Saturday, January 31, 2004

Vocabulary Fun

What's a compendium?

If you asked me before today, I would have said "A big gathering of stuff, like an anthology or something." Perhaps I would have phrased it more eloquently.

The word doesn't mean that, however.

A compendium is actually a summary or outline of some substantive work. Or, in the words of oh-so-definitive Merriam-Webster:

1 : a brief summary of a larger work or of a field of knowledge : ABSTRACT
2 a : a list of a number of items b : COLLECTION, COMPILATION

As you notice, the meaning I mention is in there, but only at the very end. That's also known as "the place where dictionaries put the wrong meanings that unknowing folks have perpetuated."

My thanks for this tidbit go to Theodore M. Bernstein's "The Careful Writer." He theorized that the incorrect meaning took hold because the word sounds so lumbering and immense. It's an impressive-seeming word.

Too bad the language doesn't bear it out.

Month-End Referrals

As January winds down, let's take a glimpse at the multitude of ways readers come to Copy Massage. Remember, the best referral receives a free Copy Massage T-shirt and Caribbean cruise. (Best referral will be decided by me, sometime.)

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Pulitzer Prizes for instance are most often awarded photographers who make pictures of shocking, dramatic moments
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"Pulitzer" "journalism" "entries" "guidelines" "wire" "2004"
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Friday, January 30, 2004

At the Hair Salon

So I was at the hair salon in a St. Petersburg mall, reading the latest issue of US Weekly. My research for this site knows no bounds. And my hair was shaggy.

The magazine, besides being generally appalling and symbolic of the downfall of humanity, helped pass the time. One article in particular, caught my eye. It mentioned an upcoming movie, featuring a college "coed" who helps a professor.

First off, the word "coed" is dated and ridiculous. Coeducation has been the norm now since what -- the 1950s? Coed is so old I expect it to wear suspenders and use hair tonic.

Yet the vintage of the word wasn't what alarmed me. In this article, "coed" referred to a male student.


Let's check a couple of dictionaries.

"Coed: A young woman attending a coeducational college or university (Webster's New World)."

"Coed: a student and especially a female student in a coeducational institution (Merriam-Webster)."

I could cite more examples, but the point should be clear. A coed, in virtually all instances, should be a woman. Just because the word seems like it might be able to possibly, just kind of, you know probably refer to a male -- doesn't mean it does.

If we use antiquated slang, let's make sure it's correct.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Cable Installed

I took the plunge and called the cable company to hook me up. With the election season heating up, I need my news in my living room, in living color.

I've been without cable for a year-and-a-half. Not much has changed, I have to say. Well, Comedy Central doesn't show Saturday Night Live anymore. Anchors look older than I remember.

The reason I'm blathering about it? I have a new form of media, folks. Expect some tidbits from the world of broadcast as we push ahead.

Let's Just Imagine

Howdy. Let's just imagine that I've been filling the past couple of weeks with exciting and informative posts. Let's just imagine you found them thrilling, and that somehow they disappeared from the site. Ha ha!

Let's not imagine that I spent the past couple of weeks sleeping a lot and otherwise avoiding writing on the Web. Let's not imagine that I spent the last week on vacation, playing computer games and getting cable installed.

Anyway. It all resumes now. More or less.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Let's Hear It For the Desk

This site -- and most other material about copy editing -- often gives the impression that editing is a lone pursuit. One pictures the noble copy editor, striving against all odds and a story full of inaccuracies. He or she faces the gale head-on and plows ahead.

Some of that is true. Most of it is not.

Because, you see, no copy editor works alone. Others on the desk help. Others rewrite headlines, catch further mistakes and round up stray bits of lost coding. They make the job possible.

If you have copy edited for any time at all, you know the feeling: A co-worker spots the most glaring, obvious error in a story you just edited. An error you didn't see. A misspelling of the president's name, perhaps. In the headline. (Not a mistake I've seen, mind you, but not far off.) Most people play it cool in a situation like that, but I find myself wanting to bow and kiss the hem of the co-worker's garment.

I offer help to others as well. As the night of editing goes on, I may tweak a headline or rearrange some words. I may notice the caption doesn't jibe with the photo it accompanies. The list goes on.

In the end, no one can do this job in a vacuum. The desk has to watch out for its own. That's how we learn, and that's how we put out a newspaper.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Something Useless

Fie upon useless words. Fie, I say!

The latest culprit: “Is something that.” Reading these words reminds me of eating a bowl of mushy, gray cereal. No flavor. Precious little purpose when easier-to-take alternatives exist. An editor can and should excise that phrase violently.

“The concert is something that everyone will enjoy.”

Make it: “Everyone will enjoy the concert.”

“The show is something that demonstrates the development of artistic styles.”

Make it: “The show demonstrates the development of artistic styles.”

Next topic.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Happy Note ...

Today I celebrate a year of association with a fine Tampa Bay-area newspaper. Thanks to all the fine staff and readers of the publication.

Let's hope the next year is similarly exciting and fulfilling.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Prints the Chaff Runs With It

More fun with redundancies over there.

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Of Course They Are

Redundancy alert: future plans.

Can plans be anything else? Yes, I know, sometimes plans don't work out. But the context should make that clear.

If someone says "I have a plan," you don't assume they're talking about a plan for a day ago, or a week ago. That person has a plan for something coming up. This stems from people's insane desire to clutter up writing with useless words. If writing exists to communicate, why add filler? No defense exists.

I don't want to harp on trifles. But this isn't a trifle. It's common sense.

Sunday, January 4, 2004

'Sup, Will and Nicole?

Will at Stylin' and smilin' has finally graced us with an entry. It's a doozy. I'll quote a couple of bits.

"The Internet is the future of newspapers as we know it. I will always be a newspaper guy as long as there's a tangible product sitting on my doorstep each morning. But our paper's Web sites provide the rest of the country (and the world) with a face of what we look like and what we do."

True enough.

The problem is that revenue comes from the print side. Online publications have struggled to make a profit. Until we figure out how to attract high-profile advertisers to support free online content, newspapers will have to stay mainly in the print realm.

Poor Salon, one of my favorite places online, has nearly gone under time after time. It soldiers on, but barely. Its cousin, Slate, survives on Bill Gates' pocket change.

Also: "This was never meant to be an everyday blog. I guess that violates the rule of blogs (that being blogs need to be updated every day)."

Just update more than every month, Will. That will suit me!

After light posting in November and early December, Nicole returns with a vengeance on A Capital Idea.

Her most recent entry, responding to a Slate article about the Valerie Plame affair. It's a humdinger. Choice paragraph:

"Also, sources leak information for the 'wrong' reasons all the time. That doesn't give the journalist the right or obligation to name them. And if the leaking of this information was a crime, often so is the leaking of other information. It's still not the journalist's job to squeal."

Let's hope this new year is full of such bloggy goodness!

Meanwhile, the Times Public Editor Ponders ...

... Quotes in and out of context. The New York Times' Daniel Okrent makes some excellent points.

A good paragraph:

"Whether plucked from a press conference or a barroom conversation, quotes are not just reported - they're selected. Subject goes on at length; reporter picks a few especially revealing, juicy or simply interesting sentences; presses roll; and, later, the subject cries, ''Taken out of context!" But except when a newspaper prints verbatim transcripts, all quotations are taken out of context. The context is the actual conversation or press conference in which words get uttered; the printed pages of a newspaper can only rudely duplicate it."

Thursday, January 1, 2004

Happy New Year

Best of wishes from the friendly staff of Copy Massage.