Friday, May 16, 2008

You want grammar, or writing?

It's not always a good idea to follow the rules.

When I was a cub reporter at the late and much-lamented Holyoke Transcript-Telegram, I got sent to cover a homicide in one of the less salubrious sections of the town, which is far west of Boston.
There was a subdued crowd outside a tenement. A cop told me there had been a party, and a gentleman by the name of Antonio Sierra had taken liberties with the host's wife. The host had responded by plunging a very large knife into Sierra's chest.

I raced back to the newsroom in my rust-brown 1973 Buick LeSabre and typed these words: "Chivalry is not dead, but Antonio Sierra is."

It never made the paper.

"We can't run this," an editor said.

Edna Buchanan won a Pulitzer writing stuff like that. But, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, I knew Edna Buchanan, and I'm no Edna Buchanan. A more sober and straightforward account of Sierra's unfortunate demise was published instead.

I got to thinking about Sierra and the hit-or-miss exercise that is writing last week after I wrote about my old Catholic school. The school is 100 years old and I thought it would be fun to go back for a visit with my classmate Dommy D'Angelo.

The column had been put to bed when I got a call from Ellen Clegg, a very fine editor at the Boston Globe.

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