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Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

Sick-Out

What do you say when you call?

You’re not feeling well. Maybe it’s the swine flu—or the Mexican flu or H1N1—but you don’t want to take any... More

Freelance-A-Lot

Defining the terms of employment

What happens to many journalists who are laid off? in many cases, they become “permalancers,” sometimes even for their previous... More

I Want to Be Alone

Why one transition should disappear

Journalists are pack animals. If someone does a story, others often follow. So it is, too, with words and phrases.... More

Caution! Merge Ahead

How two words become one

Two-word expressions often cause trouble when they are combined with yet a third word, becoming compound modifiers. Most journalists have... More

Let’s Not Fight About It

It’s arguably not worth it

For unknown reasons, English speakers insist on making the language more difficult than it already is, by modifying words to... More

The Golden Years

Happy fiftieth birthday, Strunk & White

April 16 was the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Elements of Style, the “little book” that so many... More

Serial Killer

Why the ‘serial comma’ isn’t important

You know it, and you love it or hate it—it’s the last comma in a simple series, the one before... More

Snark Hunt

The search for the true meaning

Sometimes, dictionaries just don’t get it. this one will define a word one way; that one will define the same... More

Hopefully Yours

Is “full of hope” full of it?

“Hopefully,” Americans have been watching the first overseas visit of President Barack Obama. Those Americans who were taught English and... More

Firing Blanks

Is everyone who loses a job “fired”?

The day Brenda Starr has been dreading has arrived. Her new boss, Mr. Bottomline, says she has become too expensive.... More

Stop, Fief!

A long-term lease on a made-up word

Let us travel back to those thrilling days of feudalism, when lords were lords and everyone else paid high taxes... More

Waif Goodbye

How various dictionaries define the word “waif”

Let’s say you find a “waif” on the street and take it home. Should you call an orphanage, an animal... More

Wait Lifted

Do you wait for, on, or upon someone?

For hundreds of years, linguists, grammarians, and others have argued over what word should follow “wait,” as in “I am... More

Persuasive Convincing

On the vanishing distinctions between “persuade” and “convince”

Back when English grammar was rigorously taught in schools, certain rules were hammered into students’ heads: Never split an infinitive;... More

A Noisome Joy

Another word that doesn’t mean what it looks like it means

Think of all the words that don’t mean what their spellings seem to indicate they mean—among the ones already discussed... More

Presidents Setting

Attempting to punctuate President(s)(s’)(’s) Day

We used to have two holidays in February: Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday. Now, we have three, though most of... More

Cultured Plurals

Plurals, singulars, and the de-Latinization of English

When baseball season starts in just a few short weeks, the New York Yankees will have a new “stadium.” The... More

A Frayed Knot of Words

The difference between “homonym” and “homophone”

Last week’s posting discussed sound-alike words that are often mistaken for one another, despite their different meanings. That brought a... More

Pedal Pushers

“Soft-peddling” a faulty homonym

Now that Barack Obama is president, one columnist wanted to know, weren’t the late-night comedians, who had taken so many... More

Able Action

When the audience isn’t in on the definition

English has no grammar police to prevent someone from taking a word and putting it to work with another meaning,... More

The ethics of The Guardian’s Whisper bombshell - It would have been a journalistic lapse not to have told readers

Gawker: The internet bully - Nick Denton’s media empire is an intellectual online fraternity that invites people to their parties only to make them buy the booze

The Washington Post short-sells a reporter’s integrity - Steven Pearlstein smears TheStreet’s Adam Feuerstein for criticizing a biotech firm

Former Sun-Times staffers react to top reporter’s resignation - “Whereas we don’t have all the answers, we have way too many questions about what happened here”

Stop trolling your readers - We know you’re only doing it for clicks


‘My Captivity’ (NYT Mag)

An American journalist on his two-year kidnapping in Syria

FBI faked an AP story, in Seattle Times style, to catch a suspect (Seattle Times)

“‘We are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the US Attorney’s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect,’ said Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best”

How one reporter copes inside the ‘Ebola bubble’ (BuzzFeed)

“Bring gloves to give nurses you meet at clinics, even if you’re there for a story. Get small change to give to the kids who have been out of school for months and are selling ground nuts for pitiful sums on the side of road. Hell, give them candy. Violate all the principles of ostensibly good aid stewardship, because the good stewardship of the developed world didn’t get help here in time, and now everyone is dying around you.”

Fake news sites using Facebook to spread Ebola panic (The Verge)

“These sites claim to be satirical but lack even incompetent attempts at anything resembling humor”

Bloggingheads

Greg Marx discusses democracy and news with Tom Rosenstiel of the American Press Institute

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Who Owns What

The Business of Digital Journalism

A report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Study Guides

Questions and exercises for journalism students.