Thursday, January 27, 2005

Read the Damn Bottle

The vodka brand is Ketel One.


It's not ladled out of a big old "Kettle" (at least not in English), despite what you may have read in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, the Village Voice, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Boston Globe, the Hartford Courant, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, the Palm Beach Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Kansas City Star, the Denver Rocky Mountain News, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Charlotte Observer, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Entertainment Weekly, and dozens of other publications where a bottle in the bottom drawer might have come in handy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Owl Is Superb

A timely reminder: Super (space) Bowl. It's not oneword.

Friday, January 21, 2005


There are few copy-editing errors that I would call "inexcusable." Time and other constraints and human fallibility result in errors that seem unfathomable to people who aren't copy editors.

But if any sort of error is inexcusable, it's an incorrect phone number. One of the cardinal rules of copy editing is that every phone number published must be checked.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Dot Dot Dot

(This essay is now a Sharp Point.)

In "Lapsing Into a Comma," I caution against beginning or ending a quotation with ellipses: "It's silly to indicate omission at the beginning or end of a quote, since virtually all quotes are from people who have spoken before in their lives and will do so again."

Now, then, a case study. You're a copy editor, and you're editing a story that contains the following paragraph:

"I really don't think it's a good idea," he said. ". . . And I'm not going to support any such move."
Do you kill the ellipses? I hope you don't. The "And I'm not" part is not the beginning of a quote; the "I really don't think" part is. If you delete the ellipses, you imply that the following sequence was uttered:

"I really don't think it's a good idea. And I'm not going to support any such move."
A no-ellipses version of the initial example is exactly how most reporters would render the above quote. That's how we write. We often — usually — put the attribution for a multiple-sentence quote after the first sentence.

What the reporter was indicating with the ellipses, unless this reporter just likes to decorate copy with dots, is that something more like this was said:

"I really don't think it's a good idea. I just don't. And I'm not going to support any such move."
Think about it: If we kill the ellipses, how is a reader to tell whether the two sets of quote marks indicate two discrete quotations or simply the standard attribution placement for a multiple-sentence quote? To put it another way, two quotes should not share one attribution.

If the ellipses look silly to you (and I admit that they look less than elegant), there are other options:

"I really don't think it's a good idea," he said. He added: "And I'm not going to support any such move."

"I really don't think it's a good idea," he said.

"And I'm not going to support any such move," he added.
Better yet, present the quote intact. I'm not quite as anti-dot-dot-dot as my friend Merrill Perlman of the New York Times, who has called ellipses and bracketed insertions in quotes "dishonest," but I'm pretty darn close. Unless the stuff between the salient statements was completely irrelevant jibberish, it's usually better to let it stand.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Watch Those Line Breaks

"It's the fox guarding the chicken co-
op," he said.

(Things are tough all over in real estate.)

Monday, January 03, 2005

How Soon We Forget

The same people who will refer to "Star Wars, Episode 9: Quest for Cash" as "Star Wars" seem to have forgotten that we had a President George Bush, oh, not so long ago. Many years after Zachary Taylor, I believe. Now, I'm not going to get all AP-style-nazi on you and say every reference must be "President Bush," but if you're going to use the "George," the "W" is not optional.