Friday, November 16, 2012

A Dirty Dozen


These typos come from a variety of online sources. Enjoy! (Or bang your head on the desk. Whatever you feel is most appropriate.)

Fromer Greeley business owner sentenced for securities fraud

…Some gains been made in women's rights…

She is currently carrying for the dog.

Colorado Springs police have its hands full…

At it's largest, the fire could be seen for miles, "A lot of different people saw it…”

…Police followed up eye witness reports and leads that which led investigators…

We are in sneak peak mode.

We definitely scratched out heads watching the first sixty seconds of this 'math' video.

Beautiful Home Is 211-Years-Old

…they're letting Black Forest voters chose, putting the mill levy on the upcoming ballot.

In that process oil is laid down with lose gravel…

The ricocheted and hit the woman.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Another Example of Why Good Writing Skills Matter


Think a mistake on your resume is no big deal? Think again.

Last night, 60 Minutes ran a story about the difficulty that some U.S. manufacturing companies face in hiring competent and skilled employees. One of the companies highlighted in the segment was Click Bond, a fasteners manufacturer in Reno, Nevada, that makes parts for planes, ships, and trains and has the Defense Department as one of its customers.

Ryan Costella, head of Strategic Initiatives at Click Bond, had this to say about problems his company faces in hiring entry-level employees:

“It's those basic skill sets...I can't tell you how many people even coming out of higher ed with degrees who can't put a sentence together without a major grammatical error. It's a problem. If you can't do the resume properly to get the job, you can't come work for us. We're in the business of making fasteners that hold systems together that protect people in the air when they're flying.  We're in the business of perfection.”

Basic skill sets. That’s all they’re looking for to get in the door. And yet many applicants will be rejected because they couldn’t bother to get the resume right.

Good writing matters. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Examining Elements of Bad Writing (Part II)


The writer whose work I critiqued in my last post is one whose work has appeared before in this blog. It seems this person’s writing skills have not improved over the past few years and, quite frankly, neither has the quality of the reporting from the local news station that employs this reporter.

So why did I bother to read that story in the first place?

The headline popped up in another website’s newsfeed. Intrigued by both the awkwardly worded title and the subject, I clicked the link. When I saw the reporter’s name in the byline, I knew an unpleasant read lay ahead, so I actually went to other local news sites to see if anyone else was covering this story.

No such luck.

After reading the story (and wishing I hadn’t, except that it was good to see a positive story rising from the ashes), a number of interconnected thoughts came to mind.

1. Does anyone in this reporter’s supervisory chain of command read the articles posted to the station’s website?

If not, why not? A second set of eyes can catch many blunders before they make their way into print.

If someone is reviewing website content, clearly that person also needs a refresher course on grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

2.  How does a writer or reporter stay employed by producing subpar work?

The editor at my freelance gig has definite journalistic standards. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if I lacked basic writing skills, or if I didn’t make an effort to learn from her coaching, I wouldn’t be writing for that publication. It’s as simple as that. So it’s a mystery to me that other “writers” earn paychecks when they can’t even get the basics right.

3. Is it really “all about the story?”

Maybe.

We now occupy a world where the news never stops. Well, okay, it’s always been that way, but now news and useless information are electronically blasted 24/7.  Shrinking pools of reporters must push out more information than ever, and do so as news is breaking in order to keep their readers hooked. Haste leads to typos, but that doesn’t excuse bad writing.

4. Do readers really care whether the writing is good, or do they just want information?

Yes and no, and yes. Some readers don’t care or don’t recognize mistakes; they just want to know what's happening. Others, like me, will have issues with bad writing and rampant typos, story be damned.

The takeaways:
  • You can’t ever go wrong with writing to the highest standards, or at least making the attempt. Grammarians will love you for it.
  • Every media outlet, no matter how small, needs a competent proofreader and/or editor to review published content. Period. 
  • Constant typos and bad writing will drive away readers and viewers. I am not the only one who has cancelled subscriptions or stopped watching certain newscasts simply because of poorly delivered content. 
My personal philosophy is to write as well as I can, no matter what the project is, because you just never know who your readers will be on a given day. No one gets a second chance to make a good first impression.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Examining Elements of Bad Writing (Part I)


First of all, let me emphasize that the following critique of a local news story is in no way intended to diminish the accomplishment of rebuilding the first home in the fire-ravaged Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs. It’s a huge step toward getting life back to some semblance of normalcy following this summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon fire.

What I do take issue with is the poor writing that peppers this story about a neighborhood triumph. Those who get paid to write, whether it’s business correspondence, magazine articles, or online news stories, are presumably paid to write well and correctly. It’s called “professionalism.” And yet shoddy writing continues to proliferate – especially on the Internet.

We’ll start with the headline of this story, which struck me as just plain awkward:

First home rebuilt after Waldo Canyon Fire is finished

Is the home finished, or is the fire? I think the writer could have omitted “is finished” without affecting the meaning, since “rebuilt” implies a completed project.

The story’s first sentence mentions “the Boyd Family” as the homeowners. As used here, “family” should not be capitalized.

Then comes this quote:

“…it's nice to be back home again," Joseph Boyd, who's destroyed home was rebuilt said.

First, the correct word is “whose,” not “who’s.”

Second: What’s with that syntax? While not an unusual sentence construction in journalism, this passage would flow better by simply moving “said” to the beginning of the attribution.

“…said Joseph Boyd, whose destroyed home was rebuilt.”

Next:

“…as you turn onto their culdisac…”

My word processing program highlights “culdisac” as improper; why didn’t the reporter’s? The correct word is “cul-de-sac” according to the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Then there’s another quote:

“…but this is Colorado Springs," Trish Boyd, who's destroyed home was rebuilt said.
See above.

Finally, there’s this:

The Boyd's credit the speedy construction to…

Since this is a plural, no apostrophe is needed.

A half dozen issues (or more, depending on how you tally the errors) in one article is a lot to digest. Check back in a few days for further discussion.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the Boyd family. I wish them, and everyone else who is coping with the aftermath of disaster, many blessings.