AT LEAST A FEW of you, dear readers, weren’t yet born thirty years ago when Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon Unit recorded “Valley Girl.” At that time I thought it was a clever piece of work, but that it must be an exaggeration, maybe even a fabrication, of San Fernando Valley speech. I’d never heard anyone talk that way in the small Canadian town where I grew up, and I expected I never would.
RARE IS the day that I do not find a piece of bad writing in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Post, or Globe and Mail. This statement, I am confident, could be applied with justice to any newspaper of your choosing. The badness is delivered in many varieties, and in fairness I must observe that some errors are a product of working conditions, deadlines and the under-resourcing of bureaus and so on. Most bad writing however has as its root a more troubling fact: its creators do not know what words mean.