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.”