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AP Tweet About Malaysia Airlines Crash Creates Chaos On Twitter

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By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) — A factually correct, but poorly worded Tweet from the Associated Press, created the impression that a second tragedy had occurred in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines crash in the Ukraine.

Many people read the above Tweet to mean that the military plane carrying the bodies from flight MH17 had crashed.

In fact, the plane had landed safely.

But it was not just the AP tweet that caused confusion.

Here is the initial lead on AP’s story:

(Credit: bigstory.ap.org)

(Credit: bigstory.ap.org)

Nine minutes later, the AP sent another tweet to clarify:

In fact, AP style for a plane that crashes upon landing is crash-lands.

Here is the entry from the AP:

AP Style

Of course, that’s pretty esoteric and probably not well-known beyond reporters and copy editors.

Using the word BREAKING in front of the tweet also added to the confusion. It is typically not breaking news when a plane lands safely.

Understandably, many people on Twitter reacted this way:

https://twitter.com/_01Katarina/statuses/491943656501166081

In the hyper-speed of modern journalism, attention to the minute details of punctuation and phrasing often are overlooked.

An excellent book on this topic “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes–and hyphens, too.

Notice what happens when the comma is dropped from the title of the book.

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