Quote bowdlerizing that may only be of interest to copyediting nerds | Bleader

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quote bowdlerizing that may only be of interest to copyediting nerds

Posted By on 10.15.09 at 11:17 AM

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Amanda Hess, our sister Washington City Paper's Sexist, flags a fantastic instance of one of my favorite things in all of journalism (from the copy-editor-lite Washington Post):

“Last week, I was over at a friend’s house, and he showed me a picture on Facebook of a girl I used to” date, Thomas said.

Now, I really support quote-bowdlerizing. When I was like 12 (shut up, I was sheltered) I'd run across in, say, Sports Illustrated, some bad word that had clearly been written around. Far from feeling protected from the brutal English language, it would pique my curiosity. What rich epithet could lie behind those brackets? It really opened my eyes to the grand mystery of obscenity while emphasizing its power to bother grownups.

My beef with the above is its awkwardness. First - and don't quote me on this, I'm not a professional copy editor and actually sort of suck at it - shouldn't it be "girl I used to [date]"? I think it reads better, or at least more honestly, though reasonable people may disagree.

Second, they're not writing around date. Don't [barnyard epithet] me. Be specific, and just go the full Victorian if you have to: girl I used to [be intimate with]. If that implies too much, I'll settle for [engage in responsible intercourse with, though outside the bonds of marriage]. We're all adults here, of a sort.

Update: Copy-editing -> copyediting per copy editors.

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