Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Goodman: "Politics: the red and blue of stem cells"

Considering the treatment Goodman was regularly getting up to some weeks ago, I suppose I really shouldn't complain that her columns have lately been coming through full-length and not much distorted by editorial depredation. Today's (originally titled "Tinting Science," June 14) is well in that trend. We have only to endure the editor's unaccountable fear of the passive voice.

Here's Ellen's lead sentence:
"By now you may be forgiven for suspecting that science is tinted -- if not entirely tainted -- by politics. "

And the Courier version:
"By now most will forgive you for suspecting that politics taint science."

Somebody please explain to me how this improves the column. To my eye it's hack work of the lowest order.

5 comments:

leftturnclyde said...

maybe we should change that line to :
By now most will forgive you for suspecting that politics taint the Courier.
hee hee, moo ,egad, poit!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't make it better. In fact, when I was in journalism school and throughout my career, experienced editors told me to never forget one thing: If you change someone's lead, you need to talk with them about it. I find it abominable that someone would change Ellen Goodman's lead. And it was far better passive. jared

MJ said...

i can see why people shun the passive voice, and i try not use it. but i guess steven's point is that inflexible rules are the real problem and i agree that the rewritten lead is clunkier. why they are trying to improve on ellen goodman is beyond me. i guess they think they are better writers.

Steven Ayres said...

Outside the sense that you don't want to use it inappropriately or to excess, the passive isn't something to avoid, but rather something to employ when appropriate. It's great for softening statements that might be taken as blaming, for example, and there are plenty situations where what would be the legitimate subject of an active version is unclear, shouldn't be named, or is not the actor. (Go ahead, try and rewrite the passive out of that sentence.)

leftturnclyde said...

I find it abominable that someone would change Ellen Goodman's lead.


and the courier does it all the time