Automatic editing?

Subject: Automatic editing?
From: <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: "Techwr-l" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2007 12:30:08 -0400

The following paragraph is from an online report on the web page
of KLTV in Tyler TX (near Dallas).

"Thirty-1-year-old Martin Laguna is charged with conspiracy to
possess heroin with intent to distribute, plus distribution of
heroin. He's also charged with possession of a firearm during a
drug trafficking crime."

Thirty-1 ??? How did they accomplish that? Whaddya bet that as a
TV station, they're not putting much effort into editing for good
journalistic writing. So they have a smell-checker that tries to
apply some AP Style Guide rules: (a) Numbers from 1 to 10 are spelled
out, and everything else is in digits. (b) Sentences do not begin with
numbers in digits. Applying both rules at once gives amazing results.

I'm sure it's from automatic editing; no human editor, reporter or
typist could do something so ridiculous, even if not a native
speaker of English.

So you saw it here first--the oncoming automation of copy editing.
As tech writers we tend to regard MS Word's grammar and spelling
suggestions as occasionally helpful and frequently quite silly.
We ignore them when we know they're wrong. But the Bulldozer of
Future Standards is upon us, and we will be crushed by it. We will
see our finished writing pushed through an automatic Grammar
Grinder and ruined in the name of improvement, and the result
will become the new standard.

[Neilson emulates the Grammar Grinder on previous graf:]
So you were here first. The outcome automates copy editing.
As technical writers tend to regard Ms. Word's grammar and
spelling suggestions... [Geez, I gotta stop; my head hurts.]

--Peter Neilson


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