February 11, 2007

Pretty actors

From the Guardian's style guide:

male and female; avoid actress except when in name of award (eg Oscar for best actress)
One 27-year-old actor contacted the Guardian to say "actress" has acquired a faintly pejorative tinge and she wants people to call her actor (except for her agent who should call her often)

From the Guardian's Corrections & Clarifications column for January 15, 2007:

A rigid application of the Guardian style guide caused us to say of Carlo Ponti in his obituary, page 34, January 11, that in his early career he was "already a man with a good eye for pretty actors ..." This was one of those occasions when the word "actresses" might have been used.

The phrase {"pretty actors"} is surprisingly (to me) common in news writing. And in all the examples I looked at, it refers to men. But it still get only about one quarter the news-archive search counts of {"pretty actresses"}.

[via Pashmina at Grammar Puss ("She composed herself and a zeugma")]

Somewhat to my suprise, the Guardian's style guide has nothing to say about pretty. The Economist's style guide is interested in whether or not words are pretty ("Proactive. Not a pretty word: try active or energetic."), but has nothing to say about the word pretty itself.

Could Barack Obama safely be called "pretty"? What about Ségolène Royale? The answer is pretty clearly "no". I guess journalists don't need a style guide to tell them that.

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 11, 2007 08:13 AM