So far, I’ve managed to keep my newfound meanness in check. But if the stuff in my head ever escapes through my lips or keyboard, some writers’ descriptors for me will not include “nice.”
One thing that turns me into a barely contained raging cur occurs when a writer inserts into a story parentheses containing an acronym or initialism that’s meaningless to a reader. Here’s an example.
“Casagrande has submitted her application for membership in the Not-So-Nice Copy Editors of America (NSNCEA).”
The writer usually justifies this by pointing to the “need” to use initials later in the story, which is even worse: “The NSNCEA declined the application, referring her instead to the Global Consortium of World-Class Crankcases (GCWCC) and the American Assn. of People Who Should Not Be Allowed to Own Sharp Objects (AAPWSNBAOSO). NSNCEA officials cited the foam around Casagrande’s mouth as reason for referring her to the GCWCC or AAPWSNBAOSO.”
Style guides have a term for this: alphabet soup. To the reader’s eye, these initialisms mean nothing. They’re gobbledygook. Unlike CIA and FBI, lesser-known initialisms are just that — lesser known — and therefore are a slap to the reader who must either 1. stop to remember what the letters stand for, 2. skim previously read portions of the story, or 3. tune out completely.
The writer’s job — especially when writing a news or feature article — is to present information in as readable a manner as possible. By cramming in the information instead of weaving it in, the writer is basically telling the reader to do her job for her: “I couldn’t be bothered to make this more accessible, so here, you deal with it.”