Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Faithful Reader Recoils from Newspaper's Errors

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Faithful Reader Recoils from Newspaper's Errors

Article excerpt

I HATE IT WHEN the end of an era appears to be at hand, closing on a sad and unpromising note. That's cause for sadness.

That's what I felt the other day when I received a "goodbye" letter from one of the Post-Dispatch's most supportive, longtime and faithful readers.

In fact, she always styled herself as "Faithful Reader" in her letters to me over the past few years.

Her name is Bettie B. Steffan, and her genuine concern for the welfare of the Post-Dispatch extends several decades back. Her chief concern has been what she saw as the paper's increase in typographical errors and steadily deteriorating grammar and spelling.

Doesn't anyone on the staff care about the proper use of the English language anymore, she has asked in her notes accompanying piles of clippings of the errors she found in the paper.

In effect, she has given up hope of improvement. She wrote: "I have enjoyed my correspondence and occasional phone conversations with you, (but) I have reached the sad conclusion that nobody cares about the quality of the paper except Faithful Reader."

I join in her question about caring for our language. Errors are becoming ever more common in the United States - in the printed word (books, magazines, press releases, official programs, documents), in the spoken word (conversation, radio, television) and the electronic word (computers, word processors).

Shouldn't professional writers know and care about such things as good grammar, spelling, homonyms, agreements in use of singular and plural, punctuation and well-constructed sentences?

Seems fair to me.

None of us is perfect, of course, so journalists all have backstops - someone to read over our shoulder. (And some staffers almost never produce errors, thank goodness.)

Uncaring attitudes on the part of a few, ignorance of grammar and spelling, slips in attention and the rush to deadline are all factors. But wordsmithing goes downhill, despite the best efforts of those editors who really do care, and make their best efforts in their allotted time.

Another big factor is young people's lack of knowledge about the mechanics of writing. Some incoming journalists these days show deficits - or indifference - on this count.

So today, you're getting the column I have avoided writing, on the ground that such mechanics are an in-house thing.

I'm citing examples of what I consider inexcusable errors that have appeared in this newspaper. Some were made by the paper's best, brightest and most creative. I'm not naming names, but they at least deserve better backstopping.

Here's The list, which I'm sure will be no surprise to the many readers who have complained time and again.

"This generally amusing dark trifle . . . begins with a written foreward (foreword) that compares the movie to . . . " (Everyday)

"In a forward (!) to the Kerouac letters . . . " (News)

"We would have happily tipped other guards for a peak (peek) into some other villas . …

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