By Bob Yearick

Journalism 101

A quick lesson in journalism terms: An article is a news or feature story that appears one time in a given issue of a publication. A column is a regular or recurring feature, usually but not always by the same writer, that is the opinion of the writer. You find most columns on the editorial pages of newspapers and other publications.

Thus, this is a column, not an article, which some of my most devoted and learned readers continue to call it. It’s not a big deal, but I wanted to clarify that for everyone. Whatever you call it, please keep reading!

Just sayin’ . . .

What’s with the use of “First off” as preamble to any form of communication – email, text, article, speech? First off what? It’s wordy and lowbrow. “First of all” is OK, but also wordy; a simple “First” probably fits most situations.

Election Day Returns

While Nov. 8 did not bring the predicted “Red Wave,” it did deliver a few candidates for “War.”

•From The Washington Post, in a story on poll workers dealing with claims of fraud: “’We just go over the rules again,’ she said, explaining how workers diffused any problems.” The story had three bylines, so it’s hard to fix blame (the copy editor?), but the word is defused — or resolved. 

•Also from the Post, courtesy of reader Larry Hamermesh, in a story describing when states report election results: “Some states are lightening fast.” Lightning is the correct spelling. Lightening — with the e — means to make something lighter.

•Then there was retired Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls, quoted in USA TODAY about former teammate and candidate for the U.S. Senate Herschel Walker: “With Herschel coming on board, there was this misnomer that he could be the savior of the Cowboys.” Misnomer means “a wrong or inaccurate name or designation,” not a mistake, or mistaken idea, which is what Walls meant. If he had said, “Calling Herschel a savior is a misnomer,” he would’ve been right.

Department of Redundancies Dept.

WDEL’s Peter MacArthur: “The Phils continue their NLCS Series tonight.” NLCS: National League Championship Series.  

Media Notes

A reader says CNN’s Clarissa Ward, reporting from Kiev, uttered a double superlative when she said the Russians are doing things “in the most crudest fashion.”

Sign outside a north Wilmington restaurant. Can you spot the error? (It’s in the last line.)

•Reader Jane Buck caught The New York Times dangling a prepositional phrase in this headline: “After declining a debate, Democrats are worried about Katie Hobbs.” Democrats didn’t decline a debate, Hobbs did.

•A crosshead in a story by Jori Epstein in USA TODAY: “How long will he be out for?” (In reference to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott). Ending a sentence with a preposition is not strictly wrong, but adding an unnecessary one is inane.

•On Instagram, Madonna reflected on the legacy of her 1992 book Sex, and how she spent years being shamed “for empowering myself as a Women.” Really? Madonna mixes up woman and women?

Kudos to You, Mike 

It’s refreshing, amid all the miscues and mistakes in the mass media, to come across the correct use of a tricky little word that is usually abused. Last month, “War” pointed out such a word: tact, used incorrectly as a shortened version of tactic, a common mistake when the writer or speaker means tack — a course of action. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski recently employed it correctly in criticizing the NFL’s approach to curbing brain trauma among players: “It’s taking the wrong tack here.”

Literally of the Month

Reader Larry Kerchner heard CNN’s Bianna Golodryga report that, in dealing with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, “(Both Democratic and Republican leaders) were literally on the same page.”

Happy Holidays

Here’s wishing everyone a merry — and literate — holiday and a happy New Year! And remember to leave the apostrophe off family names in those holiday greetings. It’s not The Yearick’s, it’s The Yearicks. Not that anyone in my family would commit such an unforgiveable gaffe!

Word of the Month


Pronounced kos-it-ed, it’s an adjective meaning cared for and protected in an overindulgent way; pampered.

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