Blog: The Educated Reporter

[Don’t do it.]

Though it is a staple of newspaper writing, I always go out of my way to avoid those bracketed words and clauses inside quotes. The assumption is that readers could not possibly use context clues to know what you are talking about. Unlike the editor who once wanted me to insert in a feature on middle schoolers a definition of “pom poms,” I don’t think readers are stupid. (At least not the ones who treat the comments section like a virtual Klan rally.) They can figure out which person a pronoun refers to.

While these always annoy me, I have never seen a more appalling use of this convention than on this Baltimore Sun headline the other day: “We just couldn’t get [dying Haitian] what he needed”



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