Testy Copy Editors

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Author:  J Kaufman [ Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:09 am ]
Post subject:  "Overruled"?

Euphemism and soft-pedaling are enemies of directness. While in polite company we may say someone “passed away,” news reports are generally more to the point, if not discomfitingly blunt: The person died.

This simple, direct form of language harks back to the counsel of the famous copy style sheet that Ernest Hemingway was given during his tenure as a reporter for The Kansas City Star in the early 20th century. It began:

Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.

Hemingway later remarked the style sheet contained “the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing.” And while some of those bits of advice have been overruled by modern copy editors (“’Several persons were in the room,’ not ‘several people,’ is reversed today), its overall intent is clear: Don’t sugarcoat. Don’t use superfluous words when fewer will do.
[Kansas City Star]

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