Friday, July 3, 2009

Overusing that and underusing on

Newspapers are always looking for ways to save words, and I generally agree. If you write a 600-word story but it can be said in 580 words, you're better off.

But there's one thing that bothers me: the use of the word on before a date.

I found this in a Miami Herald story:

Earlier this week, Davis said he thought any damage to his image was minimized when the Dolphins quickly informed the police and media outlets of Davis' whereabouts June 9.

The last part is the section that bothers me. "... Davis' whereabouts on June 9" sounds better to me.

I've worked at newspapers that wouldn't let you use the word on in that instance, unless there was a proper noun in front of it.

He drove his brother back to the Medical University on June 9.
In that case, on breaks up capitalized words, which I think avoids confusion.

I think the sentence needs something else. You might write it: Earlier this week, Davis said that he thought any damage to his image was minimized ...

The newspaper I freelance for now mandates that we use that in such instances. Sometimes they overuse that and underuse on, but that's their business.


Entries from The Dog Blog

Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie


  1. I agree with your thoughts about the use of "on" and "that," but I'd like to know more about "to." How does your current newspaper underuse that word?

  2. Jane, thanks for catching the use of "to". I meant "on". Tom