Friday, February 13, 2009

In writing, measure twice, cut once

PR industry consultant Sam Whitmore has been tracking editorial accuracy (as if he doesn't have enough to do!). It falls loosely under the umbrella that smaller editorial staffs are doing more work and stress cracks are emerging. He used as an example an error in a Wall Street Journal story about an SAP product. His email blast today contained the following:
It turns out that the WSJ no longer has a copy desk per se. Senior editors still read and edit stories, but recent layoffs have decimated the layer of fit-and-finish wordsmiths -- copy editors and slot readers -- that reinforced the WSJ's hard-earned reputation for excellence. Also, WSJ production systems don't make it easy for reporters see a headline before it runs. This creates risk when stories are technical, like the SAP piece.
This anecdote illuminates a ignored problem within digital publishing: When a piece of content is published, regardless of when it's corrected, the original incorrect version not only can get into millions of hands quickly but can also exist in certain forms even after the correction.
The moral to the story? Similar to a carpenter (who should measure twice, cut once): edit many, publish once.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Apostrophe Catastrophe Continues

Earlier this month I blogged about about the lingua lunacy that's infiltrated elected officials in Birmingham, England. In short, they're ignoring them on public signs.
An updated dispatch from the Daily Telegraph indicates the good guys are still losing the good fight.
Wakefield Council in West Yorkshire said that it did not include the punctuation mark on road signs "to avoid confusion", even where the name was intended to take the possessive.
One of the good guys turns out to be the uncle of an EE Times colleague of mine, David Blaza.

Allan Blaza of the Pontefract Civic Society accused the council of ducking its responsibility to maintain standards.

He said: "I think it's a cop out. I'm sufficiently rigorous when it comes to the English language, which is a magnificent language, to feel sure that all the grammatical necessities – not niceties – should be observed."

Here, here, Mr. Blaza. Now that said, check out the photos here. The upper photo is from the earlier coverage and shows no apostrophe. The lower photo is from the more recent story. It has an apostrophe but appears to be a different sign placed in a slightly different position near the church.
So there's hope.


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