Archive for the ‘wording’ Category

Proofread to catch wording Glitches–amusing or not!

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Wording Glitches detract from the quality of your message. Here are three somewhat amusing examples. Each writer could have spotted the Glitch by simply reading back through what had been written:

UAB airliftWhoops #1: In referring to a motorcycle crash last week, a Birmingham News reporter stated that two survivors "were airlifted to UAB but survived."

The implication here, with the word BUT, would not enhance the reputation of UAB emergency medicine. This wording suggests the two people survived IN SPITE OF their treatment at UAB! It should read this way:    After airlift to UAB, the two survived.

Whoops #2: In an article about student loan issues,a Birmingham News reporter created this sentence:

"Large portions of students at these institutions receive federal aid." portion control

A PORTION is a section or a piece of an individual thing. When used in this sentence, this word makes it sound as if PORTIONS of STUDENTS (which ones? Arms? Legs? Brains?) are receiving federal aid. The sentence should read this way so that the writer is referring to GROUPS of students, not CHUNKS of them!

 

Large numbers of students at these institutions receive federal aid.

 

Whoops #3: The Careless Caption Creator at The Birmingham News struck again this week with this interesting description of Bill Clinton who was waving with his wife at the Democratic convention:

"…the former president and husband of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton…"

Although the Clintons have had their difficulties, they are still very much married. This phrasing makes it sound as if Bill Clinton is both a former President and a former husband. Note also that, when referring to the chief executive of the United States, the word "President" should always be capitalized. The phrase should read this way:

the former President, husband of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton…

 

 

 


Weird Wording #1 and #2: Proofread!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Although grammar and usage standards are important for good writing, so are common sense and logic. Often, what your mind sends to your fingers is not exactly what you meant to say. That is one more reason why proofreading–with your brain in gear–is so important. You might think your message is clear, but when you go back and proofread, you can see that the wording needs tweaking.

Here are two examples of illogical statements written by people who did not go back and tweak;

PTDC0006 Why would the US want to beef up the vulnerability of its satellites? Most likely,  what this headline creator meant to suggest was that the US would beef up its  SATELLITE SECURITY in order to avoid VULNERABILITY. A quick proofread  before hitting "Send" should have caught this.

 

 

 

 

 

And a second illogical statement. This one appeared in the AL.com article I mentioned recently–the one with 17 errors in it. Here is the sentence:

The waste is mostly dry, the wetter waste, known as "cake" is scraped out during the 14-day span between the departure and arrival of the new flock.

This is a terrible sentence for several reasons. Let's begin with the logic. How can there be a 14-day span between the departure and arrival of the new flock? What this AL.com reporter is trying to convey is that there is a 14-day span between the departure of the previous flock (the one now on its way to dinner tables) and the arrival of the new flock (which will actually live for only six weeks before meeting the same fate).

 

So now the logic has been dealt with. Next up, the run-on sentence. THE WASTE IS MOSTLY DRY should stand alone as a separate sentence.

 

The reporter places a comma after WASTE, suggesting that what comes next is an inserted phrase (KNOWN AS "CAKE"), but he fails to place a second comma after CAKE to indicate the end of the insert.

 

All three of these things make for a sentence that causes the reader to utter a mental "Huh?" Here is a clearer, smoother version.

The waste is mostly dry. The wetter waste, known as "cake," is scraped out during the 14-day span between the departure of the previous flock and the arrival of the new one.

 

I hope these details did not ruin anyone's appetite. Happy proofreading.


Using NOT ONLY…BUT ALSO correctly.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

bug The first 2015 issue of The Pest Bulletin arrived with my pest control bill this week. In its article about bed bugs (Ugh!), I came across this sentence, which is a classic example of how to muddy your writing by avoiding parallel structure:

"The study found that bed bugs can both transmit to mice the parasite that causes Chagas disease–they can also pick up the disease from infected mice."

BOTH followed by a dash is not the way to word this. AND might work (BOTH TRANSMIT AND…), but it doesn't create the correct relationship. My choice would be the phrases NOT ONLY and BUT ALSO, which work well in this type of situation:

The study found that bed bugs not only can transmit to mice the parasite that causes Chagas disease, but they can also pick up the disease from infected mice.

Sorry for the "Ugh!" factor in this post. If you'd like to see how "whether stripping" not only keeps out cold air but also reduces the number of pests coming into your home, please see my Grammar Glitch Central Facebook page for January 26.

 


A Matter of Trust–and Needed Proofreading (even on a rug)!

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

My thanks to regular Glitch reader Joe C. for sharing this hilarious example. Yes, even rugs need proofreading sometimes! My friend Linda Beam, who blogs at www.writetothepoint.net and has a Facebook page called Write to the Point, also shared this example.

dog trustTake a close look at this rug, which graced the floor of the Pinellas County (Florida) sheriff's office for several months before a deputy noticed that the phrase below the state insignia reads, "IN DOG WE TRUST."

The error is a simple reverse of letters, but it is a big Whoops!

Joe reports that the rug will now be auctioned off, with proceeds going to a local animal rescue entity.

Hopefully, a new position–Pinellas County Proofreader–will be established soon.

 


A COLLECTION ARE DISPLAYED? Subject/verb agreement issues once again.

Friday, January 16th, 2015

spoon collection photo glitchRegular Grammar Glitch reader Joe C. shared this "fast fact" about the state of New Jersey and pointed out that the Glitch in this description highlights "the classic disagreement between subject and verb." He commented that many people have trouble with "tricky collective nouns" like COLLECTION, LAUNDRY, MONEY, and other "lump sum" items that cannot be counted individually.

In the sentence at left, COLLECTION is the subject, not SPOONS. No matter how many spoons are in the collection, it is only one collection that IS DISPLAYED. I would add that good professional writing style would use the words MORE THAN rather than OVER in this instance. The sentence should read this way:

A collection of more than 5,400 spoons is displayed at the Lambert Castle Spoon Museum in Paterson, New Jersey.

To see another example of poor subject/verb agreement, scroll back two posts to January 5 (titled "INFORMATION is like LAUNDRY, MONEY or SAND.")


MOSTLY ABOUT or MORE ABOUT? Check the context.

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Mary Sanchez  columnist  Mary Sanchez, opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star, could have benefited from a quick edit of her recent column about the new U. S. policy on Cuba. Using comparative and superlative forms like MORE and MOST can be tricky.

  Take a look at this sentence:

"Our country's stand against the Castro regime was always mostly about the geopolitical threat to us, our country, than it was about the oppression of the Cuban people."

Good point, but MOSTLY is the superlative form (like GREATEST, FINEST, COSTLIEST). It does not imply a direct comparison between two things–in this case, THE GEOPOLITICAL THREAT TO OUR COUNTRY and THE OPPRESSION OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE. It does not fit with THAN. What is needed here is the comparative form, which would be MORE ABOUT….THAN…. The sentence should read this way:

Our country's stand against the Castro regime was always more about the geopolitical threat to us, our country, than it was about the oppression of the Cuban people.

We all make these mistakes as we commit our thoughts to paper. The solution is to spot and correct them by going back and editing the wording for clarity.

NOTE: Welcome to any of my Mobile workshop participants who may be reading this blog for the first time this week. I hope you find it useful and will visit often.


“…the annuls of war.” Those would be great to have!

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

A letter to the editor in The Birmingham News last week included an odd, unintended perspective on war. The writer wanted to compare the current Israel/Palestine conflict to issues in the Korean War and made this statement:

In one of the most brilliant military strategies in the annuls of war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed behind enemy lines at Inchon and could have destroyed the North Korean Army and perhaps the Chinese Army. MacArthur

Whoops! Much as I'd love to see war ANNULLED as a strategy for solving problems, the word this writer wanted is ANNALS (a chronological record of events). ANNUL is a verb (to make or declare invalid).

Personally, I rather like this incorrect usage. I pray regularly for the ANNULMENT of war and would rejoice in seeing the ANNALS of war be nothing but history, never to be repeated. What an idiotic, wasteful, and destructive way to resolve conflict!


Photo is of a SCULPTOR, not a SCULPTURE!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

not a sculpture 001An article in the March 2013 issue of Shelby Living contains the following sentence:

A photographer, painter and sculpture, Jackson's current passion involves creating leather masks.

This sentence has two problems.  First, as you can see, the person in this photograph is definitely not a SCULPTURE. On the contrary, Sarah Jackson is a talented SCULPTOR who began creating SCULPTED leather masks about a year ago.

Second, the subject of this sentence, as it is written, is PASSION. The sentence is poorly constructed because the phrase "a photographer, painter and sculptor" is meant to describe or modify Jackson, not her passion.

A much better way to word this sentence would be the following:

Jackson is a photographer, painter and sculptor  whose current passion  is creating leather masks.

 

If you'd like to see more of Sarah Jackson's artwork, please visit www.Sarahjoyart.com.

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SUSPECT OF or SUSPECT IN? Police Officer Wants It Right.

Monday, March 11th, 2013

policemanIt is always fascinating to discover who reads this blog and finds it useful. Last week I heard from a police officer with a question about the grammar of a statement printed on a "Beheler Admonishment" card officers keep on hand to give to suspects.

I admit that I had to look up Beheler Admonishment–a statement used when a suspect is invited to the police station for a voluntary interview. It assures that the person is not under arrest and is free to leave at any time.

This is the wording the police officer questioned:

You are the suspect of a police investigation….

The officer believed the correct wording should be "in a police investigation," and he reported that there had been some heated discussion at the station about what was correct. "A person can be the suspect OF a crime," he said, "but not the suspect OF an investigation."

 I agreed and suggested they reprint the cards because , although a person can certainly be the SUBJECT of an investigation, that person cannot be the SUSPECT of the investigation. To me, the SUSPECT of an investigation would be someone who is skeptical about the investigation.

Perhaps a fine distinction, but it could be an important one in these days of legal hair-splitting.


Seven errors in one article?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

In my last post, I promised to continue discussing the frequency of errors in newspaper articles. Last week I tried to read an article in The Birmingham News about a woman who had been recruiting homeless people to cash counterfeit checks for her. By the time I reached the end of the article, I had highlighed seven errors, which I will share with you here, along with their corrections.

Whoops #1: As written, this sentence makes it sound as if the woman was driving a car that had a typewriter for a sidecar.

Law enforcement recovered $22,000 in counterfeit checks from the car she was driving along with a typewriter, he said.

The problem here is poor word order. The phrase about the typewriter belongs next to the counterfeit checks because both things were recovered.  The sentence should read this way:

Law enforcement recovered a typewriter and $22,000 in counterfeit checks from the car she was driving, he said.

 

 Whoops #2: The problem with this sentence is subject/verb agreement.

According to a preliminary estimate, a little over $110,000 in counterfeit checks were seized by law enforcement from Tate's home and car the day she was arrested, Bailey testified.

 A LITTLE OVER $110,000 is a lump sum of money and should be considered singular. It should not be used with the plural verb WERE. The verb should be WAS.

 NOTE: An even more efficient way to improve this sentence and avoid the WAS/WERE decision is to make it active rather than passive:

According to a preliminary estimate, law enforcement seized a little over $110,000 in counterfeit checks from Tate's home and car the day she was arrested, Bailey testified.

 

Whoops #3: This glitch has to do with verb tense.

…her role was to show others involved where the banks are and where the homeless people congregated, he said.

The writer should decide whether he is speaking in the present tense or the past tense. If he says HER ROLE WAS, then he should not say WHERE THE BANKS ARE (present tense) and then flip back to the past tense with THE HOMELESS PEOPLE CONGREGATED. If they congregated in the past, why would you need them where the banks are now? The sentence should read this way to be parallel in structure and verb tense:

…her role was to show others involved where the banks were and where the homeless people congregated, he said.

 

 Whoops #4 and #5: Strings of phrases can confuse meaning. The writer should also remember that AN rather than A is the correct article (noun determiner) in front of a word that begins with a vowel.N N writer should also remember that An    g. The also 

Investigators had been looking into Tate and others  after a  incident in the fall of 2011 after authorities were alerted to a incident in Trussville where someone tried to cash a counterfeit check.

The two AFTER(s) confuse the time frame.  The two uses of INCIDENT make it sound as if there are two separate incidents.  WHERE should refer to location, not function. Here is what I consider a better version of this sentence:

 Investigators had been looking into Tate and others after authorities were alerted to an incident in Trussville in the fall of 2011 during which someone tried to cash a counterfeit check.

 

 Whoops #6: A comma should not needlessly separate one clause from another. If a subordinate clause comes after an independent clause, it should not be set off with a comma.

The woman from Atlanta tried to hide about $15,000 in counterfeit checks under the vehicle, when police approached.

NOTE: This sentence might be more effective if the WHEN clause were placed at the beginning. If it is placed there, the comma would come after APPROACHED: 

When police approached, the woman from Atlanta tried to hide about $15,000 in counterfeit checks under the vehicle.

 

Whoops #7: When using pronouns like THEIR and THEM, it should be clear to the reader who THEY are in the sentence:

Between six and 12 homeless people have identified Tate as having recruited them during their investigation.

As written, this sentence makes it sound as if the homeless people were conducting the investigation.  THEM refers to the homeless people Tate recruited, but THEIR is meant to refer to the police investigators. That won't work. The phrase DURING THE INVESTIGATION should probably be left completely out of this sentence because I doubt that Tate was doing the recruiting during the investigation. Here is how the sentence should read:

Between six and 12 homeless people have identified Tate as having recruited them.

 

Seven errors in one article would suggest that the writer did not proofread what he wrote. It would also suggest that The Birmingham News is no longer making good use of copy editors in the newsroom.