Letter of the Week: English Lessons

From: Hitting the Streets Kudos to Jeff Pranger for stating his objection to your use of the word “street” as published in the Letters section of Popular Photography, December 2008.I join Jeff in complaining that Popular Photography is littered with slang. A reputable magazine should provide expert information about the topics it covers, but should also be exemplary in its the use of language.

From:   Gordon Padwick
To: POP Editor
Subject:  Hitting the Streets

Kudos to Jeff Pranger for stating his objection to your use of the word “street” as published in the Letters section of Popular Photography, December 2008.

I join Jeff in complaining that Popular Photography is littered with slang. A reputable magazine should provide expert information about the topics it covers, but should also be exemplary in its the use of language. Editors should understand that their magazine is read by people for whom English is not a first language, and who don’t necessarily understand slang words.

I object to using the word “shoot” to refer to the action of taking a photograph and to using “photo” to refer to a photograph. Great photographers, such as Ansel Adams, didn’t shoot and they didn’t refer to their work as photos.

Looking into Popular Photography, December 2008, I came across the Coming Home article in which I found examples there of bad use of language such as:

“How were you positioned?” That sentence would you get an F in any creative writing class. Position is a noun that should not be deformed into a verb.

“What gear did you use?” Gear is what my car uses. My photographic equipment isn’t “gear.”

“I don’t have a one.”  Sounds like a first-grader’s comment.

The interviewer doesn’t have to replay exactly what the interviewee said. The interviewer can ask the interviewee for permission to slightly rephrase what the interviewee said.

Please, Popular Photography editors, tune your magazine for adult readers. It isn’t clever to use slang and low-grade, pseudo English. Make your magazine a high-grade publication by paying careful attention to good use of the language.

I suggest that everyone who writes an article for Popular Photography that’s based on information about a specific photographer should read and digest the book “The Craft of Interviewing” by John Brady (ISBN 0-911654-44-5)

—Gordon Padwick

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