Tuesday, May 31, 2005

WSJ: New city names, and editors' pet peeves

Quick, where is Mumbai? How about Chennai? Or Kolkata?

If you couldn't answer those quickly, study up. The Wall Street Journal is changing style on Indian cities. Mumbai = Bombay, Chennai=Madras and Kolkata = Calcutta.

As the WSJ's style & substance newsletter says, "The new official names now are commonly used in India and elsewhere, although the AP and Reuters haven't yet adopted them."

The latest S&S also has a list of pet peeves from the copy desk:
  • Dreaded dangler disease: That tendency by writers to want to pack so much in that they end up backing into the wrong word to be modified. The newsletter has a dandy, the (relatively) rare gerund dangler: "After facing one of the biggest legal assaults in corporate history, the smoke is clearing for Philip Morris USA." You just knew all that stuff was smoke (and mirrors) ...
  • Multiplier malady: As often said here at Common Sense Central and elsewhere, it's X times as much and X times as likely, not X times more than or X times more likely than.
  • Wandering only syndrome: I bet you could only say this a hundred more times and ... oops, make that say this only a hundred more ...
  • Modifier malignancy: Example, "Huge was used 73 times in a week in Journal stories."
  • Biggest blight: Sensible advice -- if you're going to call something the biggest, make darn sure it is. And tell the readers how you know that.
  • Segue syndrome: Moreover and to be sure, these expressions are indeed being overused. Meanwhile, in sports ...
Some others: Misuse of they for it when referring to companies, using grow as a verb, using dashes where commas will do, using another for an additional when the numbers being compared aren't the same.

I say take 'em out and shoot 'em.


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