Sunday, June 25, 2006

Taking care of the small things

The (Columbia) State's Ron Morris did a fine job today highlighting the problems of youth pitchers being overused and abused in Little League, Dixie Youth League and others up through high school. As a former coach, I'm glad to see it writen about.

It was generally well-edited, too, given the length and multiple stories. But a few things can be instructive. Yes, they are small things -- details even. Yet to those who would disdain such things as being nit picky, I'd simply say that is exactly what copy editors are supposed to do, deal with the details as well as the larger problems. These kinds of details subtly, but very concretely, make our prose easier to read. And that's what it is all about.

One paragraph, multiple problems

Kremchek said a correlation between arm injuries and overuse cannot be proven because there is little or no hard data to back such claims. But Kremchek said until data becomes available, any claims to the contrary are much like those in the tobacco industry, who once said there was no correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

Some things to be addressed
  • Proved is the preferred form for the verb.
  • Get rid of the "there is" and write more directly
  • Industry is a "which," not a "who." (If, for some reason, you think the "those in the tobacco industry" refers to people, then leave the who, but take out the comma. But that doesn't make sense to me; those would correctly seem to refer to "claims.")
  • I also happen to like "that" after "said" in the second graf just to be very clear he isn't saying it until data become available.
There's also the matter of whether "data" can be singular or plural. For the purists out there, yes, I think the plural form is better here because the data are not all coming in as one chunk. But it's a marginal argument.

Kremchek said a correlation between arm injuries and overuse cannot be proved because little or no hard data back such claims. But Kremchek said that until data become available, any claims to the contrary are much like those in the tobacco industry, which once said there was no correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

(After looking at it further, I also deleted "hard." What is the difference between data and "hard" data? If it isn't "hard," it's called anecdote. That's another of those phrases we slip into.)

A couple of other instructive grafs:

According to a recent New York Times story, there now are an estimated 30,000 teams nationally playing travel ball. That figure does not include thousands of teams within structured organizations such as Dixie Youth Baseball, Little League Baseball and American Legion Baseball.
(Written more directly) According to a recent New York Times story, an estimated 30,000 teams nationally play travel ball. That does not include thousands of teams within structured organizations such as Dixie Youth Baseball, Little League Baseball and American Legion Baseball.

Players in warm-weather states, which includes South Carolina, could be involved in as many as 80 to 100 games a year.
(The relative pronoun, "which," refers to the plural "states," so get the verb correct) Players in warm-weather states, which include South Carolina, could be involved in as many as 80 to 100 games a year.

Billy Deaton, a national director for Dixie Youth Baseball, said there has been some discussion about rules changes but it is unlikely that a pitch count would be instituted for the 2007 season.
(Put "that" in the correct position to reflect joined thoughts and tighten by writing more directly) Billy Deaton, a national director for Dixie Youth Baseball, said there has been some discussion about rules changes but that a pitch count is unlikely for the 2007 season. (Can we say "next" season instead? Since this story is in the summer, it depends on whether fall ball is considered a "season.")

2 Comments:

At 6/27/06, 4:04 PM, Blogger sbchurl said...

I think the arguments for singular 'data' are overwhelming: see Data is a singular noun. To my ear, plural 'data' sounds forced.

I would also change "claims...in the tobacco industry" to the unambiguous "claims...formerly made by the tobacco industry." But maybe that's just me.

 
At 6/27/06, 7:10 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Yes, that's why I said the argument was marginal. However, there can be some basis for it here where I think "data" is more in the sense of data sets -- there are likely to be various studies. So I can see an argument for the plural.

And following on your second observation, even better would be a more extensive rewrite:
But Kremchek said that until data become available, any claims to the contrary are much like former tobacco industry claims of no correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

 

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