Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Comma, No Comma?

This is an ongoing issue for me. I constantly read copy (either published by someone else, or passed to me in the office) in which someone else's judgment about the comma in the coordinate adjectives is different from mine. 

I find it hard to explain why I put them in and take them out. Especially when I am challenged.

Ian brought me a puzzle this morning.

The phrase:

tall, red boots

He and another copyeditor argued with the editor that the comma should be out:

tall red boots
But they couldn't explain why.

So, I'm going to be posting similar examples now and then, and ask for your vote.

Here's why I agree w/ Ian. But I can't find backup for this anywhere.

"Tall" is form; "red" is color. They are not coordinate, and therefore no comma.

What's your vote, and why?

And here, many other phrases I'm running across, and am wondering if I'm right.

a small stiff, flat base

Friday, January 23, 2009

Improving, How?

In today's copyediting puzzle, we have this sentence:

[product name here] treats your skin day and night, improving the look of dark circles, puffiness, and crow's feet.

Hmmm. Improving.

Improving a negative. Does that mean, making it a better version of the negative? (darker circles, puffier eyes, crow-ier crow's feet?)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today's Word Misuse

In beauty copy today, a semi-homonym switch:

Environmental stressors can wreck havoc on your skin.

"Wreak" is the word she needed.

It actually might be a good thing, to be able to wreck havoc. Once the havoc is damaged, wouldn't things get better?
He Didn't Look Distraught!

In my newspaper today:

A brief bit about hedge-fund manager Arthur G. Nadel, who disappeared six days ago, around the time he owed investors a $50 million payout.

The last line:

. . . he left his family a note in which he appeared to be distraught.

It was a note. He didn't look like anything in the note.

I really wish they'd used "seemed."

I konw that "appear" can be used metaphorically, but when there is such a strong literal situation (a single piece of paper, not a series of actions and writings), the "appeared' just hit wrong.

Whattya think?