Grammar Creep

So . . . I was doing some construction work on my Web site (more on this below) and blog, and I found myself typing the words Web site in an Update to an old post (this one, if you must know). As I typed the words in the update, I wondered–because I often forget things like this–whether it was Web site or web site. I googled the term, and among other things, I found this, a post by the Grammarist:

A few editorially conservative publications still use the two-word Web site, but this relic of the 1990s has fallen out of favor throughout the English-speaking world. The one-word, uncapitalized website now prevails by an overwhelming margin.

Now, given that I’d just been updating my own post about checking sources, I decided to check the Grammarist’s claims–he or she didn’t give any sources, though s/he did give some examples, all of which date from 2011 to 2012. (Based on this, I assume the undated post also dates to 2012.)

I have a favorite place to go to do this kind of thing: The Corpus of Contemporary American English or COCA. Unfortunately, I just realized, apparently COCA’s database only includes words through 2012; as a result, it’s difficult to test the Grammarist’s claim about what’s happening right “now.” Today. 2014. That said, I could test his/her claim as of 2012. Drum roll . . .

And the winner is! . . . . Web site or web site at 15,245 hits–my COCA search returned both versions in one batch. (A quick and very unscientific scan of the results tells me that it’s about 2/3rds to 1/3rd Web site to web site.) The one-word version, website, comes in at about half that, 7,318.

The Grammarist was correct about The New York Times. It’s Web site all the way, but so is The Washington Post–again, that’s as of 2012(Though I did a search of The Washington Post’s Web site–web site, website, who can keep track–and discovered The Post must be of two minds in 2014 since I found instances of both the two-word, capitalized version and the one-word version. Oh well.)

Me? I’m in a quandary. Is mine an “editorially conservative” blog much like the politically liberal Times? Or should I position myself on the vanguard of the one-word, uncapitalized movement? I think I’ll stick with The New York Times on this one. Though I’m no prescriptionist, I do tend to move slowly when it comes to the English language. The AP Style Guide disagrees with me, The Times, and The (bi-polar) Post, by the way.


Critically Thinking About Ferguson and Other News Stories

Diane Rhem did a piece today titled Judging The Credibility Of News In The Digital AgeIt was quite good. Because I’m preparing to teach this fall–I teach writing–a comment by Tom Rosenstiel caught my attention. Rosenstiel is the executive director of the American Press Institute and co-author of Blur: How to Know What to Believe in the Age of Information Overload. He suggested that people generally and young people in particular need to think more critically about the news.

To illustrate how to do this, he mentioned a checklist of questions, part of a larger article, that you can find on the American Press Institute’s website. To anyone familiar with critical thinking, the list of questions contains no surprises. To those who aren’t, it should prove helpful. In brief, the list contains six questions we should ask ourselves as we read:

1. Type: What kind of content is this?

2. Source: Who and what are the sources cited and why should I believe them?

3. Evidence: What’s the evidence and how was it vetted?

4. Interpretation: Is the main point of the piece proven by the evidence?

5. Completeness: What’s missing?

6. Knowledge: Am I learning every day what I need?

You should read the entire piece because Rosentiel discusses each point in much greater detail. The additional flesh on those six bones will help you better negotiate all the information you consume daily.

Question 5 proved particularly interesting when, later in the show, Diane fielded e-mail questions from the listening audience. One listener praised the advent of live streaming video, which enabled him or her to view what was going on in Ferguson firsthand and draw her/his own conclusions.

Adam Miller, another guest on the show, responded that people need to be careful because even live coverage doesn’t capture the whole picture. To illustrate, he said that the other night he was following fiver or six different live streams simultaneously. On one stream, he saw the police responding somewhat violently to what appeared to be peaceful protestors. Then he looked at another stream that showed another view of the scene, and he noticed some people throwing molotav cocktails. Suddenly, the actions of the police made more sense–in that instance, at least.