    

There is no such thing as "alright" (the grammatically correct expression is "all right") just as there is no such thing as "free gifts" (simply say "gifts")...


Finally, I have a collection of the careless use of "probe into/probed" which has rendered some headlines as ridiculous as "How death changed her life":

It must be said that "probe" is a useful short word to use in headlines in place of "investigate". The point is to avoid any unintended meaning, as is clear in these examples:

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