Irene North


What’s it like in a newsroom?

If you walk into a newsroom on any given day, you’ll see people banging away on their keyboards. Some are swearing their computer is too slow. Others are jamming the keys so fast, you’re amazed at the words that come across the screen.

The Star-Herald on Saturday is mostly empty. There’s a reporter and two people on the copy desk. Sometimes, the Special Projects Editor is there, too.

On this particular Saturday, there was plenty of banter. It usually involves yours truly “walking into an insult” or ten. The conversation eventually turned to grammar.

Candice, our lead copy editor, began discussing how much she hates when people mix up the use of “that and “which,” which immediately got me panicking as to whether or not I screwed it up in my stories.

It was a busy day. I had four interviews and had to get three of them completed, along with the photo galleries to go with them. I knew I had used both words. Now, I began to question if I’d used them correctly.

“You know, I don’t have a problem with there, their and they’re or to, too and two, but sometimes which and that get me,” I said. “When Steve was editor, he used to give us paperwork to help us out and I’ve still got most of it at home.”

“You didn’t keep any of that crap I gave you,” Steve said. Or something like that. It’s been a long day. He laughed an remarked he was sure I tossed it all out. I didn’t. It’s useful stuff to reference from time to time.

“Just make sure to use ‘many’ and ‘a whole gob of,'” Steve said. We all laughed. “No really, say that many people did something, not a gob.”

Candice was saddened by those who don’t know the difference between than and then.

“Oh and about that apostrophe in farmers’ market,” Candice said.

“Never going to stop doing that,” I said.

And then I went on a little tirade.

“The farmers’ market is owned by the farmers. There is more than one farmer and it is their market there for the apostrophe goes after the “s” because more than one farmer owns the market. I know what AP says and I know Spike and Jeff hate it when I do it, but it’s correct that way. When Bart was the editor we had a long discussion about it. He agreed with me.

“I don’t care. AP is not right in this case and I’m not changing it.”

“But AP says no apostrophe,” Candice said. “And you have to follow AP.”

“Who says?” I asked. “Not me. AP is wrong. I’m going to keep spelling it f-a-r-m-e-r-s-apostrophe. If the copy desk wants to change it, go ahead. But I will never do so.”

Candice laughed. It was all she could do. I’m right. It’s farmers’. I’m not ever going to change on this one word.

And here’s a chart proving me right.

I went back to working on my photos. They had to be cropped and cutlines put onto them. Candice went back to proofreading my story.

“Your ‘whiches’ were right,” she told me. I think I still got a “that” which should have been a “which,” but it’s all fixed now.

We talked some more about stupid grammatical errors. I mentioned the time I told my previous editor Bart something had piqued my interested.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “And how do you spell that?”

I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. I didn’t think pique, peak, and peek were that hard to differentiate. Apparently, he’d had reporters mix them up quite a bit. It happens a lot because I found many photos on the internet describing the differences.

As I was finishing up cropping my photos, Candice was almost done reading my story on the Pride picnic.

“Hey, you have LGBTQ in the story, but you only define LGBT,” she said.

“What’s the Q?” I asked. “Queer right?”

“I think it is queer.”

We spent the next few minutes trying to figure it out by looking in the AP Style guide. I looked in the 2008 edition while Candice looked in the 2012 edition. It’s in there. I had this discussion with my previous editor. The problem is LGBT isn’t easy to find in the guide. If you go with L – lesbian – it tells you to look up the word gay. That’s not helpful either. We couldn’t find where the term was located in the book.

“I wish I had an online subscription to the guide,” Candice lamented.

“Maunette has one,” I said. But she wasn’t in the office. The online guide is much easier, you type what you want – LGBT – and the answer pops up.

So we googled it. I made a joke about using the Urban Dictionary meaning. Hint: don’t use Urban Dictionary for serious work, even in this case where it was correct.

We came up with the same results, most notably, we found the same USA Today story at the same time. In it, LGBTQQ was mentioned.

“LGBT — meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — is a widely accepted initialism. However, a fifth letter is increasingly making its way into the line-up: Q.

“USA TODAY Network talked with experts and individuals in the gay community about what the Q means, why it’s used and who is saying it.

“Q can mean either ‘questioning’ or ‘queer,’ Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that lobbies for LGBT rights, told USA TODAY Network. Either interpretation is accepted, he said.”

“Well, we don’t want to use two Qs do we?” Candice asked. “We just want one.”

“Ugh. Should we just not use the Q?” I wondered. “Look at what my story from the first picnic said.”

“What does Panhandle Equality use?” Candice said.

“I think they use the Q,” I replied.

“Q is being recognized more often now,” Candice said.

“Yep,” I said.

We looked it up. In pretty much every instance, Panhandle Equality uses the Q. We decided to put it in.

“I’m going to change your sentence then,” Candice said.

“Okay,” I said.

And that’s how what I wrote, “LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” became “LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.”

“I hope we don’t get any phone calls over it,” I said.

“Me either,” Candice said. “But I’m off on Monday.”

“I’ll be at Agate on Monday,” I said.

We both laughed.

Then, Connie Ernest came in and gave us Moon Pies, and our day was complete.


I fully expect Candice to find a mistake in this article. It’s not farmers’ though. That one is correct.


When will you step up and speak out?


Photo Essay: Total Solar Eclipse at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument


  1. Candice Fisher Pederson

    Hey you got your first “which” right! Lol 😋

  2. Sandra Reddish

    Youse grammar people!

  3. Mary Kunzman Wernke

    I may have found a style error, but the rule may have changed. Isn’t ten still 10? I always find grammatical errors in my columns after I submit them and even after their published. That and which are my downfalls, also.

    • Irene North

      That’s the magic of having your own website. You can go and fix those things. I’ve gotten used to typing out all numbers because I suck at the number row on a keyboard. The iPads we use at work don’t have an extended keyboard and it’s just easier to type it out than lose my train of thought and stop listening to the person while my brain tries to figure out where the number is. If I make a typo in, say “svty tw” I still know it’s 72. If I accidentally type 83, I’m completely screwed. Now, sometimes when I do my own thing, I spell the word correctly and forget to change it back to a number.

    • Mary Kunzman Wernke

      I’ve seen a reporter just use her voice recorder on her phone for notes and transcribe later. Sounds labor intensive, but you’d miss less. Maybe a speech to text app.

    • Irene North

      Mary Kunzman Wernke That’s far too much extra work. If you record, you have to note where important quotes are and go find them later. If you record, you’re less likely to listen. Or maybe it’s just me. Then, your interview is nothing but question/answer. You will miss the subtle cues about someone who may want to expand more with something to make the story better. Maybe your brain is making a grocery list or thinking about the things you need to do after the interview that you’re just waiting for the person to stop talking so you can get to the next question. I usually don’t miss anything the way I do it. By typing it up as they tell you, your story is mostly finished when you get back. Far less work and allows you time track down other stories. I type ~90 wpm, so it’s easy for me to keep up with the person talking. Also, I’m lazy. I don’t want to do the interview and then have to go back and do the interview again by transcribing it from a recorder. I transcribe as I’m with them.

    • Mary Kunzman Wernke

      I also do it the way you do. I’ve seen bad writers just quote everything said in a meeting with no intro, explanation or transitions.

    • Irene North

      Mary Kunzman Wernke I’ve seen that, too. Then, they can’t explain what they wrote. Well, if you don’t understand it, how is the reader supposed to?

    • Mary Kunzman Wernke

      Irene, they do it to the point of every um, lost train of thought, etc. Very awful.

    • Irene North

      Mary Kunzman Wernke I’ve seen people also write in the vernacular. If the person says, “I’m gonna get this thing here,” you’re not plagiarizing if you write “”I’m going to get this thing.”

    • Maunette Loeks

      I haven’t read Irene’s post, but I discourage people from entirely recording and not taking notes. I’ve seen many a reporter lose their recording. My journalism professor and past employer did as well.

    • Mary Kunzman Wernke

      Maunette, agree strongly.

  4. Nina Betz

    Has anyone else notice how public speakers make a statement, then start over again with “I mean”. Then they continue speaking. President Trump does this in every speech and now the Govenor of Ohio used the same phrase like a nervous teenager. I actually heard a senator use “irregradless”. It hurt my ears

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