Monday, February 25, 2008

Let's rein in the number of style mistakes

Here are a few style mistakes that recently crossed copy editors' desks at The Forum:

Example one:
Raw copy, wrong--"remodeling project underway"
It should be--"remodeling project under way"
I've already written about his mistake several times. One of these days it should sink in. Under way is two words.
AP Stylebook says it's one word only when used as a adjective before a noun in a nautical sense: an underway flotilla.

Example two:
Raw copy, wrong--"free WiFi access"
It should be--"Wi-Fi"
AP Stylebook says: Wi-Fi For the wireless networking standards.

Example three:
Raw copy, wrong--"fight against West Nile Virus"
It should be--"fight against West Nile virus"
This is another style mistake I've written about before.

Example four:
Raw copy, wrong--"take steps to reign in costs"
It should be--"take steps to rein in costs"
Reign is the period a ruler is on the throne: The king began his reign. Rein is a means of guiding, controlling, checking or restraining: the reins of government.

Example five:
Raw copy, wrong--"second phase of its capitol campaign"
It should be--"second phase of its capital campaign"
Capitol is the building in which the U.S. Congress meets in Washington, D.C., or the building in which a state legislature meets. Capital: any assets, tangible or intangible, that are held for long-term investment.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Smothering you with style

These are new style mistakes that were recently caught by copy editors.

Example one:
Raw copy, wrong--"approve a plan to boost by ten-fold"
It should be--"approve a plan to boost by tenfold"
AP Stylebook says: No hyphen.

Example two:
Raw copy, wrong--"potentially cutting air fares"
It should be--"potentially cutting airfares"
AP Stylebook says: One word.

Example three:
Raw copy, wrong--"investigator who posed on-line"
It should be--"investigator who posed online"

Example four:
Raw copy, wrong--"to pay for damages to the school"
It should be--"to pay for damage to the school"
AP Stylebook says: Damage is destruction: Authorities said damage from the storm would total more than $1 billion. Damages are awarded by a court as compensation for injury, loss, etc.: The Woman received $25,000 in damages.

Example five:
Raw copy, wrong--"cause of the blaze that completely destroyed the structure"
It should be--"cause of the blaze that destroyed the structure"
AP Stylebook says: Demolish and destroy mean to do away with something completely. Something cannot be partially demolished or destroyed. It is redundant to say totally demolished or totally destroyed.
Or in this case, completely destroyed.

Example six:
Raw copy, wrong--"smothering her to death with a pillow"
It should be--"smothering her with a pillow"
It's redundant to write smother to death. The definition for smother in Webster's is: a) to keep from getting enough air to breathe; stifle. b) to kill in this way; suffocate.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Beating and kicking a man in the downtown area can hurt

A Fargo woman was arrested on a felony aggravated assault charge early Tuesday morning after allegedly beating and kicking a man in the downtown area.

My first reaction when I read this brief today - before it got into the paper - was: "OUCHIE!"

Maybe a better way of writing this paragraph would have been:

A Fargo woman was arrested in downtown Fargo early Tuesday morning on a felony aggravated assault charge after allegedly beating and kicking a man.

Now that we've got that out of the way, lets get to some of the style mistakes that recently crossed copy editors' desks.

Example one:
Raw copy, wrong--"In addition to cakes, Julin also bakes"
It should be--"In addition to cakes, Julin bakes"
In addition and also are redundant, so we don't need also.

Example two:
Raw copy, wrong--"two multi-million dollar options"
It should be--"two multimillion-dollar options"
AP Stylebook says: multi- The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen. Some examples: multicolored, multilateral, multimillion and multimillionaire.

Example three:
Raw copy, wrong--"the Moorhead School Board chair"
It should be--"the Moorhead School Board chairman" if it's a man and "chairwoman" if it's a woman.
I don't know about you, but I would prefer not to be called a chair. There is an exception. For some reason, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party officially refers to some of its top officers as "state party chair," "state party associate chair" and "state party finance chair." So don't use chair unless it is an organization's formal title for an office.
Another AP style point on chairman/chairwoman: Do not use chairperson unless it is an organization's formal title for an office.

Example four:
Raw copy, wrong--"prospect of a Moorhead counter offer"
It should be--"prospect of a Moorhead counteroffer.
I don't think Moorhead planned to offer the other side a counter.

That's it for now.

Friday, February 8, 2008

15 minues (or more) of fame

Some reporters at The Forum must be anxious to get into my blog because several style mistakes crossed my desk this week. I'm confident we -- by "we," I mean me and Forum universal desk copy editors -- caught most of them before they got into the newsprint and online versions of The Forum. Here are some examples:

Example one:
Raw copy, wrong--"led several Bismarck school children"
It should be--"led several Bismarck schoolchildren"

Example two:
Raw copy, wrong--"She offers 18 different types of cake flavors, with six different types of icing and 11 different kinds of filling."
It should be--"She offers 18 types of cake flavors, with six types of icing and 11 kinds of filling.
This mistake is becoming more frequent. There is no need to write different. It's understood that when you have 18 types of cake flavors, they're different.

Example three:
Raw copy, wrong--"the group's first annual state-by-state report card"
It should be--"the group's first state-by-state-report card"
AP Stylebook says: An event (or report card in this case) cannot be described as annual until it has been held (or released in this case) at least two successive years.

Example four:
Raw copy, wrong--"The four included whole wheat, wheat bran, rye and flax seed meal."
It should be--"The four comprise whole wheat, wheat bran, rye and flax seed meal."
The AP Stylebook has a simple explanation for this style mistake: Use include to introduce a series when the items that follow are only part of the total. In this case, the four types comprise the full list, so include shouldn't be included in the sentence.

That's it for now. The next post will include more recent style mistakes.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hammering home a point

Some style rules are consistently violated, no matter how many times I write about them. Today I'll offer some examples.

Example one:
Raw copy, wrong--"Great Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation"
It should be--"Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp."
AP Stylebook says: Abbreviate corporation as Corp. when a company or government agency uses the word at the end of its name.

Example two:
Raw copy, wrong--"4809 University Dr. S."
It should be--"4809 S. University Drive"
The style is: South University Drive, North University Drive, 1409 S. University Drive and 1409 N. University Drive.

Example three:
Raw copy, wrong--"helping at a daycare"
It should be--"helping at a day care"
Day care is two words. It's hyphenated as a modifier.
The same is true with health care. It's two words and hyphenated as a modifier.

Example four:
Raw copy, wrong--"with a diferent workforce"
It should be--"with a different work force"
Work force is two words standing alone and hypenated when it modifies.
AP Style also says workplace is one word.

Example five:
Raw copy, wrong--"Tuesday press conference" and "according to a press release"
It should be--"Tuesday news conference" and "according to a news release"
AP Stylebook says: News conference is preferred. I carried that over to news release.

Example six:
Raw copy, wrong--"print-for-pay providers world-wide" and "ban going metro-wide"
It should be--"print-for-pay providers worldwide" and "ban going metrowide"
AP Stylebook says:
-wide No hyphen. Some exampes: citywide, nationwide, continentwide, statewide, worldwide, countrywide, industrywide.
Wide- is usually hypenated. Some examples: wide-angle, wide-awake, wide-brimmed, wide-eyed, wide-open. Exception: widespread.

Example seven:
Raw copy, wrong--"122 N. Broadway"
It should be--"122 Broadway"
There is no north or south Broadway, and there is no north or south Elm Street.

Example eight:
Raw copy, wrong--"A passerby pulled the boy out."
It should be--"A passer-by (or passers-by) pulled the boy out."

Friday, February 1, 2008

Addressing style problems

Here are four more style mistakes:

Example one:
Raw copy, wrong--"officials for the City of Fargo," "officials for the City of Moorhead," "officials for the City of West Fargo," "officials for the City of Dilworth" and "officials for the City of (fill in the blank)"
It should be--"city of Fargo," "city of Moorhead," etc.

Example two:
Raw copy, wrong--"seatbelts" and "seatbelt law"
It should be--"seat belts" and "seat-belt law"
Seat belt is two words.

Example three:
Raw copy, wrong--"mid 1990s"
It should be--"mid-1990s"
AP Stylebook says: Use a hyphen when mid- precedes a figure: mid-30s. No hyphen unless a capitalized word follows. For example: mid-America, mid-Atlantic, midsemester, midterm.

Example four:
Raw copy, wrong--"raises between 4 and 9 percent"
It should be--"raises between 4 percent and 9 percent"
AP Stylebook says: Repeat percent with each individual figure.

Examples of repeat mistakes:

Example one:
Wrong--"on 40th Ave. west of 45th St." and "19th Ave. N. and 18th St. N."
Correct--"on 40th Avenue west of 45th Street" and "19th Avenue and 18th Street North"

Example two:
Wrong--"3636 25th Street South"
Correct--"3636 25th St. S."

Example three:
Wrong--"He arrives at 7:30 a.m. most mornings."
Correct--"He arrives at 7:30 most mornings."

Example four:
Wrong--"three buildings with 386,000-square-feet"
Correct--"three buildings with 386,000 square feet"
Hyphenate when it modifies.