Readers are not sleeping through August, but they sometimes ask if copy editors are:

  • “I want to register dismay about the errors in the July 30 lead story [on the budget agreement] on the front page. There’s a sentence that contains the word ‘ladened.’ It should be just ‘laden.’ Two lines down, there’s the word ‘strata.’ The singular is called for in the sentence—‘stratum.’ I’m surprised those things aren’t caught.” (The reference was to legislation that is “ladened with tax breaks for business and virtually every economic strata.…”)
  • A July 22 letter to the editor referred to “Max Lerner’s l938 forward to ‘The Wealth of Nations,’” where “foreword” was called for.
  • On Aug. 7, the Obituaries included one on Ray Renfro, former receiver for the Cleveland Browns, saying he had died of throat cancer. In the same paper, Sports had a brief entry saying that “the cause of death was not disclosed.”
  • A July 31 story talked about “baited breath” rather than “bated.” “Must’ve been the anchovies,” said one reader. (Electronic checks of such errors turn up repetitions of the same misuses over the years. There were, for example, eight other “ladeneds.” Most amusing among the several other “baited breaths” was a reference to a Dallas Cowboys “tag-team duo of offensive tackles waiting with baited breath.” Offensive tackles, indeed.)
  • An Aug. 3 Outlook piece on Washington bicyclists said that Rock Creek Park once had “27 miles of bridal paths” instead of “bridle paths.”

As one reader said, “If all those horses were getting married, that would be a story worthy of the editors who seem to spend all their time concocting stupid-pun headlines, instead of doing their editing job.”

Speaking of puns, the debate over their use in newspaper headlines knows no boundaries. A reader who has been involved in the discussion about Post pun headlines clipped this piece from The Daily Telegraph in London, written by an editor there:

“The punning headline writer preying on innocent articles in The Observer, about whom I have written here, has still not been caught. Last Sunday’s issue had ‘Ambition, thwarts and all,’ ‘Raging Bulge’ and ‘Ragga to riches.’ Observer writers are still advised to take precautions against the puns of August.”

Post copy editors, meanwhile, are advised to take precautions against the doldrums of August.

(August 29, 1997, Ombudsman column)

Most popular articles from Nieman Reports

Show comments / Leave a comment