Thursday, January 27, 2011


I've been so busy with work that I haven't had time or energy to blog much recently. Sorry about that. But I like to think that the millions of readers of the national magazine I work for are getting the benefit of my hard work.


Our February issue is just out and features a pretty cool cover story and lots more inside. Last night I received the first comment on the issue from a reader. It left me despaired.

No mention whatsoever about how interesting the articles are this month. Not a word on the great writing or terrific photography. Instead, it was a rant on how the word "despaired" in a caption was hyphenated. Because of space constraints, the word broke at the end of a line: despair-ed.

According to this reader's dictionary, despaired is two syllables, not three, and breaks only at de-spaired. The kind reader then signed off with "rules are rules!"

I tried to be kind in my response, saying that dictionaries differ and that rules are usually not rules, but rather traditions, and those can be broken. Blasphemous, I know, but true.

Then I tried to resist despair. So far, it's working.

"Resist Despair" T-shirt available at


  1. All that hard work, and what prompts reader feedback is a line break? Yep, I'd despair, too. (I confess to paying inordinate attention to whether words break properly. Still, I like to think that I have sufficient perspective on the matter that I can refrain from canceling my subscription if I spot a bad break!)

  2. So pleased you're not despairing... Of course, it's been a while. Hope you've managed to keep despair at bay!

  3. Thanks Suzanne and rottrover. Definitely keeping despair at bay!

  4. I'm so sorry there were no kind words from that reader. Just think - that was the ONLY thing your reader found to complain about in the whole magazine!

  5. I'm sure it was disheartening to put all that work into the issue and have that be the only (first) feedback. But I have to agree with the complainer that breaking a word that ends in -ed at that point is just plain wrong. Newspapers and magazines regularly thumb their figurative noses at such rules (or, as you prefer, traditions), but they were created for good reason. Breaking a word at a syllable makes logical sense and does not break the flow when reading. Breaking a word at -ed does. It catches attention for all the wrong reasons.

  6. Hi Anon, thanks for your comment and advice. I'll keep that in mind if this comes up again--but I'm hoping it won't. In this case it was a really tight caption for a photo.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.