The New York Times’ “After Deadline” blog is a delightful weekly post on which the Times and its readers critique the writing in the published paper, presenting a “grab bag of grammar, style and other missteps.”
When I was studying journalism at Glassboro State College (before it sold the naming rights), our journalistic writing instructor and college newspaper advisor said that the Times was the standard for professional journalism. Take a look at “After Deadline” and you’ll see that the paper still holds itself to high standards.
In the July 14, 2015, blog entry, Philip B. Corbett commented on “weasel words that present some description as noteworthy without specifying what is actually noteworthy about it.… My colleague Pat Lyons” criticized “expressions that use the qualifier ‘just’ to suggest a small number without going to the trouble of telling readers what the number is.” Among the examples Corbett gave (the italics and bold were used on the blog):
In December, Mr. Anderson met a girl through Hot or Not, a dating app, and after some online flirting, he drove to pick her up at her house in Michigan, just miles over the state line.
Two miles? Twenty miles? Presumably Google Maps or another online source could have provided the distance in “just seconds.”
I like the sarcasm in the self-critique. The Times isn’t easy on itself. “After Deadline” is like the paper’s own weekly Hall of Shame.
The critiques aren’t all negative, though. In “After Deadline,” the Times also pats itself on the back for “sparkling prose”—for example, “under the quirks of Western water rules, where raindrops are claimed even as they tumble from the sky.”
I’m glad that a paper as busy as the Times puts together this blog post every week.
PS: Sadly, the Times discontinued the After Deadline blog in 2016.