Grammarians, English Teachers and Copy Editors: Help Me Rewrite This Sentence!

Background information: Lake Springfield (in Illinois) was built in the 1930’s. The guy whose influence got the lake built was named Willis Spaulding. Debate in the Springfield city council on Tuesday night centered on developing luxury condominiums on a tract of land on the lake. Tom Shafer, an opponenet of the plan, brought a cotton sheet wrapped around a basketball to represent the ghost of Willis Spaulding (guess you had to be there), as a way of suggesting that Willis Spaulding would be opposed to the project.

A photo in Wednesday’s State Journal-Register has a photo of Shafer, holding his “ghost,” with this caption: Tom Shafer appears with “the ghost of Willis Spaulding,” considered the father of Lake Springfield, to say "Noooooo."

The way that sentence is written seems awkward to me. With the clause “the ghost of Willis Spaulding” immediately followed by the words “considered the father of Lake Springfield,” the sentence almost suggests that the ghost is the father of Lake Springfield, rather than Mr. Spaulding himself. [sub]Yes, I understand that ghosts don’t build lakes. Work with me here.[/sub]

Here’s how I would have written it: “Tom Shafer appears with ‘the ghost of Willis Spaulding’ to say ‘Noooooo.’ Mr. Spaulding is considered the founder of Lake Springfield.” But that’s two sentences, which I understand is to be avoided in newspaper captions.

Any suggestions?

Tom Shafer appears with the “ghost” of the man considered the father of Lake Springfield, Willis Spaulding, to say “Noooooo.”

Tom Shafer appears with the “ghost” of Willis Spaulding, the man considered the father of Lake Springfield, to say “Noooooo” to lakeside development.

I would’ve written it, "Tom Shafer, considered to be the ‘father of Lake Springfield,’ is joined by “the ghost of Willis Spaulding,” to say “Noooooo!”

And re: two sentences in cutlines, I write cutlines (or captions) every day and I have no problem making it two sentences. Clarity is more important than some silly rule of thumb. If the readers can’t understand something because I forced myself to make it only one sentence long, then we (the newspaper) have failed to do our job.


I’m sorry, I just have to edit my cutline a little:

should read:

Tom Shafer, considered the “father of Lake Springfield,” is joined by the “ghost” of Willis Spaulding to say “Noooo!”
Granted I didn’t actually see the picture, so I couldn’t tell you how acurate this cutline is…


**The Ghost said No. **

Happy you got the names backward. Points off for error in fact, my friend.
HeyHomey both the original and your rewrite work just fine if you ask me. Had I written it, though I would have done pretty much the same as you.

Eh, I’m too busy wrangling monsters like this:

to mess with something that’s already been printed and used as fishwrap. Your sentence sings compared to the junk I’m fixing these days. :stuck_out_tongue:

And yet I don’t have a job in journalism <sigh>

Hey Scarlett67, need another writer on your staff?

The ghost of Willie Spaulding, the father of Lake Springfield, (shown with Tom Shafer) says “Noooooooooooo!” to development plans.


“Nooooo,” says Tom Shafer, appearing with the ghost of the man considered to be the founder of Lake Springfield, Willis Spaulding.
I dunno, it just looked awkward to have the “Nooo” at the end of the sentence.

Screw it. Just say, “BOO!”

My vote is for changing the quotation marks from being around “the ghost of whatsisname” to being around the “ghost” of whatsisname.


I like Tris’.

Bella wins!

Woohooo! I knew this day would come. I’d like to thank god, my sainted mother, and that weird guy who lives under my porch. ::blows kisses::


Well, I’m a freelance copyeditor, and I work on mostly college textbooks, so I edits what they throws at me. I have enough bad writers throwing their stuff at me already. :smiley:

I like Tris’s version, too. And Happy is, by the standards of most newspapers, on target – though he may have misattributed an attribution, he at least stuck with the people in the picture – as opposed to running the shot of a man arrested after shooting his wife with this caption and putting “George Smith, accused of murdering his wife Elaine (47), is taken into custody by Lake Springfield P.D.” under this picture! :slight_smile:


And to think, in 4 months, I’ll be trying to join you…

On hand to say nooooo were Tom Shafer and legendary father of Lake Springfield, “the ghost of Willis Spalding.” Simple.