Thursday, December 31, 2009

Who Are You?

Please paste this brief survey as your first blog post for this class with answers to the questions below - and feel free to add anything else you think might be relevant.

Who Are You?

Name: What year?


  • Where are you from?
  • Why did you come to the University of Florida?
  • Major?
  • Why are you taking this course (besides the fact it is required)?
  • Outside interests, hobbies, avocations, things you love to do?
  • Tell me one interesting thing about you – something that makes you unique.
  • Are you the first person in your family to attend a university?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being top-notch, how would you rate your knowledge of grammar, punctuation and AP style?
  • On the same scale, how would you rate your skills with working with InDesign and PhotoShop and with online media in general?
  • What online skills do you feel you are proficient at?
  • Where do you get most of your news?
  • What books are you reading and have read in the last three months?
  • Career Goals? Be specific as possible. Elaborate a bit.
  • What magazines, newspapers and news Web sites do you read regularly?
  • What is your favorite Web site?
  • Do you blog?
  • Do you have any media/communication experience? If so, what?
  • Are you pursuing a media related internship or job at this time?
  • Do you have an updated resume in your files?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Editing PR Speak

Twice a year I help one of the trade magazines I freelance for gear up for the NAMM Show, which means I spend a few hours a day for about a month editing PR Speak out of press releases for the latest guitars, drums and gadgets hitting the market from the biggest instrument manufacturers in the industry.

That means twice a year I’m reminded why most journalists condescendingly call publicists and press release writers J-School Dropouts behind their backs.

Here are a few examples of adjectives that appear in just about every release I’ve edited in the past week that all PR representatives should strike from their vocabularies when describing their company’s products:

  • Noteworthy
  • Incredibly
  • Beautiful
  • Stunning
  • Gorgeous
  • Cutting-edge
  • Top-quality
  • State-of-the-art
  • Ingenious
  • Unprecedented
  • Best

Just the facts, please.

See, too this excerpt on writing press releases that insists they should be written in "news style" and "avoid the first person.

The French poodle rule

The French poodle rule is fairly straightforward.

French is a proper noun and therefore is capitalized.

But poodle is a common noun. There is no province called Poodle. Thus, poodle is lowercase in news style, no matter if the American Kennel Club
insists it is up in their press releases and on their Web site.

Thus, as with so many things in writing and editing to style, we need to extrapolate to other instances of this in considering whether the first letter of a word is up or down. Sometimes, of course, that takes some research to determine if a name is derived from a proper noun.

Feel free to comment on this topic below.

Feel free to comment

No or Any

The New York Times reported the NCAA is looking into Tennessee's use of hostesses to attract top football players. The NCAA has met with four prospects and is expected to talk to two more this week.

This is passage from NYT story:

Marcus Lattimore, a running back who made an unofficial visit to Tennessee but said he would not enroll there, said multiple Tennessee hostesses attended a game at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., in September. He said they brought signs, including one that read, “Come to Tennessee.”

“I haven’t seen no other schools do that,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

This is passage from St. Pete Times story:

Lattimore said he was not interested in committing. But two teammates, defensive ends Brandon Willis and Corey Miller, have done so orally. Lattimore called the hostesses pretty and real cool.

"I haven't seen any other schools do that," Lattimore said. "It's crazy."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Questions for Midterm Review

Load as comment any questions you have for next week's Midterm.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Chapter 15


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 14


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 13


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 12


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 11


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 10


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 9


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 8


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 7


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 6


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 5


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 4


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 3


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 2:


  1. Read
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter 1: Introduction to Focused Editing


Read: How to be a Journalism Student

On Close/Critical/Focused Editing
  1. Read introduction to "Line by Line Editing" : The line-by-line editor looks at each sentence analytically, seeing its components and inner workings, using grammatical concepts as a set of tools for detecting and eliminating flaws. If you simply recognize that a sentence sounds bad, you can't necessarily pinpoint and correct what's wrong. Like the driver who know that the car won't start but has no idea what to look for under the dutifully raised hood, you can only fiddle with this and that in hit-or-miss fashion.
  2. Read What is Critical Reading?
  3. Read On Close Editing
Mastering Grammar for Journalists -
  1. XX - See e-Learning for PowerPoint on XXX

Chapter X - Reporting/Checking/Researching the Facts

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cops/Courts By the Book

Time Spent

Some reporters and editors have a problem with this construction and try to rewrite in various contortions, but it is pretty standard the way it is here.

Nazir was sentenced to the time he has spent in jail. OR Nazir was sentenced to time spent. See examples:

  1. He stood a Bench trial, was found guilty and was sentenced to time spent in jail awaiting trial, plus probation and parole ...
  2. Petrovic was sentenced to time spent in jail before trial, four-and-a-half-months, and payment of a $100 special assessment. The guilty verdict for the ...
  3. A man who played a minor role in the scheme was sentenced to time spent in custody and deported last month.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

On Line-By-Line Editing

The line-by-line editor looks at each sentence analytically, seeing its components and inner workings, using grammatical concepts as a set of tools for detecting and eliminating flaws. If you simply recognize that a sentence sounds bad, you can't necessarily pinpoint and correct what's wrong. Like the driver who knows that the car won't start but has no idea what to look for under the dutifully raised hood, you can only fiddle with this and that in hit-or-miss fashion.
From Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing (see = )

Friday, August 07, 2009

On Close Editing

Close editing, as distinguished from scanning-for-typos, is an intensely intimate enterprise. (Just to head off any misunderstandings. Really close editing requires not only seeing what's there, but seeing what isn't there and should be, or what is but is in the wrong place. It requires putting aside "how I would have said it" to be able to come up with something like "how you, at your best, might have said it."

From a blog post Title Editing and Intimacy

And a comment to post:

There are real editors in our midst and they can often be found lurking behind readable papers. They are professional editors. These are the ones who can transform muddiness and vagueness into spring water and clarity. They advocate for the reader. They suggest, improve, renovate, elucidate, spiff-up, improve (say, wait, does that need editing?) your documents. They turn snoozable material into a cup of good coffee. Professional editors may not only improve your writing but add perspective and light to your thinking.

There are organizations of them. There are good editors and not-so-good editors. There are content editors, and author's editors, and subject-matter editors. You can sometimes find them coaching students at universities.

Sure, some editing skills can be taught but editing requires a tremendous focus and discipline. Unless you're doing it full time, and can keep your skills sharp, you might just want to find a professional. And, when you find a good one, pay them fairly and keep them close.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Culling the richest report from the wires

By Kate Parry, Star Tribune Reader's Representative

Stan Feldman started his newspaper reading Tuesday morning with the New York Times, interested in a page one story about White House involvement in the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors.

The Times reported in the second paragraph that questions about political motivation arose after President Bush told Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about complaints involving several prosecutors by Republican lawmakers.

In the third paragraph, the story explained that a year earlier, when Harriet Miers was the White House legal counsel, she had asked about replacing all 93 U.S. attorneys.

When he finished with the Times, Feldman started reading his Star Tribune. The retired schoolteacher from New Hope noticed the New York Times story about the federal prosecutors also appeared on the Star Tribune's front page. But he was surprised to see the second paragraph (on Bush and Gonzales) had been moved down to just after where the story jumped to an inside page.

That's when Feldman called me to ask what the Star Tribune's motive was in moving that paragraph. Doing so, he initially said, seemed to change the focus of the story.

We talked about why wire editors might make changes in wire stories. Feldman took another look and decided the change actually made the story easier to follow because it put events in chronological order.

As it turns out, though, wire editors Nan Williams and Catherine Preus moved the paragraph because the story dealt mostly with Miers, and they wanted to get a reference to her in the part of the story appearing on page one, said Nation/World editor Dave Peters. They then made a reference to Bush and Gonzales part of the jumpline on page one directing readers to that part of the story on an inside page.

Feldman's puzzling over the change raised an issue I hear about regularly from readers who wonder why wires stories in the Star Tribune sometimes read differently than they did when they originated at another newspaper or wire service. Many readers regularly use the Internet to compare Star Tribune wire stories to the originals on other newspaper and wire service websites. If there are changes, some are quick to assume impure motives -- mainly that Star Tribune editors are slanting stories to the political left or right.

"Of course we're not trying to introduce imbalance or unfairness," Peters said. "The editing we do is with an eye mainly to length and clarity."

Every night his wire editors comb the wires of the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the McClatchy News Service and several others for various versions of the same news events. Sometimes a story from one of those sources is clearly superior to the others and they choose to use it.

Often, Peters said, "we'll take information from several stories and combine it into one story that serves the reader better." When that much editing happens, the credit line on the story often reads "news services" or a credit is added at the end.

Editors trim and tighten stories to fit the space they've been assigned -- which means New York Times stories that tend to run long often get a trim. A skillful wire editor can do that quite seamlessly and retain the substance of the report despite shortening up background and details. About 12 inches of the New York Times story on the U.S. attorneys was trimmed.

The wire services didn't alert newspapers that the U.S. attorneys story was coming until evening, and the New York Times story didn't arrive until right on the first deadline, Peters said. His staff scrambled to get the story ready and called a top editor at home to get the go-ahead to remake the front page.

On Wednesday night, the wire editors faced another round of quickly combining differing wire stories when the Associated Press and the New York Times both offered stories on a hearing transcript that showed Khalid Shaikh Mohammed admitting to involvement in planning dozens of terror attacks, including Sept. 11.

Night team leader Steve Riel had his editors use the Associated Press version early and replaced it with the New York Times version when it arrived. Wire editor Sharon Nyberg noticed a reference in the Associated Press version to Mohammed admitting to involvement in the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl that was missing from the Times piece. She inserted that information in the Times story and in a Times list of Mohammed's claims, adding the Associated Press to a credit line at the end of the story.

The Times story was trimmed to fit the space, and Riel plucked a cautionary line from that material and added it to the list of terrorist acts Mohammed claimed to have directed. It read "Validity: It is not clear how many of Mohammed's expansive claims were legitimate. In 2005, the Sept. 11 commission said that he was noted for his extravagant ambitions and his view of himself as 'the superterrorist.' "

That line really put that list in perspective for me.

"Our goal is to provide the best and cleanest version of events," Peters said.

©2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Russians Invade U.S.?

Did you know that Russian troops are thrusting into the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia? That's what readers will learn from a Google Maps graphic accompanying a news story about Russian incursions into Georgia — the nation-state in the Caucasus, not the Caucasian-pride-ridden state in the southern United States. Google's mixup will not help Yahoo Answers user Jessica B., who presciently asked, "i herd on the news that rusia has invaded but i dont see them no where wats going on."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Writing for the Web (Some Notes)

Interesting interview with Slate editor – especially:

DIA: Do you feel people write differently for the web than they do for print?

Mr Weisberg: If they don't, they don't succeed online. Writing that's native to the web is different in ways that are crucial but subtle enough that you can miss them if you conceive of your audience as reading a printed product. The tone of good web writing grows out of email. It's more direct, personal, colloquial, urgent, witty, efficient. It doesn't waste your time. It reflects that engagement, responsiveness and haste of web surfers, as opposed to the more general passivity of print readers. It integrates the use of links into the creative and intellectual process as opposed to tacking them on afterwards. And it uses multimedia in an organic rather than an ornamental way.

Old vs. New Newsroom (Some Notes)
"This is a flattening not only of information and sources but also of newsroom process. The point about a traditional news organization is its high level of orchestration, of hoops to jump through to get into the paper or on the air, of stylebooks to follow, of a hierarchical, tradition-bound, gatekeeping idea of who gets to say what’s news."

The 10 things local newspapers should do - compiled in one blog post

OK, I was critical of the American Press Institute's tired ideas for the newspaper industry. But what do I propose? Well, here goes: 10 ways to strengthen local newspapers in the face of the economic meltdown and the societal shift to the Web.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Common AP Problems That Need to be Mastered

These items are headings listed in your AP stylebook. Familiarize yourself with each of them and the bold-face links to related terms.

AP – A-C:

abbreviations and acronyms
academic degrees
academic departments
academic titles
a.m., p.m.
burglary, larceny, robbery, theft
collective nouns
compose, comprise, constitute
composition titles
courtesy titles

AP – D-H:

damage, damages
directions and regions
essential, non-essential clauses and phrases
exclamation marks
fewer, less
full-time, full time
geographic names
his, her
homicide, murder, manslaughter

AP – I-M:

job descriptions
legislative titles
military titles
millions, billions
Mr., Mrs., Ms.

AP – N-S:

nationalities and races
party affiliations
pupil, student
quotations in news
quotation marks
religious references
religious titles
second reference
state names
subjunctive mood

AP – T-Z:

that (conjunction)
that, which, who, whom
time element
time of day
trusty, trustee
weather terms
ZIP code

Other Important Sections:

Sports Guidelines
Business Guidelines
Guide to Punctuation
Briefing on Media Law
Proofreader Marks

Critical Thinking Checklist

1. Reading, not editing, is the first step 
  • Give the story a quick reading for content - without making any editing changes.
2. Organization. 
  • Is the lead labored or long? 
  • Is there a nut paragraph, no lower than the third or fourth graf, that tells succinctly why the story is in the paper?
  • Does the story contain the essential five W's and H?
  • Is the news presented in the order of importance? 
  • Does the story have a good ending that will make the reader remember it? 
  • Did the lead's writer mine the story for information that will grab the reader's attention? 
3. Clarity.
  • Is the story clear? 
  • Is it complete? 
  • Are there unanswered questions? 
  • Are there unexplained contradictions?
4. Fairness. 
  • Is the story balanced? 
  • Are sources reliable and identified? 
  • Does the story give both sides? 
  • Does it provide an opportunity to reply to charges? 
  • Does it libel anyone? Is it in good taste?
5. Length. 
  • Is the story too long, too short, just right? 
  • Is there more information than is useful or interesting to the reader? 
  • Can it be made shorter without sacrificing anything truly important?
    6. If there are problems in any of the areas listed above, go back to the writer with questions and suggestions. Ask the writer to fix the story. This is part of the feedback that makes a good story better and makes the writer and the editor a team.

    7. After the first reading, review the story again. Have you done everything that is needed or are you trying to avoid dealing with difficult questions? Leave no question unanswered. Have you listened to your instincts, your experience? If you have a hunch, have you followed it? Remember that gut feelings are an important part of editing.

    8. Check one more time to make sure the reader can understand the story.


    • Have you checked grammar, punctuation and spelling?
    • Are verbs generally active and lively, rather than passive and dull? Do subjects and verbs agree? Is verb tense consistent?
    • Is the time element clear? Does the reader know when things happened? Remember that chronology is a good organizing device.
    • Are historical facts and dates correct?
    • Does usage conform to style?
    • Have you changed awkward phrases, shortened marathon sentences, chopped up long paragraphs, eliminated repetitiveness and redundancy, killed cliches?
    • Have you checked the weird name in the city directory, telephone book or library?
    • Has the writer removed "stutter quotes," a direct quotation followed by a paraphrase of the same thing, or vice versa?
    • Does the story avoid jargon? Have you removed foreign words or phrases, unexplained acronyms and unexplained technical terms?
    • Are numbers correct? Double-check any math, including percentages, to make sure it is right.
    • Does the story avoid the use of words in place of "said?"
    • Does the story avoid hyperbole? Has the writer refused the temptation to set records for the biggest, best, tallest, shortest? Remember there's always a faster gun.
    • Have you corrected grammar in a quote unless there is a special reason for the ungrammatical usage?
    • Is there enough background for the reader who missed the last story?
    Warren Watson, API (Originally developed by Watson, Lou Ureneck and Jon Kellogg for the Portland Press Herald/ Maine Sunday Telegram)

    Thursday, July 09, 2009

    About Close Reading

    What is Close Reading?

    From Wikipedia:

    In literary criticism, close reading describes the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of text. Such a reading places great emphasis on the particular over the general, paying close attention to individual words, syntax, and the order in which sentences and ideas unfold as they are read.

    The technique as practiced today was pioneered (at least in English) by I.A. Richards and his student William Empson, later developed further by the New Critics of the mid-twentieth century. It is now a fundamental method of modern criticism.

    Close reading is sometimes called explication de texte, which is the name for the similar tradition of textual interpretation in French literary study, a technique whose chief proponent was Gustave Lanson.

    A truly attentive close reading of a two-hundred-word poem might be thousands of words long without exhausting the possibilities for observation and insight. To take an even more extreme example, Jacques Derrida's essay Ulysses Gramophone, which J. Hillis Miller describes as a "hyperbolic, extravagant… explosion" of the technique of close reading, devotes more than eighty pages to an interpretation of the word "yes" in James Joyce's great modernist novel Ulysses[citation needed].

    Literary close reading and commentaries have extensive precedent in the exegesis of religious texts. For example, Pazand, a genre of middle Persian literature, refers to the Zend (literally: 'commentary'/'translation') texts that offer explanation and close reading of the Avesta, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. The scriptural commentaries of the Talmud offer a commonly cited early predecessor to close reading. In Islamic studies, the close reading of the Koran has flourished and produced an immense corpus. But the closest religious analogy to contemporary literary close reading, and the principal historical connection with its birth, is the rise of the higher criticism, and the evolution of textual criticism of the Bible in Germany in the late eighteenth century.

    Tuesday, June 02, 2009

    Don't Use Big Words

    In promulgating your esoteric cogitations, or articulating your superficial sentimentalities and amicable, philosophical, or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your conversational communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compacted comprehensibleness, a coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement, and asinine affectation. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity, without rhodomontade, or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolixity, psittaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity, and vaniloquent vapidity. Shun double entendres, prurient jocosity, and pestiferous profanity, obscure or apparent. In other words, talk plainly, briefly, naturally, truthfully, purely. Keep from " slang"; don't put on airs ; say what you mean ; mean what you say. And don't use big words.

    — Pennsylvania School Journal, May, 1875.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    By Buy?


    Gannett Rejects Offer to By Tucson Paper

    Published: April 11, 2009 10:00 AM ET
    TUCSON Gannett Co. rejected the latest offer from a California media group seeking to buy the Tucson Citizen but negotiations continue, a spokesman for the group said Friday.

    David Ganezer, publisher of the weekly Santa Monica Observer and a spokesman for the Santa Monica Media Co. declined to elaborate because of a nondisclosure agreement with Gannett.

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Bulletin Board

    I will leave messages here.
    You can ask questions or make comments using the comment mode. When you do so, they will pop up on my Google Reader.

    • Subject: Independent Florida Alligator Seeks Section Editors, Online Staffers and More!!

    The Alligator is recruiting section editors and online staff. We are currently accepting applications for all positions. All students interested in getting involved with the Alligator this fall are encouraged to apply.

    - A section editor is in a management position, responsible for finding, assigning and editing stories for grammar, content and style. Additionally, a section editor must communicate with other desks in the newsroom to work on collaborative projects.

    - Online staff members help produce the paper daily, create multimedia and work on special online projects. Students with experience in video editing, HTML/CSS, Javascript and/or content management systems are preferred.

    The deadline for submissions is August 21. Phone interviews will be held in the order that applications are received. It is possible that the position will be filled prior to the Aug. 21 deadline, so students are encouraged to complete the attached application as soon as possible. All applications should be sent to

    Brian Kelley

    Managing Editor / Print

    The Independent Florida Alligator

    Cell: 904-412-4585

    • ACES scholarships for editors.
    Click here to download an application form.