About Me
The Manifesto

Previous Posts

Outdoor words
Explication of the Nerds
Ella Minnow Pea
Good Stuff: 1/05/08
The Distracting Word Meme
Phony Etymology Watch:National Treasure: Book of S...
Questions from the general public
Apples and oranges and pears, oh my
The Annual Statement from the Association of Easil...
Leaving the wrong impression

Back to Main


My del.ic.ious site feed


Common Errors in English
Netvibes RSS Reader
Online Etymology Dictionary
Research and Documentation
The Phrase Finder
The Trouble with EM 'n EN

A Capital Idea
Arrant Pedantry
Bradshaw of the Future
Bremer Sprachblog
Dictionary Evangelist
Double-Tongued Dictionary
English, Jack
Futility Closet - Language
Language Hat
Language Log
Mighty Red Pen
Motivated Grammar
OUPblog - Lexicography
Style & Substance
The Editor's Desk
The Engine Room
Tenser, said the Tensor
Watch Yer Language
Word Spy
You Don't Say

Dan's Webpage

Website XML feed

The Semicolon Death Watch continues
Sunday, January 13, 2008   8:00 PM

Spotted in the news:

"Greenpeace actions are illegal under international law (and) it's time the public stopped treating Greenpeace as heroes," Glenn Inwood, spokesman for the Institute of Cetacean Research, in Tokyo, Japan, said Monday.

No, I don't care about the whales. Well, maybe I do — but that's not the really interesting thing here.

Which is: what the hell is going on with that (and)?

I mean, instead of a colon or a semicolon or a period or a dash, some copy editor has decided to insert a bracketed and into the sentence. Maybe he merely allowed a writer to get away with it, but let's assume an ideal copy editor here.

(For those without a trusty AP Stylebook: they use parentheses for brackets due to technological restrictions.)

There's no need to insert your own word to fix this direct quote, not when punctuation would suffice. Personally, I think that a semicolon (remember the semicolon?) would be the best option, as it sets up the same sort of nonspecific connection between two statements that (and) does here — but you could make arguments for any of the marks I mentioned above.

To ignore all those options and choose (and) is... a failure of the imagination.

Moreover, despite this bracket-craziness, they still begin the quote Greenpeace actions are illegal instead of (Greenpeace's) actions are illegal. I mean, what makes an action Greenpeace? Is ordering pizzas for your anti-whaling boat crew a Greenpeace action, if you get a receipt?

(It's also interesting that the CNN and USA Today versions of the same AP story with the same New Zealand dateline have Mr. Inwood speaking on Monday and Sunday respectively. Time zones are hard, I guess.)

Labels: ,

Ugh. I think a good rule of thumb is to never insert something in brackets (or remove something with ellipses, for that matter) unless you really have to. And if the plain quote is ugly or unusable for some reason without heavy editorial intervention, then maybe you should find a different quote or simply paraphrase.

Well put.

Leave a Comment

Think reactive, not reactionary