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To Grammar’s House

Yesterday’s gone

“To Grammar’s House” is a regular column by the Boston Globe copy desk on the style and language used in the newspaper.

Kailani Koenig-Muenster/Globe Staff

For what seemed like forever, copy editors embraced the routine task of changing the days of the week in stories to “yesterday,” “today,” and “tomorrow.” The duty was virtually second nature -- as rang clear at another newspaper on a long-ago Easter weekend when an editor transformed Holy Saturday to “Holy yesterday.” (The mistake was caught almost instantly, although the newsroom hilarity didn’t die down for weeks.)

But as of last month, the mission has been reversed. Now the copy editor must make sure that the days of the week get into the story and stay there. For the first time in more than four decades, Globe articles do not employ “yesterday, “today,” and “tomorrow.”

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The reason for the change is that articles are no longer written only for the newspaper. Breaking news is posted immediately on the Globe’s websites; stories are then fleshed out, posted again, then put into the process for the next day’s paper and the next day’s web entries. With all that traffic, a reliance on “yesterday, “today,” and “tomorrow” is an invitation for error.

The one print exception to the rule applies to headlines. Constructions such as “Crucial vote on debt limit today” are a newspaper staple. The “today” conveys an immediacy and often an urgency that we don’t want to lose. We suspect that “Crucial vote on debt limit Wednesday” would not rivet anyone’s attention.

Except for a reflexive double-take at the sight of the name of a day, the copy editor is adjusting to the change. Print old-timers may long for the up-to-the-minute sound of “late last night” or “early this morning” as they shepherd a story on deadline, but they know there is no turning back the calendar.

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