Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'Tweet' Lives on at the NYT -- But Not Really

So Philip Corbett hasn't banned "tweet" after all.

He writes in his After Deadline column today:
[M]y note to colleagues did not attempt to "ban" the use of "tweet." Regular readers of After Deadline know I seldom attempt to ban anything outright - partly to leave room for editorial judgment, and partly to avoid demonstrating how little effect these memos really have.

But except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. "Tweet" - as a noun or a verb - is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections.
While I agree with Corbett's reasoning against overusing tweet -- or, indeed, overusing any word -- I think it's disingenuous to insist that writers steer away from using tweet in a Twitter context when appropriate. His "deft English alternatives" still leave me laughing:
"Tweet" may be acceptable occasionally for special effect. But let's look for deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once you've established that Twitter is the medium, simply use "say" or "write."
I suppose deftness is in the eye of the beholder. I realize that it's important for writers, especially journalists, to avoid jargon. It is equally important, however, that journalists and writers avoid convoluted writing in order to get around using jargon. The readers of the New York Times are an intelligent group; surely, if some of them are unsure as to what the word "tweet" means in certain contexts, they're smart enough to look things up.

The larger issue remains reporters using Twitter for research or mining it for quotes -- that seems a bit lazy to me.

Comically, Corbett takes issues with bloggers who didn't contact him for comment on the issue. Like he's going to want to field a thousand phone calls from my pajama-clad fellows.

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