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Two nuances journalists don't see

The inane advice "If you see an adverb, kill it," sometimes rendered "If you see an adjective, kill it," assumes that writers know what adverbs and adjectives are and can identify how they operate. Don't bet on it.

One of the more annoying tics in journalese is the practice of placing the day of action before the verb. The president Tuesday decided to appeal the court's ruling is what appears in newspapers instead of the idiomatic The president decided Tuesday to appeal the court's ruling.

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Adverbs generally follow the verb, unless some particular emphasis is intended. No native speaker of English, not even a journalist, would say, "I yesterday went to the movies" instead of "I went to the movies yesterday," which shows that journalists not only fail to listen to how people talk, but do not register how they themselves talk.

Some journalists also have difficulty placing a year appropriately in a sentence. You can find references in newspapers like Miller's 1956 marriage to Marilyn Monroe ended in divorce. No, he only married her once. The name of the year, when placed before the noun, looks as if it is functioning as an adjective specifying which one. Put it in a prepositional phrase after the noun—Miller's marriage in 1956 to Marilyn Monroe ended in divorce avoids the which one implication. And sounds normal, too.

I suppose I should stop before I veer into journalists' addiction to the "split-verb" nonsense. You know how I get.

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