The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that “A woman was critically injured early Sunday when the motorcycle she was riding struck a median near Fourth and Lomas NW.”
That’s one way of putting it.
Another way of putting it is that a woman crashed her motorcycle into a median near Fourth and Lomas NW.
Anyone writing briefs for the Journal has read the Journalism 101 essential “The Elements of Style,” in which Strunk & White teach that active voice makes forceful writing.
For example, “Rain hit the window” is better than “The window was hit by rain.” Or “The cock’s crow came with dawn” versus “At dawn the crowing of the rooster could be heard.”
But active voice isn’t only about strong writing. It’s also about accuracy.
To say that “A woman was injured when the motorcycle she was riding struck a median” makes the motorcycle the subject and the woman the object. Which implies the motorcycle is at fault.
This may be the case. Perhaps there was a mechanical failure. Perhaps the motorcycle was remote controlled.
Maybe the bike was drunk.
“Alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the crash,” the Journal reported.
Bad writing doesn’t signal a conspiracy, but in a world where everybody is a victim of something, where corporations cause obesity and racism causes bad math scores, where consequences are independent of action and the media are first in line to dismiss personal responsibility, briefs like this seem to signal the dark future of journalism.
“Between The Lines” is a series featuring fictional headlines of real events.
DISCLAIMER: For those who might say it’s insensitive to use such a tragedy to make a point about grammar, save it. The woman was given 92 words in brief on page 6 next to a notice about Navajo recreational areas being closed.It’s not a subtle difference.)
Categories: Between The Lines