Day 2 of Journalism Bootcamp started off well for me, as we dived right into one of the things that really gets my juices flowing….oh yeah…grammar and usage!
We started by going over a find-the-mistakes exercise we’d been given for homework with our Associate Dean here at the School of Communications, Rose Ann Robertson, a veteran of the newsroom and inveterate wordie, who jokingly claimed she sleeps with the AP Style Book under her pillow. I dream of owning an Oxford English Dictionary. I feel a kinship.
Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows I’m a word freak (I once did open an account at the now defunct wordie.com). I obsess over the beauty of certain words, I have been known to have impassioned arguments over usage and debates over my philosophy of language, and, oh yeah, I was an ESL teacher which means I spent every day explaining the whimsically quirky twists and turns of the English language to often bewildered students.
I know most people don’t like this stuff but I was still surprised when, after the morning session I couldn’t find anyone ready to jump into a debate about the importance/uselessness of hanging on to the “whom” form, or who wanted to discuss the political implications of designating a particular dialect as “good” or “bad” English. Ah well. Nerd world can be lonely.
From Grammar and Usage, we jumped into Style, AP Style to be specific.
This is where things get funny for me. I know I can write reasonably well, but I’ve never had the occasion to study a specific “style.” English grammar “rules” (one can only use the term loosely) are fairly arbitrary and one always has to tell forlorn students “there is no reason, just learn it, accept it, and move on.” Style rules are, of course, arbitrary on a whole different level, and I’m now having to adopt that philosophy myself.
But the passion that people seem to have about style definitely appeals to my word nerdiness. I actually admire it when someone declares with real conviction, as though speaking of some sort severe ethical compromise, to “Avoid it at all costs!” when referring to starting a sentence with a numeral. Maybe its a bit of my father’s engineering genes, but I somehow find it comforting, this effort to bring order to the chaos of something as sloppy, as mutable, as slippery as language.
We had a short assignment (posted here) to write 300 or so words on a certain event in AP style. Then we were subjected to the slightly unnerving experience of having our pieces projected on a wall and picked apart as much as possible. LOVED IT! As a compulsive editor who volunteered to proofread friend’s written work for fun, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s something so satisfying about a block of text and trying to shine it up like an old coin. I know it sounds like I’m trying to be some sort of kiss-up, Lisa Simpson, teacher’s pet, but I really am this dorky.
Lastly we got into a session dedicated to social networking and journalism: how to use tools like Facebook and Twitter to gather information, promote your work, build sources, and create a community, which is a whole other blog post. 🙂