Chi Trib mini-lesson on how not to show contrast

Insipid "while" for "but" or "although"? Don't do it.

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By Jim Bowman


Trib, in a page one story about State's Atty. Alvarez losing first a big case and then her cool when discussing with reporters, has this about jurors' willingness to be quizzed:

While a media liaison for Judge Thaddeus Wilson had promised to release the names of jurors after the verdict, the judge instead said he sealed the names at the request of jurors.

While the press rep said jurors would be present, the judge said it wouldn't happen. Simultaneously? No, because the writer uses "while" as "although," which is common enough but ill-advised. What do you say when "while" means "at the same time as"? You say "while," letting the reader puzzle out what you mean.

Bad! It slows the reader down and softens the impact of contrast. It's a shrinking from the definite and precise. Say instead the judge's rep said jurors would be available, but the judge [later?] said they wouldn't, at their request. It's not a mystery novel you are writing, but a news story.

Point: Don't disguise or apologize for contrast, as if afraid to be dramatic. Make it clear.

Email: Twitter: @BlitheSp

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park Village  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 2:37 PM

Boy, this post will be real useful if I decide to go to law school.

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