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Bad Line Break


Danny O’Neil had a story in the Friday Seattle Times about the re-signing of Seattle Seahawk linebacker Leroy Hill to a new contract. Negotiations had broken down and last weekend the Seahawks had drafted another linebacker, Aaron Curry, with their first pick (the #4 pick overall). So this was big news, at least in the context of Seahawk news. But what caught my eye was an unfortunate line break. The story opened with:

Leroy Hill’s return to Seattle was more than just a metaphor Thursday.

The Seahawks linebacker actually returned to Seattle, flying back into town so he can participate in a voluntary practice this afternoon after he agreed to re-sign.

I was just skimming it Friday morning, not particularly interested in the news but wanting to make sure I understood the essentials, when I stumbled into the ambiguity of whether Hill had re-signed or resigned. Of course, it doesn’t make much sense to say a linebacker has resigned. Football players don’t resign. They sign elsewhere, or get traded, or retire. Still, given the little attention I was paying to the article, this ambiguity stopped me in my tracks and forced me to read the passage again. You see, the problem was that a line break occurred right in the middle of “re-sign.” The hyphen was there, with “re-” on one line and “sign” on the next line. So I could read the hyphen as an essential part of the word “re-sign” or as a break in the word “resign.” That’s why I re-read (reread?) the passage.

I can’t help but think that in the old days, a human typesetter would have found a way to avoid this.

Categories: Sports, Writing
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