Grammar News, Good & Bad, at The New York Times

I just stumbled on what looked like  a useful resource page at The New York Times, the “Times Topic” page headed, Grammar News. Unfortunately, it seem the Times‘ attention to detail doesn’t extend to riding herd on the links on that page.

Several are out of date, including two to books by the late Theodore M. Bernstein, who was the Times resident grammarian back when I found his book Watch Your Language on the paperback rack at my local newsstand.  It was subtitled,  A Lively, Informal Guide to Better Writing, Emanating from the News Room of the New York Times, and I had just been offered the job of copy editor at my school newspaper. That was one of the better coincidences of my life.

How sad that the Times link to information about Bernstein’s book returns only a “404 not found” error message, the Web equivalent of just the sort of editing lapses he used to point out in the newspaper’s grammar and style.

Another old friend is similarly slighted. The late Kenneth G. Wilson, a vice president of the University of Connecticut when it was my beat at The Hartford Courant, wrote The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, a fine and good-humored reference book with some 6,500 entries.

The Times links to the address where the book was once offered for free online by Bartleby.com, but that’s no longer true. The same is apparently the case for The American Heritage Book of English Usage. Both links now go to the front page of the Bartleby site, not to those substantial reference books.

(Both volumes are still available as electronic resources through NetLibrary.com, which sells its services to university libraries like mine. The works also may be available on CD-ROM in some reference collections.)

Last, but perhaps the worst omission, the Times Grammar News page neglects to link to its own current “After Deadline” grammar feature, written by Bernstein’s successor at issuing critiques of grammar and style to the Times staff. He is Philip B. Corbett, identified on some pages as “deputy news editor,” and on others as “associate managing editor for standards,” presumably a well-deserved promotion. He is also in charge of the Times style manual.

It’s great to have his columns discuss issues that come up in student writing. Here are a few recent ones:

I searched NYTimes.com and couldn’t figure out who his counterpart is for making sure the Web links all work, but I passed on the information above using a generic feedback form.

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.

Posted in Journalism, News, Newspapers, Online-Only, usability, WebDesign

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