Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Comic Book Hair"

Stripped of his body armor, the 24-year-old suspect turned out to be slender and pale, with a thousand-mile stare and tousled, comic-book hair, which looked bizarrely out of place in the formal setting of a courtroom.

From an article on page 1 of yesterday's Chicago Tribune, the above passage is an example of poor writing. Lazy writing.

Comic book hair? What exactly is comic book hair? Does Superman have comic book hair? Does Wolverine have comic book hair? How about Black Lightning 1977 or Black Lightning 2012, do they have comic book hair? Does everybody in a comic book have comic book hair, and how is that hair different from the hair of people that do not have comic book hair?

Maybe the phrase "comic-book hair" has a meaning to the three co-writers of that article but they made no attempt to make clear what their meaning might be. I'm ready to go out on a limb and say that I have read more comic books than those three co-writers combined. And I do not know what the phrase "comic-book hair" means. Does anybody?

Any author who purports to be a professional expository writer has a responsibility to make his or her meaning clear.


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