Editorial JAM

Earlier today, I was talking to Vikster on twitter about how, the next time we are in Mumbai, I should bring along RED Full Blooded Romances so that he could read them out loud at dinner. This may seem like a surprising thing to the uninitiated – but allow me to assure you that to hear him doing a dramatic reading of terrible South Indian romance novels is one of life’s greatest joys. I’m hoping to persuade Anand to come along to dinner with his mic so that the joy can be shared with the world at large. But I digress.

During the course of this conversation I realised that I could adapt JAM (Just-a-Minute, the thing you play at college cultural festivals) into a game for editors. Here’s what you’d need:

  • someone to read out loud – ideally Vikster, but then he is very busy and important, so anyone else with a clear, bell-like voice
  • a game master to arbitrate – so someone who has mad language and grammar skillz
  • contestants – the best sort would be editors, sub-editors, or people planning to become editors or sub-editors
  • one buzzer per contestant
  • and finally, a RED Full Blooded Romance, a Srishti novel, or a copy of the Times of India or The Hindu (or any Indian newspaper really – just that those are the two worst offenders, though in different ways)

How to Play

The game master comes up with a list of violations of language and style. Depending on what exactly is being read out, these could include:

  • errors of grammar (almost every sentence in Srishti)
  • errors of fact
  • logical fallacies
  • inappropriate use of business or technical jargon (alarmingly common in RED)
  • cliches
  • pompous language (pretty much every other sentence in The Hindu)
  • completely irrelevant puns (pretty much every other headline in The Times of India)

This is only a starting list – I’m sure more can be added.

Then, one contestant is picked to start. After that, the elocutionist starts reading the material out loud. The contestant who starts has to buzz every time she catches a violation on the list. If she manages to do this for a whole minute (or article, or chapter – this bit needs to be worked out), she scores 100 points.

To make things interesting and JAM-like, any of the other contestants can also buzz if they think the contestant in the hot-seat missed something. If their objection is sustained by the game master, the original contestant gets negative points and the interjector gets a shot at going for the 100 points. If the objection is overruled, the interjector gets negative points.

Now you could play this for points, or, to make things interesting, you could turn it into a drinking game. So, instead of getting negative points, you’d have to take a shot every time you either missed an error, falsely identified something as an error, or someone else got the 100 points. With every shot you’d take, your reflexes would slow down further, making it even more difficult for you to identify the language violations in the next round – so the worst editors would be the ones who got tanked first.

That actually makes this drinking game a Darwinian method of selecting good editors: the weak and unfit will be culled from the herd by alcohol poisoning, while the good ones will be the last people standing. That way, this could be an excellent training program for interns at newspapers – or even an entrance test for journalism schools. I mean, it would eliminate the chance that you’d have someone grammar challenged spending two years at J-school, then six months in editorial training, and finally turning out to be completely incompetent as a copy editor.

The only disadvantage I can see with this idea is that rather than selecting people with really good grammar awareness, it may just end up selecting people with really good alcohol tolerance. But then, being able to function despite being absolutely sloshed could also be  major advantage if you’re an editor, and you need to drink  to drive away the pain of  editing freelancers who forget to use the Oxford comma.

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