Monday, January 21, 2008

weekly writing coach: paraphrase it

New York Times Managing Editor John Geddes answered questions last week in the paper's "Talk to the Newsroom" feature, and fielded one from the editor of an academic journal, who brought up the problem of what to do with quotes that reflected poor grammar or other problems--what he called "editorial intervention vs. minimalist editing for the sake of readability." Geddes, after noting that Times reporters follow its stylebook, said:
Our reporters and editors try to avoid ungrammatical expressions or dialect in quoting what people say when it could appear to be patronizing to quote verbatim, generally by paraphrasing. Thus, "I don't know nuthin' about dat" becomes Mr. Jones said he didn't know anything about the incident.
It's a good workaround, and one you can do with other writing issues--like avoiding he/she by rewriting a sentence to omit gender references when referring to a larger group. This week, take a look at quotes that don't meet your stylebook standards and look for ways to paraphrase.

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