Friday, June 25, 2004

From the brevity files
Spotted this one recently in a national dispatch on one of the beheadings in Iraq:
In Washington, the killing brought swift criticism from President Bush, who described it as a "barbaric" act.

We do an awful lot of "bringing" criticism and the like in journalism. Write it more directly:
In Washington, President Bush swiftly described the killing as "barbaric."


At 6/25/04, 8:17 PM, Blogger Tara said...

Your re-write is great, though I'd even eliminate swiftly or replace it with a non-adverb (making up words here now!). :)

At 6/25/04, 8:34 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

And here I thought I'd just get somebody posting a wise-acre crack about pairing "swift" with Bush.
I know what you're saying, but I'm not sure I see much alternative beyond an adverb. Part of the point of the sentence was to emphasize the switness with which he responded. I'm not sure there's an adequate verb here to do that.

At 6/28/04, 5:33 PM, Blogger Mike said...

The rewrite makes it sound like Bush's words came out of his mouth swiftly. Swift criticism, on the other hand, sounds like Bush criticized the act shortly after it happened. I have no problem with the original phrasing. The popularity may be due in part to the fact that it just sounds nicer.

At 6/28/04, 5:39 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Furthermore, I think this ignores the fact that "swift" is an editorial determination. Why not simply say that Bush called the beheadings barbaric? Readers will decide for themselves if his criticism was swift.

At 6/28/04, 5:55 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6/28/04, 5:56 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Point well taken, but can't agree on the original, which is the typical overwritten Washington stuff.
Better then to use "quickly" (or even quick in the original -- I think that's easily defensible by looking at a watch. I was just trying to hew to the original to highlight the excess verbiage) ... In Washington, President Bush quickly described the killing as "barbaric." Or even shorter ... quickly called the killing "barbaric."
Saying "it brought swift criticism" is rather unnecessary unless one can interpret "barbaric" another way.


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