Friday, September 30, 2005

Effortlessly Eventful Efforting

For some reason, folks flock here to read about the word "efforting." That horrid term was in eight of the last 20 search engine queries pointing browsers here. Out of all keywords that have produced traffic for Copy Massage, "efforting" has tied (with "stories") for sixth place.

In case you missed my earlier musings on the word, see here and here.

"Efforting" has spread in the last year-and-a-half, obviously. I'm not sure why, although I have my suspicions. I doubt newspaper writers have taken to it with gusto, because grumps like me would stop them in their tracks. Thank goodness. That points us toward our friends in the broadcast media.

Although I watched little televised hurricane coverage, I expect that people were "efforting" to improve conditions in areas hit by Katrina and Rita. I expect anchors were "efforting" to get in touch with correspondents. In times of stress, people speaking off the cuff can propagate unwieldy formations. (Note this "the language is going to hell" article from the Hingham Journal.)

Viewers, unfamiliar with the word, typed it into their search engines and ended up here. Indeed, if you type "efforting" into Google, this site turns up as the ninth result. Hi there.

Don't use "efforting." Please.

The word "trying" has two syllables. It comes from a perfectly nice verb. "Efforting" has three syllables. It comes from a noun. Why would you ever use it instead of the tried-and-true"trying" ? A noun is a thing. A verb is an action. They are different.

When we write and speak, we should do so accurately, succinctly and grammatically. "Efforting" is none of those things. Please, for the love of the language and my ears, don't use it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Summarize This!

Depending on his or her workplace, a copy editor can do any number of jobs. She can design pages. He can correct grammar. She can scour the wire for stories to fill inside pages. He can grapple with the intricacies of assigning gender to indefinite pronouns.

But nearly every newspaper copy editor tackles the headline, often in conjunction with a subhead or some other bit of accompanying text. Much has been written about the craft of shaping headlines. We must make them sing, we're told. We must (or must not) include clever word choices or turns of phrase. We must seduce the unsuspecting browser into reading the story.

But headlines also summarize. Few readers devote time to every story in a newspaper. That holds true, I think, for the most devoted reader or the smallest paper. As general interest publications, newspapers by definition print a vast array of material, some of limited interest. Headlines help readers navigate through these articles. They offer a pithy summation of the news, big and small.

In many cases, they will be all the reader sees.

We spend time and energy worrying about the biggest headline. We sweat and strain to produce a great banner for the A1 main bar. But because we've positioned one story as the most important, most people will at least read its first few paragraphs anyway. Despite all our work, people will race past the headline to the story.
The stories pushed to the bottom of the page or huddling inside the paper -- these are the stories for which the headline is most important. For them, the headline is it. The headline carries the weight of not only saying what has happened, but offering some detail or shading that allows the reader to understand the information in context. In other words, the headline must summarize the story's facts and spirit.

Let's pause. Let's take some time with these poor, obscure stories. Let's show them we value them as much as the big scandal splashed across A1. And let's show readers we value them enough to give them accurate, subtly shaded summaries of current events.

Recent Referrals

Here at the luxurious Copy Massage offices, we're always interested in our audience. How do people come here? Why do people come here? What features keep them coming back for more grammatical fun?

Beats us. But according to the trusty tracking software, these terms have led visitors here:

massage icons
clay concord monitor
"Why Proofreading is Important !"
stories containing lefts and rights
"GED" Copy editing
Mr. Dictionary
hunter s. thompson handwriting
Inspirational thought for the day

By the way ... don't hesitate to add your comments to the site. With Copy Massage shedding its Floridian pastels and donning some New England plaid, a new(ish) era has begun. Flame away.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Blog to Check Out ...

... Would be the one by my boss, Concord Monitor editor Mike Pride. He covers journalistic issues, sure, but he also addresses current events and life in New Hampshire. He likes Bob Dylan, too.

Few blogs come from the newsroom leaders. More should. Well-kept blogs could show editors as active, caring members of their communities. They reinforce old bonds and create new ones. They could even attract new readers.

Mike's blog deserves a larger audience, so spread the word.

Grumpy as I Wanna Be

I don't like "evacuee." It's a painful back-formation, a nouning of a verb. I understand that some people believe that "refugee" has negative connotations, but the word accurately describes people who have fled from their homes seeking refuge.

I'm on the losing end of this, though.

The overwhelming human toll of Katrina has made members of the news media particularly sensitive to their traditional role of defending the underdog. Thus, they were quick to change when objections surfaced. The wire services are using "evacuee" almost exclusively now.

I don't change the word to "refugee," but, as I said, I don't like it. Words only have the power we choose to give them.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Why Am I Here?

Why did I do it? Why did I leave a big newspaper in a big city for a small newspaper in a small city?

It didn't have to do with the folks at the Tampa Tribune, I'll tell you that. My experience there was great, and I enjoyed working with my fellow copy editors.

I wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to live in a place that had seasons. My partner and I had never planned to make the rest of our lives in Florida (we were brought there by an internship), and we both decided that New England seemed like a nice place to settle down.

Then a position came open at a well-respected community paper. I interviewed and was impressed by the paper and the dedication of the people who worked there. After some thought, the deal was done.

We left Florida toward the end of April, and I started at the Monitor a few days later.

My job has changed. In Tampa, I dealt almost exclusively with text. It had most often been read a couple of times before it crossed my computer screen. It would be read a time or two more before the page was sent off to the presses.

In Concord, I also design the pages, work with reporters as a line editor, and crop and tone photos. I've taken up book reviewing as well.

I like this. I knew it would be this way, and I welcomed the opportunity to do many more things. I spend more time at work, true. I bear more responsibility, true. I take on more stress, true. But I think it all serves to make me a more rounded journalist and copy editor.

It all serves the writing. The copy remains at the core. Without clear, sharply written stories, none of rest of the newsroom paraphernalia would function. The principles of good editing and good journalism have been brought home time and again on this more intimate scale.

Copy Massage will reflect these changes. My perspective has broadened. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Back to blog

I didn’t mean for it to take this long. Honest.

But what with the moving from Florida to New Hampshire, the starting of a new job and the deluge of related issues, I was delayed. Having a life and a blog is difficult, if not impossible. I also wanted to make sure that I had clearance to keep up this persnickety forum about copy editing and journalism.

The life has calmed down. Folks at the new workplace have asked about further entries. The time has arrived.

Many entries to follow.