Quoted in style

The practice of bracketing in direct quotes continues to confuse and amuse. Here’s one of the picayune variety:

“Over the last couple [of] years, we’ve had some questions raised over customer etiquette, especially cell phones,” said Regal spokeswoman Karen Lane.

The AP Stylebook does recommend “of” after “couple” in constructions like this one. But the person quoted didn’t say it that way. Should we correct direct quotes to get them to conform to style? If we do, why not go all the way and redo the quote this way:

“During the past couple of years, we’ve had some questions raised about customer etiquette, especially cell phones.”

Getting back to the story, more curiosity follows:

“And … [piracy] is something that’s a big concern within the industry.”

I’m guessing that the bracket here is in place of a pronoun, but what was said between “and” and that insertion? Ellipses always make me wonder what was removed — and why.

This and more bracketing discussion here.

HuffPo and hyphens

The Huffington Post has launched a redesign, and the site’s look and organization have improved. It’s also forged a partnership with Talking Points Memo, the liberal blog that made the firings of the U.S. attorneys a big story.

HuffPo still has problems with other things, however. Some are big — the site’s dangerous use of file photos, for example. Others (as seen in theses examples) are little, and little things don’t get much smaller than the hyphen.

That piece of punctuation can get a good argument going. Stack some words up to modify a noun, and you may need a hyphen. That’s where the debate can begin, but most agree that a hyphen is not needed between an adverb and an adjective. Consider the “-ly” as the glue sticking these words into one idea. Adding a hyphen would be redundant to that task.

For this and previous posts on The Huffington Post, go here.

UPDATE: A Chicago Tribune critic reviews the new Huffington Post, comparing it favorably with Google News.


  • Teresa Weaver, ousted as books editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is headed to Atlanta magazine. Meanwhile, the paper is on the defensive abouts its arts coverage. And don’t miss Stephen Colbert’s take on the state of book criticism.
  • A reporter for The Los Angeles Times explains why she’s taking the paper’s buyout offer — she’s tired of celebrity news overtaking in-depth reporting on jobs and the economy.
  • The blog at SND Update has started doing reviews of movies about journalism. The most recent review is a look at “Shattered Glass,” which is of special interest to editing types.

Spaced out

Claims to be the “first” or “last” or “most recent” anything should be doublechecked. In the example here, the year for the first shuttle mission should be 1981, not 1962.

The “theme-park-ride” construction also looks awkward, but hyphenation is another issue altogether.

Link and respond

Some random links and thoughts on each:

ITEM: Democratic candidate John Edwards dismisses the phrase “war on terror” as a “bumper sticker” slogan.

THOUGHTS: Copy editors have been ahead of Edwards on this one. As advocates for specificity, we like narrowly tailored labels, not vague generalizations. “War on terror” has become so overused that it’s an easy target for parody, as the “Borat” movie showed when the titular character told a rodeo crowd: “We support your war of terror.”

ITEM: Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes discusses reorganization and cutbacks at the Minneapolis paper.

THOUGHTS: I worked with Nancy more than 10 years ago when I was the copy editor in The News & Observer’s bureau in Chapel Hill and she was the assigning editor there. We also worked together later in the Raleigh newsroom. She’s a dedicated editor when it comes to local coverage, but despite her obligatory statements in this interview, she doesn’t think much of national or international news. Also, it would have been nice to see her mention the role of copy editing as newsrooms change.

ITEM: A letter writer wants more coverage of math contests and less about offbeat competitions such as “rock, paper, scissors” tournaments.

THOUGHTS: The reader is asking a lot of a regional paper, albeit increasingly local, to cover events like this. The problem: Math contests are routine and not of tremendous interest to anyone not participating. The solution: Find stories with similar content but have an element of oddity or human interest, such as this one about how geometry and miniature golf intersect.