20 January 2004

A Rant on Fake (Newspaper-Style) Paragraphing
Those of you who follow this blawg at all have noted that quotations from newspapers often include this qualifier after the citation:

(fake paragraphing removed for clarity)

Sorry, guys, but I was taught that most paragraphs—and particularly paragraphs that describe in detail the heart of a story—should consist of more than one sentence. The example from this morning is an excellent one. That one paragraph in my quotation is three paragraphs in the article, consisting of one, two, and two sentences. Critically, the last two paragraphs actually do not have a topic sentence; the first (one-sentence) paragraph is the only real topic sentence. That those last four sentences only develop and clarify the first sentence should have been a hint.

I suppose I could blame Rudolph Flesch and the "readability index" for this; but that's no excuse for the National Law Journal, which bloody well should not be written down to a so-called "sixth-grade reading level" in the first place. If this indicates some disdain for the newspaper business and its "standards," so be it. A reader who is actually paying attention to the article surely can follow a five-sentence paragraph… particularly since that is the "standard" taught in composition courses these days. Fortunately, I'm not paying to have my intelligence insulted like this. Well, I suppose I am, in the form of Internet access fees, but that's more like a library fee than a fee for a particular publication.

So you'll continue to see that qualifier. A lot.