Tuesday, October 27, 2009

House style in the sticks

Urged on by Tim, I was going to blog about hymns. But the grim weather has turned my thoughts instead to the irritation caused by our local rag, the redoubtable Dunoon Observer (and Argyllshire Standard, if you're feeling long-winded). Every second Sunday, more or less, I bash out an account of the service at Holy T, just to remind people that we're still alive, so to speak. I landed this job, along with Mrs Heathbank, because "you can write". And usually, my copy appears more or less as it left my Mac.

But not, it would seem, this week. This week my usual contact, a journalist to whom in the distant past I taught the odd thing, is on holiday, and I was mailed by another. This other informed me that as well as cropping my headline (not unexpectedly) he had "altered a couple of grammatical errors". Dear reader, I felt the blood pressure rise. Tell me, I requested, what you regard as a grammatical error. Back came the mail. It was not, after all, a matter of grammar. He apologised for that. No, it was a matter of "house style". Apparently all who write for the paper, paid or not, have to adhere to this. (First I've heard of it) From this, no contributor, it seems, may be allowed to stray. And that includes beginning a sentence with "and".

Whether or not I shall bother writing for this publication again remains to be seen. But am I being horrid when I find it hilarious that a paper which abounds in comma-splice and other linguistic unpleasantness talks about "house style"? But maybe I've got it. Maybe I need to go back a bit. How about this kind of thing:

Mrs Blethers, in giving her vote of thanks, expressed her gratitude to all who had given so freely of their time and talents to make the event so successful. It was agreed, as the congregation wended their way home, that a good time had been had by all.


  1. How very Zen of you: a service is both an event and yet not an event. I like it.

  2. Tell me about it! We have two local rags. The Dumbarton Reporter have shamed themselves so much in my eyes that I refuse to even speak to them now. The Lennox is more cuddly and checks what is going to be printed before they publish. The Chief Reporter and Sub Editor is a non-stipendiary minister in the C of S. Maybe that helps?