John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The world turned upside down


Two propositions worth considering:

Item: Glenn Beck is a satirist employed by the sinister left-wing media to subvert conservatism by making it look ridiculous.

Evidence: Jon Stewart’s Daily Show simply runs excerpts of the Beck interview with Eric Massa. Commentary is hardly necessary.


Item: The Onion is not a satirical publication, but a factual one.


WASHINGTON—Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten about, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.
Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next. Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.
“Why won't it just tell me what it's about?” said Boston resident Charlyne Thomson, who was bombarded with the overwhelming mass of black text late Monday afternoon. “There are no bullet points, no highlighted parts. I've looked everywhere—there's nothing here but words.”
“Ow,” Thomson added after reading the first and last lines in an attempt to get the gist of whatever the article, review, or possibly recipe was about. …

 Think of the students whose eyes glaze over if they are asked to read more than a page, or the managers unable to conceptualize except in PowerPoint. This is a documentary article.