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Sunday: March 30, 2008

Where Was the Editor?

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:16 PM UTC

InstaPundit quotes a story from the Des Moines Register:

A pizza deliveryman told Des Moines police that he shot a man who robbed him at gunpoint when he delivered a pie late Thursday to a south-side address.

My first thought was that the pizza deliveryman was late delivering a pizza on Thursday night, and that’s why he was robbed. Perhaps the buyer misunderstood the usual ’30 minutes or free’ guarantee as allowing him to point a gun at the pizza guy to make sure the pizza was free. It was only when I reread the sentence that I realized that it probably meant that the pizza deliveryman was robbed late at night on a Thursday, and that he was (presumably) on time. We are often told that the difference between traditional and new media is that newspapers have editors to correct inaccurate and ineptly written first drafts. The system is far from foolproof, at least in Des Moines.

9 Comments »

  1. We don’t need to be addressing publishers with those concerns.

    In this day and age of falling revenue, it’s the accountants, the bursars and paymasters, we ought to ask — and who ought to be asking: A fortune is paid out for editors and fact-checkers and reviewers. Just what do all those people do all day? It sure ain’t their nominal job.

    Regards,
    Ric

    Comment by Ric Locke — Sunday: March 30, 2008 @ 11:56 PM UTC

  2. I’ve heard of this happening at dorms for 24 years. I would would have a sidearm if it was me.

    Comment by TomH — Monday: March 31, 2008 @ 12:03 AM UTC

  3. Eh. The grammar is correct in the article.
    The “late Thursday” use is common and I would
    not even call it colloquial. It is quite proper English.

    Comment by Mike Jackson — Monday: March 31, 2008 @ 12:54 AM UTC

  4. “He delivered a pie late” is also proper colloquial English. So is “late” an adverb (modifying “delivered”) or an adjective (modifying “Thursday”)? “…pie Thursday evening…” would have removed all ambiguity.

    Comment by Jeffrey Quick — Monday: March 31, 2008 @ 9:35 AM UTC

  5. It is not the grammer that is being criticized. It is the clarity. It is perfectly posible to construct a grammatically correct sentence that is totally ambiguous. Many politicians make an art of doing that.

    A clearer way of writing the sentence would have been”

    “A pizza deliveryman told Des Moines police that he shot a man who robbed him at gunpoint late Thursday after the deliveryman brought a pie to a south-side address.”

    That is just one possibility. Presumable a professional editor could come up with better wording, if that editor could be bothered to do so. Obviously they could not be bothered when they edited it for publication.

    Comment by Mark L — Monday: March 31, 2008 @ 9:59 AM UTC

  6. You miss the point Mike. The grammar is fine, however in the context of the sentence, it is misleading. There is more to proper grammar than just the words. “…he delivered a pie late Thursday” versus something like “…he delivered a pie around midnight Thursday evening” or similar.

    Comment by Thripshaw — Monday: March 31, 2008 @ 1:39 PM UTC

  7. Perhaps I’m as dumb as an editor, but until I read your comment it didn’t even occur to me to read “late” as anything other than what the reporter meant.

    The ambiguity exists mostly in your eye.

    If the reporter had wanted to indicate that the delivery was delayed, he would have written as the most natural expression of the idea “delivered a pie too late on Thursday”.

    Comment by kishnevi — Monday: March 31, 2008 @ 7:34 PM UTC

  8. The ambiguity existed in my brain when I first read — or rather misread — the sentence and had to read it again to figure out what the author meant, which was not what I thought it meant at first glance. I doubt I was the only one who found it ambiguous.

    Comment by Dr. Weevil — Monday: March 31, 2008 @ 11:32 PM UTC

  9. Had he been late in delivering the pie, it would have read something like:

    “A pizza deliveryman told Des Moines police that he shot a man who robbed him at gunpoint when he was late in delivering a pie last Thursday to a south-side address.”

    “Late Thursday” is not improper. It’s inexact, but the time probably does not matter much here.

    Comment by Mister Snitch — Tuesday: April 1, 2008 @ 4:48 PM UTC

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