Harvard Alumni Magazine Bloopers

Now even Harvard people can’t write!  I feel like I am living the movie “Idiocracy.”  Again, it’s not so much that people write badly.  It’s that editors let it get through!  They’re the ones who are supposed to be in charge!  Their job is to make all that copy presentable.  It’s an article about Harvard trying to expand it’s real estate holdings into residential neighborhoods.  We all know they’d eventually like to swallow up the whole city of Cambridge… gets rid of all those unpleasant poor and blue-collar people. I’ll add details later.  I’m too upset right now.

Here’s some details–it’s the May-June 2007 issue of Harvard Magazine.  An unattributed article called “Ready for Growth? begins on page 60 in the mag section entitled “John Harvard’s Journal.”  After a good lead line, the first paragraph goes all to hell with sentences like

The public first heard of the project in 2003, but as this issue went to press, a neighborhood association remained concerned about aspects of it, the job was out for bids, but Harvard had yet to secure permission from the city to proceed.

The thing that threw me off was the botched list of facts telling me 1) a neighborhood association remained concerned about aspects of it, 2) the job was out for bids, and 3)  [??]  There was no 3!   There wasn’t even an “and.”  Instead, there was a “but.”  But I realize now that the comma after “aspects of it” should probably have been a semicolon or a colon or a dash.  More run-on sentences, my pet peeve.

Soon enough, there’s a semicolon that should have been a period.  It’s one of those long sentences beginning with “In March 2004…”  There’s no reason on God’s green earth that the word “planning” should be followed by a semicolon.  The next part of sentence, beginning with “after 14 public meetings,” is undeniably a complete sentence, easily able to stand on its own two feet.  There’s more where that came from, but I’m tired, and it’s late…

One Reply to “Harvard Alumni Magazine Bloopers”

  1. Well, Kurt Vonnegut wrote somewhere (I think in one of the esysas in The Man Without A Country, but I’d have to check) that all using a semi-colon shows is that you’ve been to college.I like them myself I can’t imagine how I could divide list items that have internal punctuation without semi-colons. But I can’t stop my students over-using them: semi-colons and em-dashes. It’s like they’ve had an epiphany and they use them everywhere.(For the record, I don’t think you need one between those two sentences, not when you’ve already got a conjunctive adverb.)

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