Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Not Quite Clear Communications

The other day I was running errands and, as is my habit, I was surfing channels on the car radio.  I have little patience for commercials, and no tolerance whatsoever for songs I don't like, so the preset buttons get a pretty good workout until I give up altogether and switch to the CD player.

I hadn't yet lost my patience when I tuned to a local "Adult Contemporary" station just in time to hear its daytime tagline:

      "Because work is no place for love songs"

Not a bad marketing ploy – except that the tagline was sandwiched between "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum and some romantic ballad whose title escapes me right now.

The fact that this station is owned by Clear Channel Communications only adds to the irony...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Homemade for the Holidays

Here's proof that typos don't stop for the holidays.  I caught this one on Saturday night's Fox21 newscast:

Don't know about you, but I've never heard of a "homade" bomb – and neither have my dictionary editors…

Next time, Fox folks, try "homemade."  Red is a popular color this time of year, but red faces are not.  :-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where, Oh Where, Has the Missing Word Gone?

The hellidays haven't left me much spare time to devote to the Perpetual Hunt for Rampant Typos, so today I'm addressing one of the more common errors I see in online articles:  missing words.  

In most cases, the word that's missing from the sentence is a minor annoyance that doesn't much change the meaning of the sentence.  Readers who skim articles may not even notice that a word isn't where it's supposed to be – it's that brain-automatically-plugs-in-missing-word thing again.

Admittedly, these examples aren't very exciting, but in each case the sentence gave me pause the first time I read it because something just wasn't right.  My brain is very good at filling the blanks, so I had to read the sentences again to figure out what was off.

From an article about the FDA's take on the term "all natural" as it applies to food products:

"…But it won't object to term as long as products do not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances."  ["object to the term"]

A writer describing the grand opening of a new library branch made this observation:

"… In quieter corners of the building, families thumbed through books about Star Wars and pets or perused an ample selection audio books."  ["selection of audio books"]

Finally, from yet another article about a fire:

They immediately additional fire trucks and firefighters.  [An entire verb is missing here.  Called?  Summoned?  Insert a word of your choosing…]

Why do so many words go missing?  I doubt they're running away from a bad home page environment.  Most likely they're omitted by haste on the writer's part, and poor or nonexistent copy editing just keeps them invisible.  

Kids, the moral of this story is:  Always, always, always proofread your work – and get a second set of eyes on it whenever possible.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Word Mash-Ups

I like it when people blend two words into one.  Word mash-ups can be funny ("hellidays" is my personal favorite this time of year), or they can simply be pragmatic.  Example:  "Rusticle" is a word that's not in my handy-dandy doorstop dictionary, but it's commonly used to describe stalactite-like formations of rust, such as those found on the wreck of the Titanic:  icicle + rust = rusticle.  Makes sense, right?

Here's one that isn't truly a mash-up, but you can see how two words collided in the writer's brain to produce a totally incorrect word.  In an online story about the passing of film director Blake Edwards, the writer noted that Edwards:

"…brought to life 'The Pink Panther,' which spurned a number of sequels…"

To spurn means to reject, refuse or drive away.  However, it is possible for "The Pink Panther" to spur or spawn sequels.  Maybe the writer just couldn't decide which word to use and opted to use them both, thinking:  spur + spawn = spurn.

Too bad that particular mash-up doesn't work.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Verbal Slips and Trips

The world also apparently needs a dialogue coach...

Hearing other people misspeak can be amusing.  I laugh not because I'm mean-spirited, but because I've had my share of verbal blunders over the years and it's nice to know I'm not alone.  My family still ribs me about the time during my teenage years when I pronounced "picturesque" as "picture-skew."   

Thankfully I wasn't in front of a video camera at the time, but sometimes I think family memories can outlive videotape...

To make a gaffe in front of friends or family is one thing.  It's something else altogether to err in front of an audience.  We all expect media professionals and those in positions of leadership to be more polished in front of the camera than we would be, but that's not always the case.

From the Department of Redundancy Department, a reporter narrating a segment about a warehouse fire proclaimed, "The vacant building was vacant..."

In a report about the legality of a public official's place of residence, a reporter mispronounced the legal term "inhabitant" as "inhibitant" (which isn't even a word as far as I know). 

During a press conference, our own Governor Ritter addressed the lack of information about which homes had been destroyed during the early stages of the Boulder wildfire.  He understood how frustrated homeowners were, not knowing if their properties had been "implicated in these fires."  (Affected or impacted?  Yes.  Implicated?  No.)

My absolute favorite verbal gaffe of the year, though, wasn't so much a slip of the tongue as it was a skewed attempt to recall an elusive name.  It comes from my own husband's comment about a foppish man clad in purple and red that we saw at this summer's Renaissance Festival:  "He looks like that--what's he called?  The Purple Pumpernickel!"

He, of course, meant the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Yes, that one will live in my memory for quite a long time. <grin>

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Punctuation Counts

Today I'm firing up the Wayback Machine – or, more appropriately, the Several Months Ago Machine – for an article about punctuation mistakes on resumes.  I've discussed resume flubs before, but in today's tight job market the message is well worth repeating.

In a September 24, 2010 article on titled The Well-Punctuated Resume, Charles Purdy discusses five common punctuation errors job-seekers make on their resumes.  Remember, your resume is an employer's first impression of you.  A resume that's riddled with grammatical and punctuation gaffes says you don't pay attention to detail, and that attitude – whether perceived or actual – will quickly sink your chances of being hired.

Purdy's Top Five punctuation errors:

  • Misplaced apostrophes.  Purdy reminds readers that each apostrophe "should indicate possession or a contraction."
  • Misused quotation marks.  Some people use quotation marks to emphasize a point.  Used improperly, however, quotation marks can lead to unintended interpretations.
  • Improper comma use.  Commas can be tricky.  For a refresher, try the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
  • Exclamation points.  Purdy comments that these should be used sparingly, if at all.  Frankly, I can't think of a single reason to use an exclamation point on a resume, so just don't.
  • Special characters.  In many cases, even hard-copy paper resumes are scanned by a software program designed to recognize select keywords.  Special characters, bullets, etc. can confuse the software and create a jumbled mess.  Keep these characters and symbols to a minimum, or delete them altogether.
Bonus:  Charles Purdy also notes that September 24, 2010 was National Punctuation Day.  How could we have missed that?!   

Monday, December 6, 2010

Say What You Mean

Ah, romance is in the air!  The royal wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton was recently announced, and the news media was all astir with talk of the couple and the lavish upcoming ceremony.  In at least one instance, an AP reporter was apparently editing on the fly and didn't check to make sure she included all the words in this sentence:
"He [Prince William]…recently completed training a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot."
There is a bit of difference between training a pilot and training AS a pilot…

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Take a Queue

I'm working a part-time retail job this holiday season, and it's a highly overrated experience, let me tell you.

Fortunately, the typos I've caught in this national chain's employee training materials have helped to keep me somewhat amused.  Most of the errors have been relatively minor – you know, missing words, words run together, transposing letters, etc.  The most egregious one I've seen appeared in a video about engaging customers in conversation for the purpose of signing them up for a store credit card:

"Take your queues from the customer…" (Truth.  I don't make up this stuff.)  

We all know (or should know) the correct word is "cue," as in a signal or prompt.  A "queue" is a line of people waiting to be served.  It is also a lesser-known synonym for a type of what we commonly call a "pigtail" or "ponytail." 

Then there was this training handout (corporate images removed to protect the guilty):

Welcome to a great first day on Day 2… Fail!