Friday, December 09, 2005


Thursday, December 08, 2005

St. Petersburg's Poynter Institute hustles ethics drive-by for journalists. Its web page features emergency ethics hyperlink for members of the greenshade priesthood in need of ad-hoc-ethics coaching on the fly. Nobody asked the Poynter ethics mandarins about the ethics of sitting on one's lazy, gutless ass during the run-up to the Iraq war and taking dictation from White House apparatchiks.

Nor has Poynter yet issued a white paper on Bob Woodward's sell-out to become press flunky for Cheney et al.

Le Mark D. Ludwig, cardinal of Poynter's Holy See, gives himself gloss of assistant-professor from California State. He poses as expert in communications. I may file official Poynter ethics charge against Le Ludwig for offenses against language despite his claim of expertise in communications.The fellow suffers wordiness and ignorance of subjunctive mood. Until he masters these afflictions, I can't endorse him as writing or ethics wise guy.

I feature only one of Professor Mark'ss unlovely sentences below since I must forge on to George Will's and David Brook's flawed productions.

The Poynter faculty has fifteen members, eleven of which are male. I tussled with Vice President Dr. Roy Peter Clark about faculty sexist disparity. Dr. Clark is tetchy about his right to chauvinist hypocrisy and waxed wroth at St. Petersburg Tiger Bay when I confronted him. He accused me of racism because Poynter director is Black woman Dr. Karen Dunlap. I told sexist Clark not to try to hide behind a Black woman's skirts. Things went downhill from there.

Mark D. Ludwig (from the Poynter Institute site), Assistant Professor of Communication, Studies California State University, Sacramento

When I worked as a copy editor, it was my fantasy that the newspaper would go--condition contrary to fact: subjunctive, not indicative, mood to press once -- just once -- without the benefit of having gone through the copy desk. 33 words Edit: "My fantasy as copy editor was that the newspaper go to press just once without copy-desk review."17 words

The Inalienable Right to a Remote By George F. Will Thursday, December 8, 2005; Page A33

Feeling, evidently, flush with (other people's) cash, the Senate has concocted a novel way to spend $3 billion: create a new entitlement. The Senate has passed Tense sequence: should be past tense, not present perfect. and so has the House, with differences -- an entitlement to digital television.

"Evidently" is a stocking-stuffer adverb that Strunk & White would condemn. "Other people's" contributes to wordiness. The comma after "House" is redundant: the prepositional phrase "with differences" is restrictive. The House passed the entitlement "with differences," not with concurrence.

If you think America is suffering an entitlement glut, you may have just hurled the newspaper across the room. Pick it up and read on, because this story illustrates the timeless truth that no matter how deeply you distrust the government's judgment, you are too trusting.

The comma after "on" is redundant: the trailing adverbial clause is restrictive. Most trailing adverbial modifiers are restrictive and merit no comma before them. "Timeless" is a redundant modifier (Strunk & White). "Truth" requires no qualifier. A comma after "timeless truth" would encircle the adverbial modifier "no...judgment." The writer has the latter, but not the first, comma right.

Why is this a crisis? Because, although programming currently is broadcast in both modes, by April 2009 broadcasters must end analog transmissions and the government will have auctioned the analog frequencies for various telecommunications purposes. For the vast majority of Americans, April 2009 will mean . . . absolutely nothing. Nationwide, 85 percent of all television households (and 63 percent of households below the poverty line) already have cable or satellite service.

Using "this" without an antecedent is ok if the reader doesn't have to plow through the preceding paragraph or infer antecedent as is the case here. A careful writer would provide something such as "this boondoggle." Mr. Will should move one of his redundant commas to after "transmissions": two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction require a comma before the coordinating conjunction. "Vast majority" is moss-grown cliche. "Absolutely" is another flatulent adverb that would make Strunk & White's authors cringe.

What will become of households that do not? Leaving aside such eccentric alternative pastimes as conversation and reading, the digitally deprived could pursue happiness by buying a new television set, all of which will be digital-capable by March 2007. Today a digital-capable set with a flat-screen display can be purchased from -- liberals, please pardon the mention of your Great Satan -- Wal-Mart for less than $460.

"Alternative" is a redundant adjective: Strunk & White doesn't like redundant adjectives any more than it likes redundant adverbs. Logic: "all of which" refers to one televsion set. The passive verb exacerbates Mr. Will's bow-tie aura of prancing preciosity. He should use muscular active verb: "Today people can buy a digital-capable set."

Remember, although it is difficult to do so, that Republicans control Congress. And today's up-to-date conservatism does not stand idly by expecting people to actually pursue happiness on their own. Hence the new entitlement from Congress to help all Americans acquire converter boxes to put on top of old analog sets, making the sets able to receive digital programming. All Americans -- rich and poor; it is uncompassionate to discriminate on the basis of money when dispersing money -- will be equally entitled to the help.

The "although" clause is padding. Avoid flabby "it" construction as in the contorted specimen: Edit: "Discriminating on the basis of money when distributing money is not compassionate, so all get help." "Stand idly by" is cliche hoary from overuse by small-town weeklies, the editors of which take a semester's instruction at the state university and return as intellectual light of the town. Born in White Oak, Georgia, I know this situation first hand.

The "Hence" construction blazons whopper grammar offense: fragment. Redundant modifiers have a malignant hold on Le Will's mind. He should sacrifice "equally" on the altar of Strunk & White.

The $990 million House version of this entitlement -- call it No Couch Potato Left Behind -- is (relatively) parsimonious: Consumers would get vouchers worth only $40 and would be restricted to a measly two vouchers per household. The Senate's more spacious entitlement would pay for most of the cost -- $50 to $60 -- of the converter boxes. But there is Republican rigor in this: Consumers would be required to pay $10. That is the conservatism in compassionate conservatism.

The parenthetical "relatively" adverb ranks stuffing. "Would be required" passive verb should be active "would pay."

Gattuso says defenders of this entitlement argue that taxpayers will not be burdened by its costs because the government's sale of the analog frequencies will yield perhaps $10 billion.

Passive construction: Edit--"Gattuso says that this entitlement will not cost taxpayers."

Le Will suffers addiction to modifiers; weakness for passive voice; wordiness; and a tone that aims for Olympian but comes off stuffed-shirt. His too-frequent parentheses make readers feel he thinks them dumb. He should avoid parenthetical expressions.

Mr. Brooks: I promised not to rebuke your comma errors after you wrote paean to marriage and endorsed gay unions. I lied. This column deserves grammar-punctuation rebuke to ricochet off its smirking triumphalism. The grammar gloves come back off.

Lee Drury De Cesare

It begins in the wilderness, in the early 1950's, with Russell Kirk, Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley Jr. writing tracts for small bands of true believers.

The commas around the adverbial prepositional phrase "in the early 1950s" are redundant. That phrase is restrictive: the wilderness conservative conclave began in the '50s, not the '60s. "Kirk," "Friedman," and "Buckley" all get apostrophe s's: possessive before the gerund "writing."

The Democrats don't even know the state of play.

Misplaced modifier: "even" goes before "the state."

...few Reaganites actually knew how to run a government.

Featherbedding wordiness: dump "actually" for the sake of Strunk & White.

It was only this week that we can truly say the exodus story is over, with the success of the Medicare reform bill.

This is a limping construction beginning with weak expletive " it." "It was only" and "truly" pad. Edit: "With success of the Medicare-reform bill, the exodus story is over." 23 versus 10 words When flabby or crisp expression presents itself: you choose flabby. You lack rhetorical taste, Mr. Brooks.

If you are the AARP, seeking a benefit, you have to go to the Republicans. If you are a centrist Democrat like John Breaux or Max Baucus seeking to pass legislation, you have to work with the Republicans.

The participial phrase after "AARP" is restrictive just as the "seeking" participial phrase after "Baucus" is restrictive. You are right to use no comma in the second instance.

They get to sputter about fiscal irresponsibility, just as the green-eyeshade Republicans used to, as the majority party uses the power of the purse to buy votes.

The adverbial clause "just..." is restrictive: no commas.

The Republicans are now in the habit of winning, and are on permanent offense on all fronts.

You split a compound verb with a comma. Omit it. Redaction: "Republicans' acquiring the habit of winning puts them on offense on all fronts." 17 versus 13 words

They have even come to occupy the Democratic holy of the holies, the welfare state.

Misplaced modifier: "even" should go before "the Democratic." You misplace "even" for a second time here. Review your grammar primer on modifier placement.

This week we saw dozens of conservatives, who once believed in limited government, vote for a new spending program that will cost over $2 trillion over the next 20 years.

The "who..." adjectival clause is restrictive: no commas. The "dozens of conservatives" phrase does not encompass all conservatives.

I begged Mr. Sulzberger to hire a qualified woman to break Ms. Dowd's hold on token-woman status on the op-ed page. He hired you. Now he reaps the punctuation errors of his decision, not that he recognizes them.

Frank Rich

Not only did the White House let that provision die to preserve its main goal, a top-heavy reduction of tax rates, but in fighting for an end to the estate tax it has also eliminated an added incentive for the wealthy to donate to charity.

Mr. Rich, you need a comma after "tax." You have an introductory verbal phrase (preposition plus gerund phrase as its object). These introductory verbal phrases merit a comma after them.

But in truth Mr. Bush hasn't changed, it's just the Washington perception of him that has.

The "in truth" is throat clearing: omit it. You commit a felony comma splice. "It" constructions are weak. "It" lacks antecedent. Suggested replacement: "Washington's perception of him has." Shorter is usually better.

You are right about Mr. Broder. This press Polonius reigns as solemn vector of received wisdom from the empyrean or some exalted place of gas and light. That he sports the title "Dean" says something about the intellectual vacuity inside the beltway.

Lee De Cesare

Mr. Gailey: I espied your essay 'I Came..." during my masthead search to see whether women still repine in The St. Petersburg Times basement. They do.

I read your piece to judge the writing felicity of the pooh-bah second to Woton-Paul Tash.Your tone leaks irascible condescension. You deem as silly reader outcry questioning your not seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 before condemning it. Seeing the movie to shut up the big reader babies confirmed, not challenged, your preconceived opinion.

I won't argue your right to wallow in wrongheaded mind-set and to expatiate on it in a paper at which you reign lord chamberlain and doubtless sport a well-filled stocking and pre-Cialis codpiece whilst preening other emblems of exalted office. Polonius would be pea green with envy. I will, however, dispute language. Excerpted are specimens from your essay:

That said, let me give Michael Moore his due for the last third of Fahrenheit 9/11, which confronts audiences with gruesome and bloody images of death and suffering in Iraq, by both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, that they will never see on the network evening news.

Flagged commas cut off a restrictive adjectival prepositional phrase. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, not mullahs and belly dancers, model the images. Style: you over-modify passim. Dump either "gruesome" or "bloody."

Moore does not mention that it was Richard Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief and a holdover from the Clinton administration, who made the decision to allow the Saudis to leave.

The expletive "it" produces flabby writing. Eschew the device. Edit: "Moore does not mention that Richard Clarke...made the decision to allow the Saudis to leave."

...that Bush is using the nation's post-9/11 anxiety for his own re-election purposes and to keep the nation at war to benefit his friends.

Parallelism falters. Edit: "Bush uses the nation's post-9/11 anxiety to promote his election and to keep the nation..."

Or that Clarke has since become one of Bush's harshest critics on both the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq. It's clear why Moore didn't use Clarke in the movie.

One allows a genius artful fragments, not newspaper opiners. A standard sentence must replace this fragment beginning with "Or." Another boggy expletive construction appears here, and one mars your essay's exit sentence. Recast both to jettison offending expletives.

Mr. Rodney Thrash must occupy a low rung at The Times, probably little above that of women. The same edition sees his report on the Pacifica speaker's night-time appearance at Tampa Performing Arts Center. Had I known him present, I would have sought the boy out to give him a pat on the head. Sleep deprived, Rodney stumbles into vague pronoun reference and case error in "Critic...."

Goodman said that it taught her that people are hungry for outlets that present all perspectives, no matter who they offend.

"It" lacks antecedent. Mr. Thrash could replace "it" with "the experience." "Who" should be "whom," object of the verb "offend." I have seen big-city-papers make this error. Maureen Dowd did twice in one essay that I recall. She is a woman. Owning up to the error won't bother her.

And "don't pick on Mr. Thrush for lapses. He made fewer than did you, and you have been writing for a hundred years with leisure to learn grammar and punctuation, although this essay testifies that you chose to spend spare minutes at the water cooler.

While straining to take notes in Arts-Center-balcony gloom, Thrush fretted over inability to pay rent on the pittance that The Times vouchsafes him--an instance of wealth transfer from worker bees to augment bloated salary and perquisites for lord-chamberlain- management VIP layabouts. Meanwhile, while Master Thrush toils far into the night, the grandee receiving the let-them-eat-cake largesse bled from proletariat employees lies long abed on 600-thread-count French sheets bought on a Times-reimbursed-executive-privilege-faux-management-tra-la-la-expense-account junket at some pricey Paris Lit, Bath, et LÃ -bas off the Avenue de Breteuil.

In addition to no night duty and voluptuous linens, this cosseted chamberlain has license to make writing errors, cleave to idiosyncratic views, and condescend to readers hey nonny nonny. Drudge affirms him to be on the Saudi payroll as well.

Very, very respectfully yours,

lee drury de cesare


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

free webpage hit counter