Of course, that’s because they do. Along with the rest of the publishing world, these four newspapers all adhere to slightly different language guidelines that spell out whether the appropriate usage is “champing at the bit” or “chomping at the bit”; “healthcare” or “health care”; or “ballgown or “ball gown.”
This linguistic minutia may seem insignificant in isolation. But taken together with thousands of other language rules assembled into thick “style manuals,” these volumes not only make a publication’s copy consistent, but they convey and protect its distinctive voice, values and brand identity. (more…)
Explaining the difference between “that” and “which” has been in my idea file for a while. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the answer – it’s a common conundrum. Now that I’ve had requests to cover this topic, your wait is over!
I’m all about instant gratification, but first you must grasp essential and nonessential clauses, often referred to as restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.
You cannot eliminate an essential clause from a sentence without changing the meaning of that sentence. In other words, an essential clause helps define the meaning of a sentence. “That” introduces an essential clause. Some examples follow:
I remember the day that we met in Paris.
This sentence wouldn’t make any sense if I wrote, “I remember the day which we met in Paris.”
That is a decision you must live with.
You’d definitely get some strange looks if you said, “Which is a decision you must live with.”
The senator said that he might run again and that, if he did, Mary Rosenthal would be his campaign manager.
Same principle as the previous examples.
You can delete a nonessential clause from a sentence without changing the basic meaning of that sentence. Think of a nonessential clause as a way to elaborate. “Which” introduces a nonessential clause:
The soccer team’s trophy, which was displayed in the main hallway, is missing.
If you delete the nonessential clause, “which was displayed in the main hallway,” the rest sentence stands on its own. You know that the trophy is missing and, thanks to the nonessential clause, you know where it’s missing from.
He downloaded numerous software updates to his computer, which is the most expensive model he could get.
Taking out, “which is the most expensive model he could get,” doesn’t change the meaning of the rest of the sentence. The nonessential clause just tells you that the guy had a lot of money and could afford a pricey computer.
The company’s new product line includes advanced sorters, which feature adjustable controls and multifunctional monitoring stations, will be unveiled next week.
The important information here is that the company will reveal a new product line next week. If you can’t wait to learn more, the nonessential clause, “which feature adjustable controls and multifunctional monitoring stations,” shares some of the juicy details.
Tip: Essential clauses, phrases or words do not need to be set off from the rest of a sentence, so they don’t need commas. In contrast, commas separate nonessential clauses.
Are you up to speed on “that” vs. “which” now? If you still have questions, check out this excellent Grammar Girl post from Mignon Fogarty.
Since newspapers seemingly can’t afford to hire more copyeditors, the ones who are still at the helm are probably overtaxed. I don’t have to hunt for errors anymore – they pop right off the page. I finally finished reading a stack of issues of The Wall Street Journal that had been piling up while I was on vacation and found several mistakes:
“The Trouble With Teacher Tenure” – Saturday detention for this headline writer. The trouble is he or she forgot there’s more than one teacher in this country. It should be, “The Trouble With Teachers’ Tenure.”
“Planning for the Unthinkable” – The text in the headline is fine, but the individual who laid out the page put “Planning” and “for” on the first line and “the Unthinkable” on the second deck. So much for not ending headlines with prepositions. Rewrite the headline or move “for” to the second line. (This was in a dreaded “special section,” which in reporters’ parlance, means copy the newsroom has to churn out to fill ad space. Translation: No one read it.)
“He argues that this was even more intrusive ‘because it was done without the knowledge of customer.’” The genius that didn’t catch this mistake must be the same one who believes that only one teacher is working. The error is included in a story about privacy concerns associated with smart phones. Smart-phone makers obviously have more than one customer. (By the way, Associated Press style is smart phones, two words. This is relevant for the next example.)
In a single issue, the newspaper referenced “smart-phones” and “smartphones.” The paper’s style is “smartphones,” one word.
“Brown Rice Linked to Lower Diabetes Risk.” The issue here is that the paper ended the first deck of the headline with the preposition, “to.”
That’s enough picking on The Wall Street Journal for now. I need to spread the wealth.