Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year's Gift...

...courtesy of an Oakland fan at Sunday's Broncos-Raiders game.

May your 2014 be filled with peace, prosperity, and correct punctuation/spelling/grammar.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trends (Part II)

One thing that some Internet users love to do is loudly proclaim their superiority over others, particularly in comments sections of online news stories. Unfortunately, this trend has taken hypocrisy to new heights. I call it the:

“I’m Better at Grammar Than You Are” (But Not Really) Trend

This first example comes verbatim from the comments for a story on a major news website:

“I've seen so many grammar mistakes in online news lately. I, maybe foolishly,expect more from some of these big orgs”

Perhaps those big orgs foolishly expect more from their readers.

But to add insult to insult, here’s a response to that comment:

“I too have seen many ‘grammatical’ mistakes in comments”

Maybe he/she should be paying more attention to using commas and periods...

Then there’s this one, from a different story on the same website, in which the commenter is responding to another’s misuse of “who” and “whom.”

“ ’who had never flown’. whom is the objective not the subjective”

You know that adage about people who live in glass houses? Yeah. That guy.

And now, the final gem in our examination of hypocrites who think their writing doesn’t stink. From the comments section of an online article about People magazine naming Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine as the “sexiest man alive”:

“I this is the sexiest man alive, I'm submitting my photo next year! He's a girl in a males body!”

The response, again verbatim:

“First take a gramamr class. It's male's not males”

I suppose we should all be grateful that at least some people are trying to make the written world a better place. With writing like this, however, I’m not quite ready to jump on that bandwagon.

Click here to see Trends (Part I)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Do the Math

Colorado’s recent disasters will continue to have ripple effects for years to come. That’s no laughing matter, and yet some reporters insist on going for the comedic approach.

Story headline:

Almost half of Royal Gorge workers let go”

First sentence of story:

“…The Royal Gorge Company of Colorado laid off 24 of its 41 employees…”

Here’s some breaking news: “Almost half” is not a synonym for “nearly half.” More than a week later, the error remained as written.

Writers may not like working with numbers, but this is just ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Trends (Part I)

A few weeks ago, I posted about my waning motivation for keeping this blog going in the face of a daily inundation of typographical crap. However, I’ve decided that huge volumes of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors can provide insight into current writing (and typo) trends.

The “Writer Does No Research and Has No Life Experience to Rely On” Trend

I realize that not everyone has as many years on the planet as I do, nor does everyone have the wide variety of life experiences I’ve had.

I’m also painfully aware that reporters and writers in this market, which has suffered its share of downsizing, apparently don’t have time to look up terms with which they are unfamiliar.

Case in point:

“…police found a pocket knife, a leather man tool,…”

Now, did that reporter mean a man's tool made of leather (my, that sounds indecent), a tool belonging to a man who is made of leather, or was it a tool trademarked and made by the Leatherman company?

Okay, I admit that’s pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things. But here’s one that had to be written by someone who has never set foot in a rural area:

“’Our cows have a loaf and shed they can go in and sleep,’ said (the) owner…”

A loaf of what? The correct term is loafing shed, as in a shed built for livestock to get out of the wind and, well, loaf. What else is a cow supposed to do on a blustery day?

Stay tuned for more trends in bad writing…

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bad Spellers Beware

I recently ran across this one in the online version of our local newspaper:

Maybe it's because we fear bad spelling...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I poked around on the Internet looking for Thanksgiving-related typos that weren’t already a year or two old and came up empty. But I did run across this ad from Amazon:

A jewelry organizer that looks like an indoor/outdoor thermometer – now that’s a clever way to fool a burglar!

Have a peaceful and pleasant Thanksgiving day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What a Pane, Indeed

We get them all the time – those annoying phone calls from supposed market researchers or political pollsters operating outside the restrictions of the Do Not Call List.

After a recent series of hang up calls on my answering machine, I Googled the number that appeared on the caller ID just to see if it was legit. Of course it wasn’t, according to several websites dedicated to airing consumer complaints about the unsolicited calls they receive. The caller ID says research firm; the actual call is about selling something. Illegal as hell, but the scammers still manage to get away with it.

Most of the comments I saw were readable with a few typos here and there – nothing blog-worthy until I ran across this one:

“They call, it beeps. Then no won their. WHAT A PANE!”

Yeah. I just don’t even know what to say about that one.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Affect and Effect: Not the Same

One error I’m seeing more frequently is the misusage of “affect” and “effect.” Contrary to what some writers seem to think, these two words are not interchangeable.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I see so many writing mistakes on any given day that I don’t even try to capture them all. But here are two examples that mimic what I’ve seen recently:

“Road construction will effect drivers for the next week.”

“The special affects for the show were created by XYZ Studios.”

One I did make note of came from an advertisement for a radio financial program:

“No nonsense real talk about the housing market and trends that effect our local and national economy”

That should say, “…that affect our local and national economy.”

Here’s the deal. “Affect” is a verb meaning “to make a difference to.” Or, as my computer dictionary ironically puts it, “to have an effect on.” (Not very helpful for those who are confused about these two words!)

“Effect” is a noun meaning “a change that is a result or consequence of an action.” It can also mean personal belongings, or the special lighting, sound, scenery, etc. used in movies, TV shows, and music.

Now, I confess that I usually have to stop and think about which word I’m using. The way I remember is that “affect” is an action (verb), and both words start with the letter ‘a’.

I can’t take credit for that tip because I’m pretty sure I learned it from someone else during my life’s journey. But now you can use it, too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

To All Who Served...

...and continue to serve and protect our nation and the freedoms we hold dear: Thank you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Not Much Fun Anymore

I have a confession. In recent months, my little hobby of poking fun at typos in mass media has lost some of its appeal. My theory: It’s just not as much fun these days because bad writing is everywhere, every day. Now and then I’ll spot a gem worthy of appearing on this blog, and we can all have a good chuckle and learn from someone else’s mistakes. But for the most part, bad spelling, grammar, and syntax appear on average at least once per story that I read online (which is where I get most of my news lately). If I were to post each error I see, I’d be sitting here all day writing nothing but blog posts. The whole state of modern media is just rather depressing.

We all know that print publications have downsized their editorial and proofreading staffs. But I’ve discovered that local television news stations have also been downsizing, which could be one reason why so many of their online stories are riddled with mistakes.

Recently I had opportunities to cover a couple of events that were also being covered by local media. The first event was attended by crews from two TV stations. One team consisted of the reporter and a camera operator, while the other was a team of one filling both roles.

The second event was also covered by a single reporter filling multiple roles. As she schlepped her equipment out the door en route to the next story, her comment to me was something along the lines of, “This is just how it is these days.”

Back in the days B.I. (Before Internet), TV news reporters were paired with camera operators and worked in teams to cover stories. Any written mistakes in copy were usually seen only by producers and anchors, and easily smoothed over in the final production so that viewers rarely saw any errors.

But now it’s one person doing everything: Reporting. Filming. Writing copy for the web site. Repeat as needed, no matter how slow or fast the news day runs.

Now the mistakes I see make a little more sense. Anyone who carries that much of a workload, all while under the pressure of deadlines and breaking news, is going to make mistakes. It’s a shame all around.

That doesn’t excuse some of the stuff I see, but at least I have a better understanding of why it happens.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Misspelling Becomes the Norm

I saw this display at a local grocery store a few weeks ago:

Right off the bat, you're probably thinking (as I was), "Way to misspell 'ghoulish,' guys!"

Here's the scary part. I did a quick Google search and the results indicate there's a lot of people who think this is an acceptable spelling! I'm not saying they're right, because "goolish" doesn't appear in any dictionary I consulted. But hey - we're living in an era where people are encouraged to "do your own thing," so feel free to go forth and misspell at will. (Yes, Sheldon, that was sarcasm.)

Turns out that the grape supplier and grocery chain have teamed up to run this particular holiday promotion - goolish and all - for several years, tying it to a catchphrase about the grapes being "scary sweet."

Catchy and memorable. But it's ghoulish (with an 'h' and a 'u'), not goolish.

And people wonder why kids can't spell.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

King Arthur Lived When?

I hate pop-up ads, but every now and then I see one that just begs to be included on this blog. Case in point: This ad that appeared on my Facebook page.

Now, most people don't know that I have been enchanted with the King Arthur stories for many years. This is a lesson to writers: Know who your potential audience is before releasing your work out into the world.

For those who are not familiar with Arthurian legend, here are some points to help you understand why this ad caught my attention.
  • If King Arthur really existed (and most historians are convinced that the Arthur of contemporary fiction is a myth), he would have lived around the 400s (although even that time frame is questionable depending on the source).
  • Traditionally, Arthur and his knights lived in England, not Spain.
  • Contemporary Arthurian stories typically place Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table in medieval times (roughly 1200 - 1600 A.D.), and outfitted with clothing and armor from the medieval era.
  • This shot of Clive Owen as the legendary king comes from the movie King Arthur, which is set in Britain at the time of the Roman occupation. The Romans occupied Britain circa 43 B.C. to 410 A.D. It may seem odd to set Arthur's story in the Roman period, but some historians do believe that the Arthur of myth may have been, or may have been based on, a Roman general by the name of Artorious.
Granted, this movie may well be Spain's "#1 Medieval Drama" - I know it's certainly one of my favorites. And I realize that ad copy, especially in today's fast-paced world, doesn't rank high on the research priority list. But the person(s) who wrote the rest of that copy could still use a history class or six.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Announcing a New Blog for Writers

If you read my blog with any regularity (according to my stats, that would be about four of you), you know that I specialize in typos from stories about fire and firefighting. After fifteen years in the blaze battling business, it’s hard not to notice those kinds of mistakes.

A few years back, while at a writing conference, I happened to attend a session in which authors read aloud the first few lines of their work for critique by an agent or editor. One story was about some sort of tragedy at a home that required an emergency medical response. The agent or editor (I don’t recall who it was) gave polite feedback about the writing.

I sat in the audience mentally gnashing my teeth (it would have been impolite to actually do it out loud) because the writer got so many details in that scene flat-out wrong. Even allowing for variances in emergency protocols around the country, from response to arrival to removal of a dead body, it was wrong, wrong, wrong. I wondered if the word “research” even crossed that person’s mind.

I voiced those frustrations to a fellow writer during a break. He just looked at me and said, without irony, “Why don’t you write a book about firefighting? You know, educate instead of be infuriated.”

So I did. Or rather, I’ve been working on it in between college classes, daily life, and major disasters in my home county. It has a ways to go, but in the meantime I’m launching a new blog in support of the project. Advance the Line will absorb the bulk of fire-related posts that currently populate this blog.

The World Needs a Proofreader still has plenty of fodder, so it’s not going away any time soon. But I do promise to make a serious attempt to post regularly in both places.

Thanks for following me!  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Does Anyone Study Geography Anymore?

Not to be outdone by CNN in the News Network Geography Bowl, FoxNews aired this AP story on its website:

Title says the crash happened in "Va." - as in Virginia.

Story says - twice! - that it occurred in West Virginia.

Not to make light of a bad situation, but contrary to (sometimes) popular belief, West Virginia and Virginia (or their abbreviations) are not interchangeable. They are distinctly separate states. You might be surprised to discover how many seemingly well-educated people don’t know this.

History buffs should know that these two states started out as one, but West Virginia became its own state after seceding from Virginia in 1863. (I can tell you from personal experience that these kinds of rifts can make genealogy research quite interesting at times. But that's another story altogether.)

And one more thing. It’s Randolph County, not Randlph County.

Go Mountaineers!