Funny Journalism Note: Los Angeles Cuts Down on “Movement”

This is just funny.  From the Los Angeles Times today, an article by David Zahniser on cuts to Commuter Express services run by the City of Los Angeles:

The agency also would phase out three Commuter Express routes: Line
575, which travels from Simi Valley to Warner Center; Line 413, which
moves from Van Nuys and North Hollywood to downtown; and Line 430, which
runs from Pacific Palisades to downtown Los Angeles.

If you studied elementary fiction writing in high school, someone probably told you that when writing dialogue, you shouldn’t write “he said” over and over.  And so there may have been 15 minutes when you sprinkled your fiction dialogue with synonyms: “he said,” “she replied,” “he intoned, darkly”, “she shot back,” “he insisted.”  It got silly pretty fast.

So I’m amused to see that when describing three bus routes in sequence, journalists are now instructed to vary the verb.  So the 575 “travels,” the 430 “runs,” but the 413 “moves.” Moving, no?

9 Responses to Funny Journalism Note: Los Angeles Cuts Down on “Movement”

  1. Aaron M. Renn June 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    Your liberal arts background is showing through the transit planner facade. Is your subconscious trying to tell you to go back to theater? 🙂

  2. Jarrett at June 4, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Not theatre, no.  But I don't apologize for having spent a decade studying how language works.  If I can sometimes point out how the words we use are using us, I think that can be helpful to urbanist discussions.  This post, however, was just a funny.. 

  3. Angus June 5, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    Lucky there were only three routes in the list, or he might have had to break out the thesaurus.

  4. Alan Robinson June 5, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    … the 354 conveys between a and b, the 958 snakes from x mall to y plaza, and the 687 pushes through …
    It’d take awhile to run out.

  5. John June 5, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    I don’t see why it’s all that funny. If I were writing it in a tech memo, I would have probably used bullet points for the three routes, but in sentence format, it seems like good writing practice to avoid repetition. Am I wrong?

  6. EngineerScotty June 5, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    I’d just admit the verbs altogether, except for possibly the first instance, like so:
    Line 575, from Simi Valley to Warner Center; Line 413, from Van Nuys and North Hollywood to downtown; and Line 430, from Pacific Palisades to downtown Los Angeles.
    If it were a longer list, I’d go even further.
    Line 575, (Simi Valley to Warner Center); Line 413, ( Van Nuys and North Hollywood to downtown); and Line 430, (Pacific Palisades to downtown Los Angeles).
    Neither require either mindless repetition of verbs, or wrangling with a thesaurus.

  7. JBE June 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    Copy editors usually don’t like it when you write anything but “said” when you are directly quoting someone’s oral speech. Not sure why but that is just how most newspapers do it; so I agree it is odd to vary the verb like the Times article does. I kind of wonder if the writer was instructed to do this or perhaps an overworked copy editor just didn’t catch it.

  8. Alon Levy June 5, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    When you write fiction beyond high school, you’re told to use “said” and maybe “asked” and nothing else. The way I heard multiple people explain it is that readers are used to those terms and tune them out, so they don’t perceive the repetition. The only reason to add such words is to remind which character is speaking. More complex verbs than “said” or “asked” just distract, and the more complex, the worse – think of “ejaculated,” common in 19th century fiction.

  9. Chief Clerk June 8, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Fowler’s Modern English Usage, which has gone through many editions, scathingly calls this “elegant variation”. No reason they couldn’t just list the routes as Scotty says, or use “runs” each time.