Saturday, May 30, 2009

Isn't it obvious?

I'm going to pick on the AP to make a point. Read this lead:

MISHICOT, Wis.—A Wisconsin woman and her 5-year-old daughter got a fowl visitor when an unwelcome wild turkey crashed through a bedroom window.

Now, I ask you: When would a wild turkey crashing through a bedroom window be welcomed? Can you picture it? "Mom! Mom! A turkey just crashed through the window in my room!" "Oh, Susie, how wonderful! We've been hoping for just such a thing. Hello, turkey, won't you join us for dinner?" Meanwhile, these ingrates in Wisconsin can't seem to accept their good fortune.

It's silly. But we've all done it in our writing/editing. We've written about the tragic accident, as opposed to the joyous one; about a brutal beating, as opposed to a tender one. I wrote a budgetline yesterday that said a guy was busted for illegally selling venison, as opposed to being busted for legally selling it.* Now that would have been noteworthy.

Those needless (and sometimes comical) modifiers can creep in to our writing if we're not vigilant. Be alert for them, and scrub them out of your writing.

*That's also the headline. Alas.