A Loosing Battle

OK, all of us create typos, misplace punctuation (or omit it), and spell certain works idiosyncratically. Let’s face it: the “rules” of English do little to assist us and much to maintain confusion. Still, we shouldn’t abet the loss of specificity and function (let alone meaning) of written English. Especially not if we work for The New York Times. Especially not if we are op-ed columnists. Especially not if we have considerable writing skills of our own and access to the best editorial apparatus in the country.

We are all often sloppy. That’s why we make use of editors and copyreaders. And that’s the difference between a column running in a paper like the Times and one on a blog, where there is little editing available, where the work is expected to be raw in a way we assume is unacceptable at the Times.

This is also the distinction that many make between the “amateurs” of the blogs and the “professionals” of traditional news media, that the professionals are part of a process that ensures a certain accuracy, both of information and of language.

Perhaps.

Now, it could be argued, when the Times shows signs of losing its grip on the language, that the influence of the blogs has been so pervasive that even august publications no longer care about accuracy or precise construction. But I don’t think that’s the case. Overall, the paper shows pride in attention to detail.

So it strikes me as odd, then, that Thomas Friedman, writing today, has a line like this:

Many Americans and me are relieved

Now, I do understand that editing of columnists is light, but that doesn’t mean that someone, anyone at the Times couldn’t have lifted a phone (or sent an email): “Ah, Tom. ‘Me’ isn’t a subject pronoun. It does work as an object, but you might want to replace it with ‘I’ in this particular instance. Or, if you want to use ‘me,’ try a construction such as, ‘Like me, many Americans are relieved… ‘”

It’s a small thing. But if the argument is going to be made that we bloggers should leave the writing to the professionals, then the professionals need to constantly demonstrate that they are better at this than the rest of us.

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