Painful contractions: Another sign of age

It was a horrible, haunting story in the newspaper. One repeated way too often.

A woman “trying to leave an abusive relationship was shot and killed in western Bexar County” on December 27, 2012.

The first paragraph of the story torn out of the San Antonio Express-News remains on my desk by the keyboard two weeks later.

Not because the words make me recoil at the thought of her husband dragging the screaming woman inside the house by her hair. And not because the reporter failed to make the tale compelling. The reporter’s sincere concern about the woman’s fate was underscored by her follow-up tweets on her day off from work:

Last pm, I exclusively reported a woman killed had sought a divorce and TRO from suspected killer the day before.

Sorry for tooting (tweeting) my own horn. Story is buried online but just as important (at least) as longhorns accused of rape, IMHO.

Man accused of killing wife has bought a new car, @BexarCounty sheriff’s office says. Now in 2013 Nissan, LP 39K6495

And two days later:

Officials confirm slain woman was pregnant; husband (accused killer) bought cigars, a car, after Thurs homicide

But instead of focusing on the tragedy, this aging boomer was distracted by the reporter’s use of a contraction in the first sentence of the printed newspaper story.

I make errors all the time. Frequently, in fact, on this blog. My tone is casual. I employ contractions, and many of my sentences simply are not sentences.

But maybe I’m too old (Age, unfortunately, is an incurable disease.) to accept “who’d” in a serious news story. Particularly when “who’d,” which can mean who would or who had, was linked by “and” to “was trying” later in the sentence.

A woman who’d just filed for divorce and was trying to leave an abusive relationship was shot and killed in western Bexar County on Thursday, and officials suspect her husband is to blame.

Proofreader please. The introductory sentence sent me to wondering just who’d read the story before it went to press. As newspapers continue to scale back, have editors vanished or is this the road down which the AP Stylebook has led us?

Of course, this concern over painful contractions arises from someone who thinks about commas often but tends to make up her own rules for the grammar game every time she writes.

To modernize my thinking and make newspaper-reading more palatable, I need to cure myself of this contraction distraction disorder. Part of my efforts for the new year is to try to heal myself of punctuation obsessiveness through music therapy.

The first prescription calls for a dose of Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma.”

Who’d have thought I’d be calling for a rousing chorus of “Who gives a f*** about an Oxford comma?”

February 1, 2013: Not over my contraction distraction disorder yet. Had to come back for another dosage of Vampire Weekend’s song.

The same daily newspaper did me in once again. The paper published an otherwise great story about the Mission Improvements Project on the San Antonio River on page 1. Great coverage, except the nonprofit foundation – the San Antonio River Foundation – supporting enhancements with millions of dollars in contributions was misidentified.

The online story was corrected, but the informal use of a contraction and the assignment of blame to “it,” the story itself, made the apology seem insincere:

An earlier version of this story credited the Confluence Park project on the Mission Reach to the San Antonio Parks Foundation. It should’ve credited the San Antonio River Foundation.

“Oxford Comma” time again.

4 thoughts on “Painful contractions: Another sign of age”

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