Rantings of a sub-editor

February 22, 2010

Who’s been writing what?

Filed under: David Marsh,esteemed persons,Sally Baker — substuff @ 4:03 pm
Tags: ,

When I arrived at work today, someone (identity as yet unknown) had kindly left David Marsh’s Mind your language column on my desk. His topic this week is the upset caused by the Guardian’s policy of using the word ‘actor’ to describe both actors and actresses – or male and female actors, as the case may be.

Personally, I find the decision to modernise language in such a way that it conveys less information than its previous version odd. ‘Actress’ tells me in one word what ‘female actor’ tells me in two.

Marsh’s argument is that in most cases the sex of the subject is irrelevant.

“There is normally no need to differentiate between the sexes – and if there is, the words male and female are perfectly adequate: Lady Gaga won a Brit for best international female artist, not artiste, chanteuse or songstress.”

The subject certainly seems to arouse passions. When I mentioned it earlier, it even awoke the wrath of the art desk – usually immune to all discussions of house style. Their verdict: the abolition of ‘actress’ is “ridiculous”. This sub-editress/sub-editrix is inclined to agree.

No such fripperies for Sally Baker, who in her Feedback column on Saturday tackled the tricky subject of reporting suicide. When does information become too much information, or, worse, an instruction manual? And when is it acceptable to print a picture of a public suicide? It’s not something I have ever had to confront, here in the world of trade magazines. But an interesting – and important – read.

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