For some expectant moms, even the slightest ache or pain can trigger a five-star alarm and trip to the doctor, but other pregnant women may well ignore a potentially serious warning sign because they think it is a normal part of pregnancy or they fear of being the girl who cried wolf.This is from a professional writer with an impressive list of credits, including Woman’s World magazine, Arthritis Today, and the Wall Street Journal. The writer has a graduate degree in journalism, and has won awards for online reporting. I can only assume the writer was having a bad day. (Actually, what I really assumed is that the writer is used to having her work very heavily edited and simply doesn't care.)
That one-sentence paragraph has 52 words and a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 21.7. And can someone please tell me what a five-star alarm is? I know there is a product called a FiveStar Alarm that can be used to detect levels of dangerous gasses. So the writer may have been trying to use a metaphor, but I don’t think it works. I didn’t know there was such a product until I googled it, and I doubt many readers would know either. But what I really wonder is why a writer for whom English is not a second language would turn in an article with the phrase “they fear of being the girl who cried wolf." All that tells me is the writer didn’t bother to read any of the text before turning it in.
S and I were having dinner a few weeks ago with some close friends who are professional communicators like us, and at one point in the discussion the issue was raised about whether or not every assignment was equally important. J, an editor whose work I especially admire, said, “No, some assignments don’t matter. The job is just to get them out there.” Her point was that if an editor or a reporter treated every piece he or she is working on as if it needed to be perfect, the pieces that did truly matter might never get done.
I tend to agree with J. But that’s because I understand she wasn’t saying that there was any excuse for shoddy craftsmanship from a professional. And it doesn’t excuse a professional communicator for not considering the audience. You put out the best you can in the time you have with the attention it deserves. But if it isn’t clear, if it isn’t accurate, if the language isn’t at least used properly, you don’t present it.
If the writer of the one-sentence paragraph had any concern at all for the readers or for the subject matter, the paragraph might have looked like this:
For some expectant moms, the slightest ache or pain triggers a major alarm and a trip to the doctor’s office. But other pregnant women sometimes ignore a potentially serious warning sign. They may think it’s a normal part of pregnancy. Or they may simply not want to be seen as the girl who cried wolf.