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Maureen Dowd is a lazy writer

Read a  New York Times’ op-ed writer for a few months and you know what his or her column will say ahead of time.

  • Thomas Friedman: Globalization is good and inevitable.
  • Nicholas Kristof: Life is miserable in developing countries.
  • Bill Kristol: I am wrong about everything.
  • Paul Krugman: George W. Bush is bad.
  • Bob Herbert: There’s nothing a government program can’t fix.

While Maureen Dowd doesn’t hawk an ideology, she seldom makes sense. She just fires out a slew of zingers; sure, some of them hit, but mostly she makes a mess. Every Dowd column I read has me thinking The Times sacked its copyeditors.

But as I’m a Tiny Fey fan (and who outside of Wasilla isn’t these days?), I read Dowd’s cover article on the comedian in this month’s Vanity Fair. As expected, there are several passages that are great examples of how not to write.

  • “Vintage-y Upper West Side apartment”—Tacking a “y” onto the end of a word is the epitome of lazy writing. A minute or two searching a thesaurus probably would have led Dowd to a real word or phrase.
  • “Her [Fey’s] former S.N.L. pal Colin Quinn”—Were Fey and Quinn once, but no longer, friends? Or is Dowd just referring to the fact that they used to work together? If it’s the former, don’t leave your readers hanging, dish the dirt Dowd. If it’s the latter, “pal” is a lousy word choice; we all have colleagues with whom we aren’t friends.
  • “Then she retreated backstage at S.N.L., wore a ski hat, and gained weight writing sharp, funny jokes and eating junk food”—On first read, it sounds as if writing jokes made Fey fat. Writing the fragment as “she gained weight eating junk food while writing sharp, funny jokes” prevents confusion.

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