Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Searching for the write stuff

This blog is an extension of a series of e-mails I've been sending on a regular basis to the editorial staff of The Forum in Fargo-Moorhead since April 2007. The e-mails cite examples of style errors in stories I've edited as night editor and chief copy editor. Other copy editors at The Forum have occasionally passed on their style tips to include in the e-mails.

Theoretically, the e-mails would mean fewer style mistakes. But because not everyone reads my e-mails or some forget about the style reminders, it's necessary to provide examples of repeat mistakes. I only planned to include repeat mistakes every once in a while. That didn't work out. Repeat mistakes sometimes outnumber new mistakes, so I've included them with every e-mail.

This is the same format my blog will follow. I'll offer some examples of new style errors followed by repeat mistakes. I've been asked by the editor to come up with a scheme to make sure the newsroom reads my style tips because he's noticed the number of repeat mistakes. Maybe this blog will help.

One of the advantages of the blog for our writers is that it's searchable. Writers will be able to search for a specific style tip I've already written about. Reporters regulary come to me with a style question, saying: "I know you've written about this, but it takes a while to go through your e-mails." This blog will be an easily accessible way for reporters to have their questions answered. If if they aren't answered, I can write about it in another post.

So here are four examples of style mistakes caught before they made it into the paper:

Example one:
Raw copy, wrong--"37th Ave. S. near Fifth St."
It should be--"37th Avenue South near Fifth Street"
AP style rule: abbreviate with full address; 300 37th Ave. S. or 562 5th St.

Example two:
Raw copy, wrong--"Students in Grade 5"
It should be--"Students in grade five" or "fifth-grade students"

Example three:
Raw copy, wrong--"West Nile Virus"
It should be--"West Nile virus"

Example four:
Raw copy, wrong--"5,652 square foot building"
It should be--"5,652-square-foot building"

I hope you've made it this far. I'm going to offer four examples of repeat mistakes and keep hammering at them until you get it right.

Example one plus:
Wrong--"on-line," "website" and "email"
Correct--"online," "Web site" and "e-mail." Also, the correct AP style is webcam, webcast, webmaster and podcast.

Example two:
Wrong--"2:30 a.m. Monday morning"
Correct--"2:30 a.m. Monday" or "2:30 Monday morning"

Example three:
Correct--"under way"

Example four:
The AP Stylebook also notes it should be citywide, countrywide, industrywide, nationwide, worldwide, etc.

That's it for this post. I'll be posting at least once or twice a week.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Look at that hair!!!

Originally uploaded by jayulku
From my days as editor of the Glasgow (Mont.) Courier about 1980.