Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Compliments

I make it a point to not read my major local newspaper, The Buffalo News, as it is a terrible publication. I once made the mistake of subscribing to it, which afforded me a complete picture of its editorial quality. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen a typographical error in a sub-heading on the front page. Still, I happened upon a copy of the Friday edition’s events guide, the Gusto yesterday, and I found some amusement with the restaurant reviews. In the “Cheap Eats” column, there was one of those gems of a sentence that reminds me of the entertainment value of bad writing, while also filling me with depression at the thought that there are plenty of people who write poorly and are paid a substantial salary for doing so.

Worse still, I was dismayed to read that the author, Toni Ruberto is also a Gusto editor. Presumably then, her job is not only to avoid writing flawed language, but also to identify and remove flawed language that others fail to notice in their own writing.

Yet, in a review of Christie’s Family Restaurant, Ms. Ruberto writes:

“Hash browns served on a large oval plate, enough for two, were moist with just enough of a crunchy edge that they were flavorful, not burnt.”

I wonder, what possible purpose could she have seen for those last two words, other than to turn her intended praise for this restaurant’s hash browns into a backhanded compliment? There is no reason to add the addendum that your food was not burnt unless you mean to imply that you had expected otherwise. Ruberto is not even contrasting “burnt” with any other quality that would call that to mind. It’s not as though different degrees of the same feature separate being burnt from being flavorful, or even crunchy. It’s an almost complete non-sequiter, and it’s so tactless and lacking in self-awareness as to actually affect the tone of the entire review. In light of it, I get the impression that when Ruberto closes her review by saying “We’ll be back for more,” she’s not saying “I expect their food to continue being good,” but rather “I expect their food to continue to surprise me by not being poorly prepared.”

In honor of Ms. Ruberto and the publication that employs her, I would like to offer the following compliments on their review of Christie’s Family Restaurant:

It was understandable, not written in Swahili.

It used proper punctuation, and the text was not one giant paragraph.

It contained relevant information, and the address of the restaurant was not wrong.

The prices of the dishes were accurate, not given in Mexican pesos.

It was professionally published, not posted by a twelve year old blogger.

The text was printed, but not in white.

The typesetting was not upside-down.

There were five columns, which did not read from right to left.

Toni Ruberto has a job that’s not at the New York Times.

There was not a typo in the sub-heading.

And this is just a small handful of the things that you’ve done right. So I hope you feel proud. Good show, The Buffalo News! I’ll be back for more.

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