3/05/2008

Veteran Newsman is under way too much stress

A cry for justice ...
Mr. Rewrite: how about exposing the national tragedy of people who should know better using "underway" when should write "under way"? Veteran Newsman.
Mr. Rewrite rises to this challenge, Veteran Newsman.

Folks, this probably is the style/usage point botched most by those paid to know better. The AP Stylebook calls for under way, two words, in every use but one: as an adjective in a nautical sense (e.g. an underway fleet).

Since most of those paid to know better are obliged to follow AP style, Veteran Newsman doesn't understand why so many articles on Google News -- thousands, 42 percent of the times it's used -- go with underway.

While he joins Veteran Newsman in faulting these articles for not following AP style, Mr. Rewrite understands the errors to some extent. He believes the preferred form will become underway in all uses during his lifetime. While most of his usage guides go with under way, most also note a trend, especially in American English, toward using underway in all cases. AP usually lags on such matters, as evidenced by its commitment to teen-ager over teenager long after the rest of the world had moved on.

Bryan A. Garner (cue angelic chorus) notes that some dictionaries go with under way when used adverbially and underway as an adjective preceding a noun, like every day (adv.) vs. everyday (adj.). He also says it's increasingly popular to use the one-word form in the phrases get underway and be underway. "It would be convenient to make that transformation, which is already underway, complete in all uses of the word," Garner says.

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Veteran Newsman also calls attention to this Ask Amy column in which Amy gets in a dust-up with a reader over her disapproval of a grandmother returning a grandchild's thank-you note with spelling and grammar corrections. It's the last item. You might have difficulty getting past the letter from a widow who says her new boyfriend wants her to sleep in the nude because he and his late wife used to sleep sans pajamas.

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Yikes. Triangle Grammar Guide points out this it's/its error on Tuesday's CBS Evening News ...

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