Checking the Facts

I do think that this column on Slate.com about a New York Times Magazine article is wrong to blame only the fact-checkers. It does not even question why the reporter never bothered to check into the details of the naval construction worker's story.

It is, as the column's title says, a good idea to be wary when a story seems too good to be true.

Web 2.what?

What is Web 2.0?

OK, before you start hurling insults about how I, a person who writes a blog, should know, think about what you really know about the term.

Here is a San Jose Mercury News article I found (sorry, it is a cached page) about how "Web 2.0" is not so easily defined. There is also a Slate.com article here.

My question: If we cannot clearly define the term, why are we throwing it around like everyone knows what it is? (See examples below.)

I understand using it in quoted material, and I do think that it can be used in stories, but it should be explained in some way.

And if you think you're up to date knowing about "Web 2.0" sites such as YouTube, Flickr or MySpace.com, you should check out http://www.go2web20.net, which lists "Web 2.0" sites. (A warning, you could spend a lot of time going through this site.)

Here are some examples of "Web 2.0" being thrown around in news articles. I chose some examples from three news sources that I trust to cover technology well.

They are experimenting with one of the hottest Web 2.0 trends... (The New York Times)

But it's not just for Web 2.0 start-ups. (The New York Times)

Certainly the actor Jack Black, as executive producer and a host of “Acceptable TV,” does not easily embrace the role of shill for Web 2.0, carnival-barking for a participatory TV game as if he were Ryan Seacrest. (The New York Times)

We've got broadband penetration, quality video formats that deliver a decent video experience over the web, falling storage and bandwidth costs, the matchmaking of advertisers and small publishers, and Web 2.0 mash-ups - combinations of existing web products yielding new services. (San Jose Mercury News)

More and more Web 2.0 start-ups are running into a surprising problem: too many customers. (San Jose Mercury News)

The social-networking companies may lose money, but they don't lose it on the scale that portals and start-up content firms did in the 1990s. These Web 2.0 companies are built on the wreckage of the dotcom/fiber-optic boom and bust of the 1990s. (Slate.com)
I do have to admit that the whole 2.0 thing is catchy, and I have noticed it slipping into headlines here and there, which I don't really mind.

I just feel that it is an ambiguous term, and that a little explanation about it could go a long way.

Get that done really fast

I know that we live in a fast-paced world, but some things just seem to go overboard. One thing that I have noticed is that people use the phrase expedite quickly.
Expedite: 1 : to execute promptly

I doubt that most people who use the phrase expedite quickly actually mean to execute it promptly quickly, but you never know how fast they really want it done.

Another transitive verb that has a similar definition is fast-track. I tend to see fast-track more often. But then again, I am pretty sure that I have never seen a writer put fast-track quickly, either, so that is a good thing.


Let the Mêlée Continue

As this thread on the Testy Copy Editors board shows, talks about diacritical marks can get heated, and there are good points made on both sides of the argument.

But I would like to go back to the original question posted on the ACES forum. Let's suppose that the boss decides to introduce accent marks at your publication. Where should you start?

Well, first of all, here are some of the diacritical marks you might be dealing with. It is also interesting to see which languages use diacritical marks to form new letters. The one that relates to the initial post on the ACES board is the ñ in Spanish.
Spanish: the character ñ is considered a letter, and collated between n and o.
I would say that diacritical marks do matter for proper nouns. At the local level, it would have to up to the reporters to make sure the names are spelled properly. For wire copy, a quick check on the Internet will show the preferred spelling for most names of famous names and places. The inevitable question that might arise is what to do with names that you think might need a diacritical mark, but you cannot verify it. Leave it. You cannot verify the spelling of every name that is in wire copy either. A good guide for this is The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.
In the name of a United States resident, use or omit accent marks as the bearer does; when in doubt, omit them. (Exception: Use accents in Spanish names of Puerto Rico residents.)
So what about other words? Again, a good guide is The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.
Some foreign words that enter the English language keep their accent marks (protégé, résumé); others lose them (cafe, facade). The dictionary governs spellings, except for those shown in this manual.
This is a simple rule: follow the dictionary. In my previous post about diacritical marks, I gave a list of words that do and do not get diacritical marks. Assuming that you are using The Associated Press' preferred dictionary, here is how those words would (or would not) be spelled with accent marks: facade, niche, melee, déjà vu, rendezvous, cafe, a la carte, bon appétit, coup d'état, masseuse, naive, vis-à-vis, aficionado, cliché, El Niño. (The words protégé and résumé would also keep their accent marks, according to the dictionary.)

So should you read wire copy to make sure these words (and others) that need accent marks get them? I would ask you this question: Do you read through wire copy to make sure words are spelled properly? If the answer to the latter is 'yes,' then the answer to the previous should also be 'yes.'


One Dreamy Night

A wire story about the alleged attack on a Yale a cappella group stated that the attack had come after a night of drunken reverie.

The words reverie and revelry are close, but the meaning is quite different.

I am sure that some people have had a night of drunken daydreaming. But because the alleged attack on the group happened after a New Year's Eve party, I am sure the writer meant revelry.