Thursday, January 27, 2011

Despaired

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.

Wrong.

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 Zazzle.com

6 comments:

  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!)

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

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

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  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!

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  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.

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  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.

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