Friday, August 22
When we're writing back-to-back, we're not saying it right
Is it only me – as pompous old gits say when they write Letters to the Editor – or do other readers find something irritating in the term “back-to-back”?
One expects it of sportswriters, of course. How often one sees a phrase like “the team won three premierships back-to-back”, conjuring up an image of the one in the middle spinning a pirouette to present a posterior to the next one along.
Usually it means successive. But whatever does it mean in the intro to this story in The Australian the other day? Probably the authors meant to say Obama and McCain took turns at answering questions from a hotshot evangelist. Or did they answer their interrogator by batting questions back at him?
It's only when you read the story to the eighth long, wordy paragraph you learn the Rev. Rick Warren conducted successive one-hour interviews, first with Obama while McCain and his staff blocked their ears, then with McCain, using the same set of questions. Why not just say so?
The Oz took the story from its new stablemate, The Wall Street Journal, acquired by Rupert Murdoch late last year. Like many quality newspapers in the US, the WSJ is so full of its own worthiness it bogs down in dreary writing.
That's one reason US newspaper readers are defecting to the internet at a far greater rate than those in Australia.