Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Typos

Hi. Remember me? It's been almost six weeks since my last post, which equates to an an eternity in the blogosphere. But I'm back now with a full slate of typos to share. You see, even while on my little hiatus, I never stopped collecting writing goofs and gaffes because typos don't take a vacation. Case in point - this little gem I saw yesterday taped to the door of a local shop:



I hope Santa brought an 'H' to turn that container used to feed or water livestock into a preposition. :-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Something Doesn’t Add Up

I ran across an article this morning about how to save money on higher education. Even though I am nearly done with my degree, there may be more college in my future, so I was curious to see if there was more I could be doing to cut down on costs.

Turns out the article mostly discussed going to community colleges and state schools to save on tuition. Nothing on how to go about finding used textbooks (a valuable skill that I have mastered), or 101 recipes for ramen noodles, or anything else that might be of use since I’m already attending a community college. But I did uncover a nugget for the blog.

The writer touches on the importance of choosing a degree track that will pay off in post-graduation employment – a good piece of advice, especially considering current economic conditions.

“Saving on tuition won't help all that much if your degree doesn't get you a job. This isn't much of a problem for engineering majors: Seven of the 10 most lucrative majors are in engineering, and the other three -- physics, computer science, and applied mathematics -- are also highly math-dependent.”

Perhaps it’s just my state of mind after weeks of mental gymnastics in my own math class, but doesn’t it stand to reason that the field of applied mathematics would be “highly math-dependent”?

Not an egregious error, but I’m still filing this with the Department of Redundancy Department.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Word Problems in the News


Even if you hate mathematics word problems, you’ll like this one.

My mom was watching a local TV news segment the other night when the anchor stated that the recent listeria outbreak:

“...has killed 23 people in 25 states.”

Let’s see…23 people divided by 25 states equals 0.92 people per state…oh, never mind.

It’s all a numbers game, folks. 


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Word Problems

As a degree requirement, I’m taking a basic mathematics class. Mostly I’m learning that my choice to become a writer instead of a mathematician was probably a good thing. However, a few weeks ago I realized just how important word choices can be in the math world.

The test question went something like this:

John Smith owns 200 acres of land slated for development. 47.5 acres will become a recreational area, and the rest will be divided into 2-1/2 acre residential lots. How many lots will Mr. Smith have?

The way I read it, we were to determine how many 2-1/2 acre lots could be created from the acreage remaining after the 47.5 recreational acres were taken out of the equation. That turned out to be a correct assumption.

Some of the students in my class, though, read too much into the problem. They counted the recreational acreage as one lot, and then added that to the number of 2-1/2 acre lots.

Now, it was never stated that the rec area should be counted as an additional lot. But that’s how these students interpreted it. Confusion could have been avoided if the question writer had simply added one word:

How many residential lots will Mr. Smith have?

As for how I really feel about this class I’m taking:


Friday, October 7, 2011

More Typo Potpourri, Anyone?

Here’s another batch of goofs, culled from a variety of sources over the past few weeks.

From a local news station’s coverage of a standoff situation:

“…an armed SWAT team remains outside.”
[Not a typo, but have you ever seen an unarmed SWAT team in action? Me neither.]

From a Yahoo discussion loop post:

“…and I figure this is probably the best way to decimate this information…”
[Mission accomplished.]

From an online story about the Rays clinching a wild-card spot in the MLB playoffs:

“Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson saved the Rays with a two-out, two-strike solo home runs i the ninth that made it 7-all.”
[Guess this reporter was too excited about the Rays’ win to bother with noun-verb compatibility and spell check.]

The following typos from yet another local news station appeared in the original version of the story, which has since been edited. I give the staff credit for making the corrections, but the editing should have happened before the story was posted, not after.

“Security cameras recording bus riders every move”
[The missing possessive apostrophe in this title carried through to several outside links to the article.]

“…The eye in the sky is also a good way to make sure drivers are not bypassing customers and following the rules of the road.”
[This confusing sentence, sadly, remains in the story.]

“Security measures that keep the riders and drivers safe.”
[This incomplete sentence was all by itself at the end of the story and was subsequently deleted.]

Lastly, here’s a commentary about professionalism in modern journalism.

“Fire Sparks Tons Of Smoke Near Metal Business”

“A business fire, that had firefighters guessing on where it was coming from, created tons of smoke along Garden of the Gods Road Sunday night.”

Writing in the manner that people speak is becoming more commonplace in our society. That doesn’t make it right, nor does it make the writer appear credible. “Guessing on where” the smoke is originating might be acceptable for dialogue in a novel, or as a direct quote. But in a news article, it looks less than polished and professional. “Guessing where it was coming from” would have sufficed.

Likewise, “tons of smoke” is a nice colloquialism, but it’s not a fact. Nobody was on the street quantifying the amount of the smoke, or how much it weighed. How can the reporter know there were “tons” of it?

If you think choice of words doesn’t make a difference, stay tuned for my next post about mathematical word problems. I just might change your mind.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Typo Potpourri

Here’s a collection of goofs and gaffes that my friends and I spotted over the past week.

A news headline spotted on the Yahoo! home page:

Loveland man treated for bite from rapid bat
(Does that qualify as a bit and run?)

An AP story printed in the Denver Post compared the length of the modern patent application and approval process to the length of time it took Thomas Edison to obtain the patent for the photograph.

Edison patented the phonograph, not the photograph. (See? There’s that “one letter makes a difference” thing again!)

In all fairness, the Post published a correction the next day. But I’m still curious whether that was a typo or just sloppy research on the part of the AP reporter.

From a caption on last night’s TV news broadcast:

            Statellite Falls
            (Um. Yeah.)

During that very same broadcast, a reporter narrated a segment about a local organization that helps people keep people and pets together. She kept referring to the group as “Haley’s Hope” while the screen said “Harley’s Hope” in two successive captions. Further confusing the matter, at the end of the piece the news anchor clarified that the reporter should have been saying “Harley’s Hope” all along.

I had to do an Internet search to figure out who was correct; most viewers probably didn’t even waste the brain cells trying. BTW, the group is Harley’s Hope Foundation, and their web site is http://www.harleys-hopefoundation.org/.

Let’s hope all of that confusion by the professional news staff doesn’t keep viewers from supporting a worthy cause.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lifted from the Internet

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Maggie sent me a link to an online article posted by one of our local TV news stations. The story was about an Air Force Academy cadet who made a successful emergency landing with his glider.

“An AFA spokesperson says he didn't have enough "lifet" to return to the field at the academy…”

Several readers caught this errant aviation term. Commenter Kirk said, “I was a student pilot years ago and I never heard the term ‘lifet.’"

Commenter Ron added, “I believe lifet isnt a word, but lift Is.” (Ironically, “isn’t” without an apostrophe is also not a word. And we’ll overlook that capitalized ‘I’ for the moment. Ron’s heart was in the right place, even if his spelling wasn’t.)

Maggie’s take on the typo was this: “When you don't have a clue how to spell a word, apparently you should just put it in quotes and ignore it.”

I think we may be witnessing the birth of a new grammar rule. “When in doubt, don’t bother with the dictionary. Just put quotes around it.”

:-)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Remembering a Friend

Today, 87 union firefighters who died in the line of duty will be honored at the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in Colorado Springs. One of the names engraved on the Wall of Honor is that of Captain Pamela J. Butler of the Colorado Springs Fire Department. Pam lost her battle with job-related multiple myeloma on August 15, 2010.


Pam was a character, plain and simple. Smart. Funny. Wise. Compassionate. A courageous woman who accomplished many things – not that you’d hear it from her. She wasn’t the type to toot her own horn. But she did tend to march to the beat of her own unique drum and bugle corps. And she was never afraid to “tell it like it is.”

Pam was also a writer with a gift for the written word. One of my favorite memories came during an improv writing workshop we attended. When she read her work aloud, the room fell silent in awe of her words. In ten minutes, she had written several paragraphs of beautiful, stunning prose that would take many writers an hour or longer to achieve - if they ever could.

She was my friend, and she tried her best to be my mentor from the day I started with CSFD. Pam once told me, "Take the coaching." It took me a long time before I understood what she was trying to tell me. Now I get it. And Pam, I'm finally taking the coaching.

I don’t think the world was quite ready for Pam Butler. But it is a much better place because she walked in it. 

Please take a moment to remember the firefighters who have given their lives so that others might live.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Day is Today?

Apparently there's more than one person in the country who can't keep their holidays straight.




(Photo courtesy of www.FailBlog.org via MthruF.com)

See, it wasn't just the person who made the sign. One of the commenters on this pic admits to not knowing which is Memorial Day and which is Labor Day. Another didn't even realize the error until he/she read the caption!

The worst, IMHO, is the guy who says, "Confusing Labor Day and Memorial Day is about as egregious as confusing two shades of the same color."

Really?

Talk about a nice salute to the veterans who fought for this country, and the laborers who built it. (Yes, that was dripping sarcasm, in case you didn't recognize it...)

Enjoy the remainder of your long weekend.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Spelling Headaches

Even the most stalwart and skilled spellers among us have a few words that occasionally trip us up – and I’m not talking about those off-the-wall words thrown at kids in the Scripps National Spelling Bee!  Here are some of my personal everyday word demons.

“Recommend” – For some reason, I want to add an extra ‘c’ and delete the second ‘m’. Don’t know why. I just do.

“Accommodate” – Maybe this is why I want to throw an extra ‘c’ into “recommend”! I really do pity the poor folks trying to learn the English language and its inconsistent spelling rules.

“Weird” – A word that violates the “I before E except after C” rule. (See inconsistent rules above.)

“Sheriff” – This word just screams for a second ‘r’! And I know I’m not the only one who tries to add that extra letter – see my earlier post about TV news caption errors.

“Embarrass” - Actually, this one hasn’t given me grief since the eighth grade spelling bee when I tried to spell it with only one ‘r’. If I’d gotten the word correct, I would have moved on to the state competition. As a result, I’ve never forgotten how to spell that word.

Remember, always practice safe spelling.

Have a great long weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Old Navy Needs a Proofreader

Today’s gaffe comes to us from Old Navy via a Yahoo! article written by Piper Weiss.



Ms. Weiss writes, “The person who writes copy for Old Navy t-shirts has a pretty easy job. No puns, no of-the-moment cultural references, just a word about sports or summer, followed by a couple of exclamation points. It's hard to screw it up. But screw it up, someone did indeed.”

The error is even more embarrassing to Old Navy due to its partnership with a number of colleges. “Duke, Syracuse, University of Texas and Notre Dame, to name a few, all signed on to be represented on the Old Navy tee. Now they might be regretting that decision. According to Fashion ETC, Syracuse University officials are leading an investigation into who approved the copy,” says Weiss.

The writer also poses the question of whether we’re being too hard on the guy (or gal) who made this mistake. “It's just a misplaced smudge between two letters,” she observes. (I would argue that the apostrophe wasn't misplaced - it's not there at all!) “Isn't this public flogging punishment enough?”

Judging by some of the reader comments (numbering 2,474 as of this writing, and not all in favor of the criticism), the punctuation-challenged copy writer is not going to hear the end of this any time soon.

Commenter “Jess” writes:

Going easy on things like this is why it's acceptable for people to say things like "irregardless", to not know the difference between "yea" and "yeah", or even know how to use quotation marks.

It might not seem like much more than a "smudge between two letters" to some, but to those of us who love literature, writing, and language in general, it's a huge glaring error that indicates a lack of respect for all of those things.

Plus it just makes the person look dumb.

Commenter “Red” says:

Let the flogging begin!!! We give people too many allowances for bad spelling and HORRIBLE grammar in blogs, texts, e-mails and the such. On advertising? On CLOTHES for our YOUTH, no less? NO! No allowances! I'm sorry - you messed up, sir. You're too large and too visible for us to let this one fly by so easily. Get out your marker and start editing those shirts, mister! ;0) ...tsk*tsk...

(Not sure about “the such,” but – wow! You think I’m tough on typos?)

Yes, folks. Apparently punctuation still matters.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spellcheck Doesn’t Make the News

We’ve all seen them on various news channels: typos in captions, graphics, and breaking news crawls. Even my husband, who freely admits to being a bad speller, is starting to notice more and more mistakes on the local news broadcasts. The errors are that obvious.

It begs the question: Don’t the TV station computers have spellcheck?

I asked this question of an acquaintance who does A/V production, and the answer turns out to be No – at least, the machines used for captioning footage or still graphics don’t have spellcheck capability.

That explains, but certainly does not excuse, these recent captions:

“Solidat Killed” (for a story about a fallen soldier)

“Stanger Danger” (about a child’s near-abduction)

“Sherrif’s Office” (seen on a regular basis)

While it seems that the common factor is that all of these examples start with the letter ‘S’, the real reason is that people simply aren’t paying attention, and no one is checking work before it goes on air. Now, it’s not unusual for errors to happen when news crews are cranking out stories at top speed. But these mistakes were embedded in video packages that were likely prepared well ahead of the newscast. They were not breaking stories.

Interestingly, my spellcheck did not highlight “Stanger” when capitalized (probably because it could be a last name), but it did when I put the word into all lowercase letters.

Spellcheck is not infallible, but it certainly does help. Maybe someday that feature will make it into A/V equipment.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just One Letter…

A while back, I discussed what can happen if you change just one letter in a word (remember the Obama/Osama debacle?). In many cases, the mistyped word is a real word, so the spellcheck feature won’t catch it. The little green grammar squiggle might not appear, either.

One error I see with alarming regularity is “you” instead of “your.” If that ‘R’ key doesn’t get tapped hard enough, “Please submit your payment” becomes “Please submit you payment” (or something that sounds equally silly).

Here are some other recent examples of one letter making all the difference:

“alteration” and “altercation” (change becomes conflict)

“vigilant” and “vigilante” (keeping a careful watch becomes taking action to right a wrong)

“barely” and “barfly” (okay, I created that one, but isn’t it kind of amusing?)

“letter” and “latter” (a typo I made while writing this post!)

Your takeaway: The next time someone says, “It doesn’t matter whether I spelled it right – you knew what I meant!” you can respond with, “Um, not really.”

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Anniversary Oopsy

Some friends recently celebrated an anniversary, and the thoughtful husband posted this sweet comment on his Facebook page:
"My lovely wife is still my best fiend."
To which the wife replied:
"I hope you meant friend, honey."
Ain't love grand? :-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Cranky One Abides

Looking back at my past few blog posts, I realize that the low-level crankiness I’ve been feeling lately has slopped over into my writing. I suppose I’m not alone; in addition to daily life, there are certainly enough local, national, and world events to turn even the most even-keeled soul into a full-fledged grump.

Here’s one of the problems I see: Information overload.

Now, I’m not as wired in to the modern age as many people I know. There’s no texting here. No tweeting. No smart phones to interrupt my day with breaking news, hot sales, or spam e-mail. I check e-mail once or twice a day, and I generally limit my Internet time unless I’m hot on the research trail. I’m a reluctant Facebooker. I’ll take paper books over e-books any day, and I like to read the weekend newspaper and watch the news on TV. It’s how I grew up. Some habits die hard.

But even with relatively limited exposure (‘relative’ being the key term), and a growing talent for ignoring the obnoxious ads that reside on every Internet site I visit (take that, marketing department!), I’m feeling overwhelmed by information of every kind, even when I try to avoid it. 

To make matters worse, so much of the information is flawed. Typos. Bad writing. Punctuation abused or missing in action. Misspelled words on news crawls. Incorrect graphics to illustrate a story. A reporter saying that a car lost control and crashed, when in fact the driver lost control of the car and caused it to crash. (That was last night’s news nugget.)

Doesn't anyone give a damn any more?

Since there’s a National Day for everything, I propose we have a National Day of Clear and Correct Communication. Let’s bring the focus back to good, clean, clear and correct writing and speaking.

Just for one little day.

I’m feeling a little more cheerful already.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Statistical Analysis Gone Bad

Before I launch into today’s rant about a very poorly written article, let me first acknowledge that I understand the reasons why this article was written and posted the way it was.

Internet “news” stories (and I use that term with great reservation) are ranked by the number of readers clicking onto a given story (aka “hits”). Hits are driven by catchy, sensational headlines. More hits = increased revenue.

I get that.

But it’s no excuse for blatantly and deliberately twisting statistics – in other words, lying – to get a reader’s attention.

I submit the following for your consideration. Please note: I am including the link to this article at the bottom of the post simply for the purpose of referencing the source. Read it if you wish, knowing that by doing so, you’re only increasing revenue for a story that should never have seen the light of day.

The headline of an AOL article published on July 6th:

“Let The Arguments Fly: Study Shows Women More Likely To Cause Traffic Accidents”

(Gee, nothing inflammatory or sensational there, eh?)

The subtitle:

“Researchers find women are more likely to get into accidents with other women, even though females drive fewer miles than men”

(Still with me?)

In the opening paragraph:

“A University of Michigan study… (finds) an inordinate number of accidents happen when both drivers are women.”

(Read that carefully.)

The research results as presented in the article itself:

Female-to-female accidents: 20.5% of all crashes.
Male-to-male accidents: 31.9%
Male-to-female accidents: 47.6%.

Go back and re-read that subtitle text that says “women are more likely to get into accidents with other women” and then look at the higher percentage – nearly twelve percentage points higher! – of male-to-male crashes.

Right.

What’s muddled in translation is the fact that researchers had expectations about the percentages of women and men involved in traffic accidents, and that the actual results differed from what they predicted (higher percentage for women, lower percentage for men). That is the crux of the study.

I’m not the only one who picked up on this travesty of twisted statistics. More than 1100 comments follow the article, many taking the writer to task for manipulating the facts.

Please, fellow writers. Do NOT try this at home.

(Reference: http://autos.aol.com/article/women-worse-drivers/?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl7%7Csec1_lnk3%7C75950)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Redundant Redundancies

The English language is unwaveringly specific about certain things. For example, the pronouns “he” and “she” each apply to one person, not many.  A “couple” of items or people equates to two items or two people.

Our language can also be delightfully and frustratingly vague, such as the definition of “several.” My trusty computer dictionary says it means “more than two, but not many.” But depending on where you are in the country, “several” can mean anywhere from three to five, three to seven, or just plain seven. An East Coast friend once argued that “several” and “seven” mean the same thing, to which I countered, “If they’re the same, why not just say seven?”

But I digress…

Here’s a headline from an online news story originated by the Associated Press:

            “1 Woman, Children Hurt in Denver School Bus Crash”

“Woman” (with an ‘a’) is singular. More than one woman would be “women” (with an ‘e’). Thus placing the numerical value of one in front of “woman” is not necessary.

Nitpicky? Of course. That’s what I do. :-) 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Expectations

Why do I (and so many other like-minded folks) get my knickers in a twist over missing punctuation, poor wording, bad grammar, and every other category of typo?

Expectations.

When I open a book, magazine, or newspaper, or when I click on a story in the Internet, I expect to see professionally written material that has been looked over by at least one other set of eyes.

I expect to see good, clean, error-free writing because I’m expected to do a good job when I show up for work. It’s called “job performance” and “being professional.” Why should paid writers be any different from the rest of the working class?

Lastly, I expect all of this because good, clean, error-free writing used to be the standard, not the exception. It should still be the standard.

Nobody’s perfect. I’ll be the first to attest to that. But that shouldn’t stop each and every one of us from trying to write well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moving Violations

It’s summer, and vacationers everywhere are hitting the roads. Unfortunately, the typo brigade is still hard at work back in the office.

From – what else? – online news stories posted by local television stations:

“…In Colorado, it is illegal to ride your bike at night without lights on them.”

One bike. Not multiple bikes. "It." Not "them."

“…When one of the teens attempted to move the woman's vehicle from the driveway, somehow the emergency brake was released.”

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it common practice to release the emergency brake when one is attempting to move a vehicle?

Not to fear – an intrepid reporter from a rival station cleared up the whole thing:

“Police said two juvenile males were helping her clean her driveway in the 1000 block of Vega Drive Monday afternoon when they tried to move her car one of them released the emergency brake while the vehicle was in neutral, it rolled backwards down the driveway, that's when officers say the woman was hit by an open door.”

Correction: An intrepid reporter who left his or her bag of punctuation marks at home. I think this one is in the running for the Run-On Sentence of 2011 championship.

All snarkiness aside, my heart goes out to the lady involved in this accident, her family, and the two young men who were just trying to help.

Have fun this summer, folks. And be safe out there.