Whether writing with style or making a deadline, it was a tough week for all

Posted on March 22, 2014

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This was a tough week for all of us, and you could tell by our tweets.

First, Comm 2221.

It was midterm week (even though the semester is a month away from the end), and our assignment is in two parts: 50-questions of AP Style and current events, followed by a deadline writing assignment.

Sent forth with just three writing prompts–weather, campus food or the South Campus Gateway–my news writing students had to develop a story idea (with news or feature value), get sources and write 350-500 words in 24 hours. The best ones get sent to The lantern for hopeful publication.

Here was their reaction:

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In truth, no one came close to failing the assignment, and all came back with stories that ranged from interesting to outstanding. And more importantly they learned what it’s like to feel reporter pressure, to press for answers, to make sources angry, to feel frustrated and to feel the relief and satisfaction that comes when a story falls into place.

We had a great piece on the new “drive in” coming to Columbus, a joint endeavor between the Gateway and the North Market. The Lantern already published a winner about a new student film festival. We had articles about a new severe weather symposium, the new campus bar Ethyl & Tank, how buses cope with potholes, and what Eddie George’s Grill is doing for March Madness. The Sloopy’s Menu naming contest was the subject for another student, as was the new North Campus dining hall. And just why doesn’t Ohio State report caloric counts for its dining hall food?

In truth, everyone came back with a viable story and everyone–by succeeding or failing by their own standards–took a big step forward in becoming the reporters we know they can be:

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Speaking of tweets, here is the one that sums up my week:

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I was writing about Jill Geisler’s piece for Poynter about AP’s decision to allow “over” to be used synonymously with “more than” when it comes to amounts.

518167498_3_embedStandardThose unfamiliar with AP Style no doubt say, “Who cares?” when it comes to debating such word choice, and will likely note they use “over” all the time and feel perfectly justified doing so.

“I was going over 55 mph.” “I spent over $100 on this dress.”

You may feel justified, but English language standards say it’s wrong. “More than” has long been the confirmed style of AP–and as my students know its misuse is my pet peeve in life.

The reason, as explained by Merriam-Webster lexicographer Peter Sokolowski in The Atlantic, is that AP “decided it could no longer stand athwart history, shouting ‘More than!’ Everyday style simply uses the two words interchangeably, and the AP will now reflect the change.”

Simply put: If we can’t follow the rules, let’s just change them.

My disgust over the change comes not just because it took a wrong and made it right–although that is asinine–but more significantly that we seem to be deciding, as a society, that it’s easier to give in than to fight for what is correct. If everyone is doing it, we may as well just sign off.

One of my son’s teachers in the seventh grade, where he is immersed in French, said she really does not care about his spelling as long as he has the meaning clear. What?! Don’t spelling–and punctuation and word choice–lead to universal understanding. Try as I might, I can’t ride a hoarse, and saying, “The ball is over their” makes no sense. Use of an apostrophe tells possession. Commas let us know whether it’s time for grandma to eat or for us to eat grandma.

We have already seemingly accepted “My bad,” and “Where’s it at,” as proper word choices, even though both make me cringe. In the past, poor grammar indicted less education; now it is affirmed. Where does it end?

Can you imagine our president speaking in such a manner? Oh wait, he already did.

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