You could read it another way
The caller didn’t leave her name, but she was a sweet Southern lady, I’m guessing of retirement age. Her voicemail from this morning made me laugh.
“Ms. Moyer? I just wonder what you thought of this. It was in Sunday’s paper on A7, and it says ‘Police shoot man with knife.’ I thought there might have been another way to word that.”
Yes. Yes, there might have been.
The combination of short spaces, deadlines and too much coffee can lead to strange happenings in the brains of those who write the headlines. It doesn’t help that headline writers save space by leaving out articles and conjunctions, thus training our brains to think that certain awkward phrases make perfect sense.
Just last week I was trying to reword a headline on a sad story about an arrest after an autopsy concluded that an infant’s death was caused by drowning in a bathtub. Once the results were released, the child’s father was charged with neglect.
I wrote, “Father charged after autopsy results in baby’s death.”
Then I reread it, smacked myself and started over.
When things like this get in the paper, people tend to remember them for a long time.
I got a call recently from a man still snickering about a story we ran in 2004 about a change-of-command ceremony at Dahlgren, the naval base. These ceremonies follow a predictable pattern, and reporters generally turn out predictable coverage.
But our reporter in this case worked hard to capture the scene in spare, descriptive language.
Here was the lead:
“Surrounded by the warm breeze blowing over the Potomac, the officers at Dahlgren’s Naval Surface Warfare Center fell in.”