On the day before Thanksgiving I received an email from “Today on Twitter” (email@example.com). The subject line read:
“#Ferguson: Protesters flood streets across U.S. as dismay spreads coast to coast, officer Darren Wilson breaks silence for the first time”
A sad and tragic story, obviously. Yet the last part caught my attention: “breaks silence for the first time.” This ordinal qualifier suggests the story could have been about Officer Wilson’s breaking his silence at some time other than for the first time.
I didn’t know you could break a silence more than once. Once silence is broken, it stays broken, doesn’t it?
“Omit needless words.” — The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. Twitter’s subject line could have ended with “officer Darren Wilson breaks silence” (or “breaks his silence”).