Writers can’t write whatever they want

To the Editor:

In last week’s (Nov 24-30) Smoky Mountain News opinion piece by Quintin Ellison, she writes … ”I maintain I’ve got a perfect right to portray whomever I want to, whenever I want to, how I want to, in whatever form I desire.” (Here there should be a colon, not a period, since what follows is not a complete sentence.) “Fiction, nonfiction, newspaper or magazine articles, columns, whatever interests me in a given moment as a writer.” 

Well, that’s not precisely true. I assume Ms. Ellison would want to apply the same standard of precision to her own assertions as she recently attempted to apply to comments from a reader, whom she excoriated, quite erroneously, by the way, over the use of commas in a series (see Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style).   

Any professional journalist knows that one cannot portray whomever one wants in any way that one wants in print, unless writer and publisher are prepared to take the legal consequences. To be precise, there are libel laws that limit what one can print about another person. Ms. Ellison goes on to ask “Who is going to stop me, pray tell?”  

One hopes her editor would.

Gerlinde Lindy


The Naturalist's Corner

Back Then with George Ellison

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