Let’s Eat Grandma. Or Let’s Eat, Grandma. There’s a difference.

Recently, Poynter has come under fire for cracking the whip on Jim Romenesko  due to lack of attribution. Critics are either in support of Poynter for punishing him for his lazy attribution style or in support of Romenesko and feel that Poynter was too harsh  over  something like not using quotation marks.

One person who was quoted in the article in support of Romenesko, really stood out to me:

“Jim Romenesko didn’t plagiarize and my friends at the Poynter Institute were wrong to suggest that he did,” wrote Steve Buttry, the director of community engagement and social media at Journal Register Co. “It’s a punctuation offense, not a serious breach of journalism ethics.”

Now some people may not think that punctuation really matters, but the wrong placement of something such as a comma, could completely change the meaning of a sentence. The oldest example of this is the difference between, ‘Let’s eat Grandma’ and ‘Let’s eat, Grandma.’ One is an invitation and one is cannibalism.

Quote marks are even more important, if you have them it means the words aren’t yours. If you don’t then readers should rightly assume  that the words that are there are your own creation.

However, someone else in support of Romenesko had a valid point. He wasn’t really doing journalism, he was blogging. It wasn’t necessarily fair to use strict journalism rules on something that wasn’t journalism.

I think this whole case is in a shade of gray. Especially given that Romenesko was a little while away from retiring. If they were letting it go for so long, why not just let him retire when he was supposed to?

Regardless, grammar is grammar. It should be followed in writing in general, not just journalism.

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