Posted by: Erika Fitzpatrick on Jan 05, 2010
Tagged in: Washington Post weather page
The Washington Post recently went through a very painful (to its readers) redesign, adding all sorts of brain-addling fonts, reducing sections, and generally seeming to change the layout constantly. Most of the people I have talked to dislike it and seem to feel it's emblematic of deep-seated problems at the paper. Book World is gone; Outlook is a mix of reviews and inside-the-beltway retreads of old ideas; the magazine is an unreadable joke. Whatever; I still subscribe. My beef is with the few sentences that appear in the upper left-hand corner of the print edition's weather page. I can't believe--refuse to believe--an editor is giving these items a second look. Because surely they'd stop them from appearing.
Here is today's "forecast," retyped word for word, since the text doesn't appear online:
"Maybe a small bit warmer Tuesday than Monday, but not by any means warm. Just because it might be a few degrees above freezing, that doesn't make it warm. It will be windy, but not as windy as previously; only about 10 mph today. But gusts could be stronger. Sun, maybe, but clouds, too."
Now, not only is this an example of piss-poor writing--and this is a typical example of what appears in this space daily--it tells me almost nothing about the forecast. I'm not a total weather nerd, but give me a little science behind the forecast, will you? Low pressure, high pressure? Will it remain cold or start getting warmer?
It's like someone is given the choice of using just a few words (work in "warm" and "windy" and "maybe" please!); of a certain length (use words with no more than eight letters please!); and was challenged to write a "forecast." The sentences seem to argue with each other in the most annoying way. And, it's either going to be a bit warmer or slightly warmer; what does "a small bit warmer" mean? Here's just one way to say the same thing:
"Tuesday will be a bit warmer than Monday, but still brisk as temperatures remain in the thirties; a slight, though occasionally gusty wind and intermittent cloud cover will make it feel even colder than the expected high of 38 degrees."
Done. One sentence. Was that so hard? I don't blame the writers of this stuff, but I do blame the editors for letting these foolish forecasts appear in my morning paper. They are distracting and make me want to cry (or bang head against the wall like bunny here). Please, oh WaPO, fix it!