Saturday, December 27, 2008

Case:Subjective, Objective, Possessive

Case (from:

Case is the grammatical function of a noun or pronoun. The three cases in modern English are subjective (he), objective (him) and possessive (his). They may seem more familiar in their old English form - nominative, accusative and genitive. There is no dative case in modern English.

First though the good news. You cannot really go wrong here, we have shed most of our cases and as a result English is easier than many other languages because nouns and some indefinite pronouns (anyone, someone, everyone, and so on) only have a distinctive case form for the possessive. However, a remnant of old English is that pronouns have distinctive forms in all three cases and must be used with care.

The pronoun cases are simple. There are just three:-
1. Subjective case: pronouns used as subject.
2. Objective case: pronouns used as objects of verbs or prepositions.
3. Possessive case: pronouns which express ownership.

Personal Pronoun




Referring to the

subject in a sentence

Referring to the object

in a sentence

The apostrophe form

of the word ("Lynne's).

























These pronouns, and who and its compounds, are the only words that are inflected in all three cases (subjective, objective, possessive). In nouns the first two cases (subjective and objective) are indistinguishable, and are called the common case. One result of this simplicity is that, the sense of case being almost lost, the few mistakes that can be made are made often, even by native speakers, some of them so often that they are now almost right by prescription.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Kinds of Headline Deks: Standard vs. Narrative

Standard drop (or dek) heds

Communities' recovery paces differ
Bouncing back from disaster could
take longer in less-well-off areas

State Attorney's Office gets astronaut case file
Nowak's arrest prompts review of psychological screening

N. Korea agrees to nuke deal
Main reactor to shut down within 60 days

One Year Later Golden Mosque Is Still in Ruins
Deep Scar in Sunni City
With a Shiite Shrine

Hybrids become more of a tough sell
Incentives offered on many models as gas prices fall

Seven Dead in Iraq Crash
U.S. chopper goes down near
Baghdad, fifth U.S. aircraft
lost in the past month

Narrative Drop (or Dek) Hed Examples
(Here, the second hed narrates a short story. It is written like a sentence, includes all the sort of words that would be excluded from a standard headline, and includes all the appropriate punctuation, including a period at end)

Quickly, here is an example of the difference:

Standard Hed:

Small towns, big dreams
County’s rural cities see downtown
revitalization as key to survival

Narrative Hed:

Small towns, big dreams
The county’s financially strapped
rural cities are hoping the ongoing
efforts at revitalizing their downtowns
will be their key to survival.

Narrative Examples

Grammy Vindication
The Dixie Chicks’ big win
has exposed tensions between
Nashville and Hollywood.

Ovations in Her 60s
Anja Silja’s life and career
are intertwined with legends.

So what does $250,000 get you these days?
The median resale price of a home in Central Florida has
hovered at a quarter of a million dollars for almost a year,
and analysts worry that figure could begin to fall.

Troops doubt intelligence quest in Iraq
A recent sweep for car-bomb
makers in Iraq has shown that
successes for U.S. intelligence
will take time to produce results.

Friday, November 21, 2008

AP's Note on Dictionaries

For spelling, style and usage questions not covered in this stylebook, consult Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, published by Wiley.Use the first spelling listed in Webster's New World College Dictionary unless a specific exception is listed in this book.

If Webster's New World College Dictionary provides different spellings in separate entries (tee shirt and T-shirt, for example), use the spelling that is followed by a full definition (T-shirt).

If Webster's New World College Dictionary provides definitions under two different spellings for the same sense of a word, either use is acceptable. For example, although or though.

If there is no listing in either this book or Webster's New World College Dictionary, the backup dictionary is Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, published by Merriam-Webster Inc.

Geographic Names

Webster's New World College Dictionary is also the first reference for geographic names not covered in this stylebook.

FOREIGN: The first source for the spelling of all foreign place names is Webster’s New World College Dictionary as follows:–Use the first-listed spelling if an entry gives more than one.–If the dictionary provides different spellings in separate entries, use the spelling that is followed by a full description of the location.
If the dictionary does not have an entry, use the first-listed spelling in the National Geographic Atlas of the World.On the

NEW NAMES: Follow the styles adopted by the United Nations and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names on new cities, new independent nations and nations that change their names.

Thursday, October 09, 2008



In an unusual twist to the sometimes bitter fight over bilingualism in Miami, complaints have been filed with the Dade County Fair Housing and Employment Appeals Board by two women …
Complaints have been filed with the Dade County Fair Housing and Employment Appeals Board by two women …

  • I raise this issue because it is an issue that arises often.
  • Editors here removed the clause in front of complaints –
  • “In an unusual twist to the sometimes bitter fight over bilingualism in Miami,”
  • because they felt unusual is an opinion term and didn’t feel it was necessary.
  • And, you would never remove it unilaterally. You would consult first with city desk or even the reporter.
  • As Professor Foley told you in reporting, it is the job of the journalist to make sense of a confusing world.
  • Often a good reporter who knows much about a subject and writes with authority can inform his or her stories with this kind of contextual matter derived from the hard work of reporting.
  • Certainly, these editors have good instincts here, but they need to be cautious. It is a balancing act and the editor needs to ensure that reporters do not say more than the truth.
  • This, of course, is WHY editors have to be aware of all the news in their community and nationally and internationally.

The issue arises again here -->
  • The issue of bilingualism has led to heated debate in Miami.
  • Editors note that heated sounds like opinion.
  • Here, again, the reporter is writing with authority and can say this if history shows it is so.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Would You Use This Photo?

The photo at the link below was selected as “best photo” by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association on the basis of:
  • Composition
  • Technical quality
  • Strong news value
  • Visual appeal
The question for you to answer in a comment to this post is: Would you use this photo. If yes or no, please explain why. Add your answer as comment to blog item. (There really is no right or wrong answer here. Just be able to defend your actions to your editor. (Grading: X if you do, 0 if you do not.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New Reporter's Advice

This is a blog post from an education reporter in Indiana--just two years out of school. She's talking about the equipment she carries wtih her, which includes several digital/multimedia items. It's also noteworthy because of the "other" things she carries, such as a lint brush to present a professional image.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Former Student Talks About His Job

Dr. Rodgers,

How are you doing? I hope all is well as the new semester begins.

I just wanted to let you know that I am now officially a member of the editorial team. I watch baseball games and produce all the online content surrounding them.

I know this is both unsolicited and perhaps not helpful, but I was asked to make a humorous introduction to the online world to present before a journalism class recently -- and I thought I would send you the short list I developed as well. It just lays out a few points regarding things that I didn't really know coming into the job that I thought would be really helpful for students getting ready for their first job online.

A Copyeditor’s guide to the Internet
The “How to watch baseball all day and get paid handsomely (well, not really) for it” Guide

  1. The new job title is “editorial producer.” It means little else than the Internet is too cool to have “copyeditors,” but you might win a few points with a recruiter if you know it.
  2. Editing a story is called “producing” it, and putting it onto the Internet is called “sending it live.”
  3. Learn how to write grabbing subheds. That’s right, everything gets a subhed. Some tips: Use present tense, use a clever headline and put the bland news in the subhed.
  4. The hours are horrible, and there’s no way around it. Be prepared to work from sundown until sunrise. Find friends that like to go out on Monday.
  5. Learn to edit and produce flawless work faster than you thought was fast. The motto in the online world is “send it live now, get it right later.” If you can send it live and get it right, someone might actually tell you you’re doing a great job. You’ll be amazed at how fast things get produced.
  6. Morale in the world of journalism is low. Don’t expect box seats at the Yankees game for a corporate outing anytime soon, or a raise.
  7. Don’t think because you’re an editor you won’t have to write. You may be called upon to write a couple grafs for a breaking story at any moment, and you’d better produce something that doesn’t embarrass you. Stick to the basics, but don’t think you won’t be writing.
  8. Your work will appear instantly, so be sure it’s good. Instead of waiting for tomorrow’s paper, you will have your headlines and other work displayed prominently before you head home. Be sure to save any clips you want that moment, because things change very quickly and can disappear.
  9. You will produce photo captions, write teasers, put together online packages and other items that involve short, succinct writing – but it’s the first thing anyone sees. You’re producing the full product now, not just writing headlines and designing, and your work is the grabber for the reader more than ever.
  10. Learn basic HTML, it’s all you need.
  11. Enjoy not having to wear anything that resembles a suit to work, and not having to fight traffic to get to and from work.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pollster Reports Nightmare

Pollster Reports Nightmare

by Bruce McCall August 11, 2008

A CBS/Pravda/Farmer’s Almanac/“Avatar: The Last Airbender” poll released today indicates that yesterday never happened for seventy-two per cent of all respondents, but, if it had, thirty-two per cent more Independents believe now than just last May that Barack Obama and John McCain are both leading in a race now too lopsided to call. Analysts observed that the poll was taken in a light drizzle at 4 A.M. E.D.T., before the high-income segment is awake, prompting observers to analyze the results as skewing in favor of CBS.

McCain pollsters claimed that the same survey, conducted five minutes after a New Orleans Times-Picayune/Bravo/Popular Mechanics poll among women age twenty to twenty-one who are not men, found that ninety-seven per cent of respondents were too far away to be interviewed. The impact of current economic concerns on Obama’s popularity among bipolar white prison inmates with less than a kindergarten education was not measured, but the person responsible for designing the poll has been fired because prison inmates cannot vote.

Surprising many veteran pollsters as these results were tallied—given that it has yet to be conducted—was a Hartford Courant/CNN/Starbucks poll to be taken by qualified voters who, an earlier ABC/Sacramento Bee/Publishers Clearing House straw poll predicted, expect a win for either the Democrats or the Republicans come November, unless Congress acts. Recent polls show that more women than men believe otherwise, by a majority of at least three to one.

Yet, in answer to the question “Would you go before a firing squad to protect higher pollen counts?,” fewer than .03 per cent of those who identified themselves as likely McCain voters understood the question. By a plurality of four to one and counting, not counting those who did not, the Undecideds squared off in a donnybrook with the Don’t Knows, broken up by the Have No Opinions Worth Mentioning. The I Forgets stood on the sidelines.

In sharp contrast to last year’s similar polling question, conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles for Indiana State University, only seventy-five per cent of respondents this year thought “with certainty” that they were being interviewed. The same seventy-five per cent also reported “moderate to severe” memory loss, a seeming rebuff to the well-financed pro-forgetfulness lobby.

Cheering the Obama camp, particularly after his Middle East visits, a Fox News/Toronto Star/Amway poll, released but not yet caught, charts a severe downturn in support for efforts not to not repeal the NAFTA treaty. But the influence on French public opinion of the marriage of President Nicolas Sarkozy and international hottie Carla Bruni will have to wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the normally reliable Quinnipiac University poll was travelling and was unavailable for comment. ♦

On Copy Editing

On Copy Editing

Sunday, August 24, 2008; 12:00 AM

Ombudsman Deborah Howell recently sent an all-newsroom e-mail asking Post staffers what they thought about copy editing and its worth at the paper. The following reply came from Metro copy editor Jeff Baron. Howell says, "It was such a good and succinct description of how copy editors see their work that I thought it was worth sharing with readers."

We all need editors. When we write, we might know what we mean to say, and we become blind to the looseness in our language and the gaps in our facts. Friends will ignore slips in e-mails, but newspaper readers should be able to expect a higher standard.

There's more involved than running a spell check. The copy editor needs to be a critical reader: Is the story missing necessary background or other information? Is it unfair? Is it libelous? Have crucial questions gone unasked? When the answer is yes, the copy editor is on the phone with the reporter or researching on the Internet to make things right, and to do it on deadline.

We have to be alert to ambiguities in the writing; if even five in a hundred readers are misled or baffled by the phrasing of a sentence, we have failed. Their lives are tough enough, and understanding a newspaper article shouldn't be hard work. We have to be the reader's advocates, straightening out twisted syntax (no matter that it's correct) when it does not serve the reader. We guard against cliches and jargon: When a police reporter mentions "an adult female," we turn her back into "a woman." We watch out for the badly strained figure of speech, that reference to "the inquiring eyes of Congress's investigative arm" that sounded right to the writer but would give a literal-minded reader nightmares.

We check the facts, to the extent we can. No obituary subject ever worked for the Institute for Defense Analysis -- it's the Institute for Defense Analyses.

And we are the defenders of proper grammar, usage, spelling and what publications call style: when to capitalize, when to use numerals or spell out the numbers, etc. Copy editors might be the only people who can discuss, cheerfully and seriously and on their own time, when to hyphenate a compound adjective. Normal people, I have found, deeply do not care.

Some mistakes jump out: I love finding the comically wrong homonyms, the core for corps, the pour for pore, the ordinance for ordnance. Some are more subtle: It's easy to miss errors in quotations because our training tells us to leave quotations alone, but if the reporter has left out or misinterpreted a word or two, it's the copy editor's job to notice and ask.

I consider my workday worthwhile if I've made one especially good catch or written one sterling headline.

Yes, let's not forget, we're the ones who write the headlines. The best of them draw the reader and capture the essence of the article. They can be lyrical or hard-hitting, as appropriate, but they have to make sense while fitting the space constraints laid down by our dear but slightly sadistic page designers. The headlines satisfy our love of word games, allowing us to play with the rhythm and the look of the language. We spend far more time editing the articles, but headlines give us more latitude, more of a chance to be creative. In sports terms, the editing is the dependable defense that wins games, but it's the best headlines that make the highlight reel.

We do this work, generally, at night, with no stopping for holidays or weekends. We do not have social lives. If we have families, we do not see them much. We get precious little personal glory: The work is strictly anonymous. And we don't get much in the way of money, either: A chart just released by our union shows that The Post's copy editors earn noticeably less than its reporters, photographers, page designers and graphic artists.

We have the satisfaction of helping turn rushed prose into a great newspaper. We have the respect of the superb reporters whose butts we sometimes save. And as The Post and other newspapers make do with fewer of us, putting fewer pairs of eyes on each column of type, I'm afraid readers will notice us by the mistakes we no longer keep out of print.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grammar Books

Need a good grammar book that you could keep as a professional text?

Some good options are:

Working With Words: A Handbook for Media Writers and Editors by Brian S. Brooks

When Words Collide: A Media Writer's Guide to Grammar and Style by Lauren Kessler & Duncan McDonald

Grammar for Journalists by E. L. Callihan (out of print, but you could probably find it used)

Some links to online book stores:

abebooks: by ebay
List of Bookstores on the Web

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Letter From a Former Student

Dr. R.,

I wanted to write you an e-mail because I just had a great work experience and have you to credit for it.

At my internship, I told one of the managers I have an interest in editing and she proceeded to give me a few writing samples to edit. I had a meeting today with the writer, who is himself an editor for his department, and he praised and complimented the work I did. He commented that I was able to eliminate needless words (concision) and was surprised I noticed that some of his figures were inconsistent (always check the math).

I told him about a lot of the exercises we did in class, and he wanted me to pass along praise to you for teaching us all that you did.

While I realize I am tooting my own horn a bit here, I wanted to let you know that all the exercises and activities we did are extremely helpful for what I am doing now. If any of your students ever ask why they have to do them, simply tell them you never know when you're going to need to use that skill in the real world – I certainly never thought the editing exercises done in class would be as similar as writings I am doing in the big, bad corporate world.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wire Terminology

Read Wire Terminology at link below.

This is a summary distributed by AP. Read it for basic understanding of the coding in wire stories.

Writing Cutlines

Cutline Checklist*

Here are some tips for writing good cutlines:

  • Is it complete? Is there anything unusual in the picture that is not explained in the cutline?
  • Does it identify? Identification is the basic purpose of a cutline.
  • Does it tell when and
  • Where the picture was shot?
  • Does it tell what is in the picture, not what is in the story? (In other words, don’t repeat the lead of the story.)
  • Does it avoid repeating word for word a sentence or passage directly from the story? (Just as a headline should not echo the lead of a story, a cutline should not repeat verbatim sentences or passages from story. That is lazy editing.)
  • Does it have the names right? This means are they spelled correctly and in correct order (from left).
  • Is it easy to read? The sentences must be short, direct and in proper sequence.
  • Is it specific? Does it give information on specific points of interest in the picture, or does it merely echo the obvious?
  • Does it have adjectives? Let the reader decide whether the subject is “middle-aged,” “glamorous” and so on. Also, don’t interpret emotions.
  • Does the picture suggest another picture? Going to press without the other picture is like running a story before getting all the facts.
  • Use present tense in the first sentence that gives identification, the who and what in the picture, and what is happening.
  • Use another tense in following sentences and use time element.
  • Be clever, but not cutesy
  • Try for identification, but don’t stress fact it is unknown. Find a label for those pictured.
  • Identify from left to right, and indicated with left if it is not obvious.
  • Use full sentences.

*Some of this comes from the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Newspaper Committee under the leadership of Emmett Dedmon of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Note to Dr. R's Labs

Key Words & Online Heds
  • KEY WORDS: For every headline you write in this lab you are expected to put above the headline several key words. I will take off points if they are missing.
  • For purposes of this class, one column = 2 inches
  • Also, every story you edit should also include an online headline of about 12 to 15 words labeled as the "online hed."

Finding Key Words For Headlines

Finding key words for headlines

By Frederick Vultee • University of Missouri •

After “semester upon semester of saying ‘The news isn't in the relative clause. The news isn't in the relative clause,’” Frederick Vultee devised this approach for helping his students find key words for headlines.


How to find key words for a headline

Find the first independent clause in the story and list the simple subject, simple predicate and direct object. In other words:

WHO _______________
did WHAT _______________
to WHOM ________________ ?

WHERE was it done? ______________________ ?

Now look for dependent clauses and participial phrases.

A participial phrase might tell you WHY
you care about the verb: _________________________________________

(A car bomb exploded in Beirut today, killing a former prime minister.)

A relative clause often tells WHY
you care about the subject or object: _______________________________

(The man who performed the world’s first heart transplant died today.)

REMEMBER: If your headline’s verb comes from a relative clause, you have the wrong headline:

Man performs heart transplant
– vs. –
Heart transplant pioneer dies

Which noun is more important to your story:

SUBJECT (think active voice)
OBJECT (think passive voice) ?

Can you omit any grammatical steps?

Smith files a lawsuit against Jones
subj verb direct object indirect object

Smith sues Jones
subj verb direct object

A man who was charged in last week’s robbery
subj relative clause prepositional phrase

A suspect in last week’s robbery
subj prepositional phrase

Science of Headline Writing

The Science of Headline Writing

1. No. 1 Rule: Headlines must tell the reader what the story's about

2. Headlines must be accurate

3. Headlines must be fair

4. Headlines must fit and fill the space allotted

5. The headline’s tone must be consistent with the nature of the story

6. The headline’s tone must be consistent with the personality of the publication

7. The headline can't say more than the story says

8. In other words, the story must support the headline

9. The headline needs to persuade the reader to read the story.

Headline Checklist – Things to Avoid

1. Inappropriate language or a tone that doesn't fit the story.

2. Exaggerating conflict, danger, criticism, etc.

3. Editorialization or words that suggest an opinion of the head-writer.

4. A "negative" head using the word "not.“

5. Conclusions the story doesn't back up.

6. Inappropriate assumptions or interpretations.

7. Piled-up adjectives or other modifiers that detract from clarity.

8. A "label head," unless omitting the verb helps the head or the count is so short that a "book title" head is the only way out.

9. Assumptions that the reader has been following the story daily.

10. Obscure names that readers won't instantly recognize.

11. Undue familiarity, often by using a person's first name.

12. Abbreviations or acronyms that are not instantly recognizable.

13. Jargon, which clouds the meaning for readers.

14. Cliches, which are neither creative nor compelling.

15. Meanings the reader won't "get" until the story is read.

16. Echoing the lede or stealing the punchline.

17. A hard-news head based on facts far down in the story.

18. Puns in heads on serious news stories.

19. Putting first-day heads on second-day stories.

20. Using "question" or "colon" heads routinely.

An Interview With John McIntyre

John McIntyre, former president of the American Copy Editors Society ACES and an assistant managing editor at the Baltimore Sun. He likened writing headlines to a combination of playing Scrabble and completing a crossword puzzle.

Q: What should readers reasonably expect from headlines?

McIntyre: Accuracy, clarity and precision. Liveliness and originality are important to capturing the reader's interest, but they are secondary to accuracy.

Q: What challenges do copy editors face in meeting those expectations?

McIntyre: There is seldom enough time to polish and refine headlines as much as copy editors would like. And the lack of time also comes up against the fundamental challenge: distilling the sense of an entire article into half a dozen words.

Q: What are the uppermost cardinal rules of good headline writing?

McIntyre: Try to follow the vocabulary and syntax of conversational English insofar as you can. Avoid headlinese ("Solons slate parley") and wretched, obvious wordplay ("purr-fect" for any story about cats).

Q: What was the worst headline?

McIntyre: You want to write a famous headline? Write a bad one. "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" is still the most famous headline in American journalism.