MONKEY THINK, MONKEY WRITE | Saving money means making due with less

The banking industry needed a bailout. The Big Three automakers look like they’ll be next in line for federal resuscitation. And now there’s news that some of the country’s biggest newspapers are facing bankruptcy.

As many of you know, President Bush acknowledged for the first time last week that the country is in a recession. I don’t blame him one bit for not making a big deal out of it earlier. “Severe national recession” could be the scariest three-word phrase in the English language ever, not counting “MC Karl Rove.”

I’m sure glad this newspaper took steps long ago to save money before the economy tanked. We’ve found many ways to conserve precious resources so we will be able to weather these tough times.

One of our greatest costs, for example, is the high price of ink. Readers might not know that I formed a task force several months ago to examine our use of ink, and what we could do to conserve it.

Every little bit of ink adds up. A comma here, a long dash there, and before long, we’re talking nickels, dimes and quarters.

We pay a huge price for the millions of periods, commas and other assorted punctuations in each edition.

So, obviously, that’s a place where we could save money. Saving money on the black ink, we thought, was a good way to keep us out of the red ink.

First, we decided that we could save ink by using shorter words. Fewer letters in each word translated into using less ink. Most readers skip over the longer words in a story, anyway, which I think is a supercalifragalistic way to get to the end of a boring article quickly. Are you there yet?

Still, that only got us so far. We then decided to look closely at punctuation, which may surprise some readers.

After many hours, a new strategy emerged. We decided to tighten our use of common punctuation marks. We vowed to make due with fewer commas, for example. Well, at least we talked about it a while, and that was supposed to be the plan, I think. That was going to save some serious ink money. Really, no foolin’. It would only take a real committment, with no backsliding or exemptions, I said. Commas, bad.

Some readers may believe we launched our attack on costly punctuation months ago to save money, and they’re right. Apostrophes have been eliminated in many cases where ink could be saved, or we couldn’t find that pesky apostrophe button on the computer keyboard.

The use of parenthesis was also greatly scrutinized. Just the name of them, parenthesis, sounds expensive. I checked the list price and discovered they were quite spendy, almost as costly as the use of umlauts. You won’t be seeing many of those anymore in these pages.

Our cost review on the use of punctuation has also led us to look at capitalization, and readers should take note that we are soon going to stop using capital letters, because they are larger and use up more ink, except for the times when we have company visiting on the island and we think they might read the paper. If it worked for ee cummings, it will work for us.

Speaking of visitors to the island, this paper will also start calling Whidbey “the big island,” in hopes that we can confuse foreign tourists in Seattle into coming over here to spend money if they think they can take a ferry to Hawaii. With our transit bus drivers wearing luau shirts, I bet we can get most of the foreigners up to Freeland or beyond before they notice they’re not on Hawaii.

Next time: No way out.

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