Clipping from the Fredericksburg, Va., Free Lance-Star, April 20, 2015.

Steve’s Hall of Shame*: Exploding clouds

From the Fredericksburg, Va., Free Lance–Star, April 20, 2015.

This story is about Bill Rhodes, a Marine assigned to the island of Tinian during World War II. The planes that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki flew from an airfield on Tinian.

But the mushroom clouds didn’t explode, and they weren’t visible on the horizon from Tinian. Tinian is 1,300 miles from Japan.

Colorful language in nonfiction can be good, but it should be accurate, or it won’t be nonfiction any more. It would be a correct metaphor to say that the clouds boiled up, but they didn’t explode; the bombs exploded, and the mushroom clouds resulted.

Don’t let this happen to you: Make sure that colorful language gives more information, not misinformation.


* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.

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