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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Great Moments in Dubious Editing--Unfortunate Alliteration Edition

I don't "get" alliteration.  As a literary device, that is.  Metaphors, yes.  I understand how a clever metaphor can illuminate an idea by showing it in a new and unfamiliar way: fog creeping in on little cat's feet, and all.  Now that's a nice metaphor.  Not least because it has a cat.

Alliteration, on the other hand?  Meh.  So you string a few words together that have the same consonant sound.  Big black bats bounce basketballs behind Bloomingdale's.  There.  Alliteration.  Whoop.

I suppose it can be useful as mnemonic device.  Perhaps a pleasing aural experience, useful for memorizing muscles or selling sausages, but in serious news--particularly in stories about, say, war-torn nations--it should be avoided:
"Information is a strategic weapon in the stalemated conflict, as both sides seek support from suffering Syrians . . . ." ("Syria Campaigns to Persuade U.S. to Change Sides")
"Seeking support," OK.  But "suffering Syrians"?  Images of Sylvester the Cat arise unbidden.  How about "traumatized," "beleaguered," or even "war-weary"?  See, that last one even gives the writer an opportunity to alliterate without unnecessarily distracting the readers with obvious over-writing.

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