Posts Tagged ‘proofreading’

Three errors in one sentence. Too many?

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

crack the whipAs newspapers evolve in these fast-changing times, it appears to me that they are placing less and less emphasis on careful copyediting. Frequent errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage not only detract from the quality of the journalism, they also distract the reader. Too often lately, I read a sentence and then ask myself, "What was that? What is this reporter trying to say?"

Apparently, I am not alone in my frustration with this. My friend Mark, an excellent copyeditor in New York, sent me an email string recently that contained the following dialogue, which occurred after his friend Stephen came across the following sentence in a New York Times article:

More than 2200 flights for Friday had been cancelled, according to the Web site FlightAware, the majority originiting or departing from the areas affected by the storm.

Stephen sent this email to the Executive Editor of The New York Times:

Doesn't the copy desk edit copy anymore? The number 2,200 requires a comma; the American spelling of "canceled" has only one l; and "originiting" requires no comment.

The Executive Editor replied:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We all make errors, but you're absolutely right–three in one sentence is far too many. We'll get this fixed soon.

Stephen then emailed Mark:

In my opinion, three errors in the entire newspaper is far too many.

Mark responded with this:

Well dun, Steven. (Just kidding.) At least he didn't reply, "Your absolutely write…" On "cancelled," it is acceptable, not an outright error, but not the spelling preferred by Merriam-Webster. You and I as copyeditors would strike that second ell.

Keep on 'em. Keep crackin' the whip.

 I wonder what Mark and Stephen would think about a recent article (not an isolated example) in The Birmingham News that contained no fewer than SEVEN errors–in one article! In my next post, I will share those errors and their corrections.

In the meantime, I'd like to hear from any readers who have also noticed an increase in copy errors in local newspapers. Examples are always welcome, along with your comments, at Grammar Glitch Central. Mark asked me to encourage you to write to the editor(s) of your newspaper if you see examples of particularly careless writing or editing. He also said (and I agree) that it's good to write in and compliment the writers and editors when you see especially well-written pieces.

If your paper does not make it easy for readers to give feedback (say, with an email address at the end of an article or on the editorial page), contact the paper and ask them to open up for reader comments.

Like Mark, I would like to say, "Keep on 'em. Keep crackin' the whip." crack the whip

Sloppy proofreading detracts from company image

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Happy New YearFirst, I'd like to wish all of my Grammar Glitch Central readers a Happy New Year. May your writing be error-free and easy to read in 2013. Many thanks to those who have taken time to comment during 2012. Your observations and questions always add value to this blog.


Today's Grammar Glitch point involves an advertisement for a spa and hot tub company that contains several glaring errors. Simple proofreading should have caught these and kept them from downgrading the company's public image.


GRammar Glitch on spas

 Unfortunately, the first error occurs glaringly in large print. The city name should be BIRMINGHAM, ending in M, not N.

The second error is at the beginning of the final sentence. OVER 20-MODELS ON DISPLAY is poorly worded and punctuated. There should not be a hyphen between 20 and MODELS. The number 20 simply modifies the word MODELS. Perhaps space was the issue here, but the phrase MORE THAN works much better than OVER here.

The third error is a verb form error. CHOSE is the past tense verb, but the buyer would CHOOSE in the present. Also, I believe the word FROM is missing here.  The buyer is not choosing 4 colors or 8 acylic colors. The buyer is choosing FROM among those options.

Here is my edited version of that last sentence:

More than 20 models on display. Choose from 4 different cabinet colors and 8 different acrylic colors.



LinkedIn question sparks heated debate.

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

A current discussion among the LinkedIn group Creative Designers and Writers has created quite a debate over the past two weeks, and I've enjoyed seeing the comments pour in. Here is the question that was posed:

Can spelling mistakes undermine company credibility?  Yes/No

The answers have varied from those who think spelling doesn't matter anymore (now that we have Twitter) to those who believe, as I do, that poor spelling indicates poor attention to detail and presents the company in a less than professional light.

I was glad to see that most who have responded believe spelling is important.  Here are two answers (used with permission) that I thought put it quite well:

From Mark Dawson, owner of a print shop in the United Kingdom: "Errors indicate either that the author doesn't know any better (and it's not hard) or doesn't care enough (which is sloppy)."   In another comment on this discussion, Mark pointed out the error in someone else's comment–that spelling CAN undermine  a companies  (sic) credibility but may or may not actually do so.  Mark pointed out that this should be written "a company's credibility" and added that "as one side of the argument is keen to assert, such errors undermine the overall credibility of the author.


From Francisco Ysunza, a technical/science-oriented professional consultant and literature lover who needs and likes to read and write in Spanish and English one to twelve hours a day: Call me old-school, but even after being exposed for years to sooo many mistakes in published written and advertisement pieces, I still automatically think of a poorly educated professional behind the job….For me, such findings (misspellings) bring their credibility (or their company's) down the scale because it shows carelessness in one or many ways, from the person's writing activity to the recruitment within the company….A typo is something I tolerate to the point that I do not make observations about it anymore in our current fast-paced communication, although it may stain a business interaction.  But plain misuse of words or sloppy punctuation (and typos, of course) in a text designed to be formally read by others is just unacceptable, whether it comes out of lack of detailed review (proofreading) or underprepared staff.  I think we all need to care more about it.


Ysunza makes the good point that, although typos "might" be tolerated in quick emails or Twitters, they have no place in text that is to be published.  Proofreading is the key.

Please feel free to add to this discussion here on Grammar Glitch Central by commenting below.


I forgot to proofread! Plus, COMPLEMENT and COMPLIMENT.

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

I said I was back on schedule, but then yesterday, some "evil" prankster hacked my blog site. I owe a big thank you to my "web dean" for chasing away those ugly black eyes and getting the site back up and running within hours.

There is egg on my face today! If you read Grammar Glitch Central regularly, you know I say a lot about proofreading. Well, Monday morning early, as I read through some posts on another website, I came across a sentence with a Usage Glitch.  Between yawns, I sent off an email, pointing out the error.  (See below.) Later in the day, this good-natured person politely pointed out that I had added an extra letter to the end of a word in my message. It was a typo, but I SHOULD have caught it by proofreading. Mea culpa.

Here is the sentence I was a little too quick to correct:

All of the arts tend to compliment each other.

The word COMPLIMENT means to praise or flatter someone, as in Anatole complimented me on my writing style. Artists might COMPLIMENT each other's work, but I was fairly certain the word needed in this sentence was COMPLEMENT, which means to complete or bring to perfection, as in Her striped umbrella complements her trendy trenchcoat. (The good-natured writer agreed when she responded–it was early in the morning for her, too, and she had overlooked the Usage Glitch.)

She wanted to make the point that the various forms of art bring each other to perfection, which is a wonderful perspective.  The sentence should read this way:

All of the arts tend to complement each other.

I hope you'll visit again tomorrow. I'll talk then about verb tenses and time frames, using some examples from an essay on chess written by one of my readers for whom English is a second language.

Period and Parentheses–Which Goes Where?

Monday, January 31st, 2011

My favorite investment newsletter writer still needs a proofreader.  In his January 7 message, I spotted two punctuation errors and a spelling error–a spelling error that might be considered politically incorrect (spelling the President's name wrong).  Here is the first Glitch, in a sentence about Mitt Romney's chances to become the Republican nominee for President:

Mitt Romney would likely be the strongest candidate, but he carries the "baggage" of being a Mormon.  (I am not trying to degrade his religious beliefs, I am just pointing out that some people are planning to use Mitt Romney's religion against him in the coming campaign).

Whoops!  The entire last sentence here is within the parentheses.  Therefore, the period should be INSIDE the parentheses.



Many of us, including this newsletter writer, forget that there is a difference in size and purpose between a hyphen and a dash.  A hyphen should only be used to link parts of some compound words, like long-term or t-shirt.  Please note that a hyphen is HALF AS LONG AS A DASH.  The dash is used to set apart one phrase or clause in a sentence that should stand out.  In the following sentence, the newsletter writer correctly chooses the dash to set off the final part of his sentence, but unfortunately, he puts the shorter hyphen where the dash should be:

Many of the bears like to treat the budget deficit and other long-term factors as risks that are about to come crashing down on America – taking the economy and the stock market into an abyss from which they will never escape.

The newsletter writer also adds "illegal" white space on each side of the tiny hyphen.  Here is the rule:  A DASH is twice as long as a hyphen, and there should be NO white space on either side of it.  The sentence should look this way:

Many of the bears like to treat the budget deficit and other long-term factors as risks that are about to come crashing down on America–taking the economy and the stock market into an abyss from which they will never escape.



The final goof in this otherwise well written and informative newsletter is a rather glaring spelling error.  In two places in the first two paragraphs, the first name of the President of the United States is spelled BARRACK (as in "barracks," military accommodations) when it should be BARACK




“Overall, this book was well done.” Really?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

You have probably seen the news stories about the fourth grade textbook, Our Virginia: Past and Present, that contains numerous errors.  A panel of historians was asked to vet the book after the national buzz created by the book's  statement that units of African American soldiers had fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Not only did the panel discover a number of factual errors in the textbook, they also found grammar and punctuation errors as well as the following misspelled words:

development (developement)

secession (seccession)

necessary (neccesary)

amendment (ammendment)

separate (seperate)

It is interesting to me that a good spellchecker would have spotted any one of these misspellings, yet neither the author nor the editor nor the three elementary teachers who originally reviewed the text bothered to run one. There are also little tricks for remembering difficult spellings.  I have always pronounced the word SEPARATE with an emphasis on the PAR to help me remember that it has an A rather than an E in the second syllable.  I rarely misspell the word NECESSARY because it cost me the Cuyahoga County Spelling Bee championship one year because I spelled it exactly the way this textbook did–with CC instead of SS.

Among the factual errors cited by the panel of historians were these:

The Confederacy had 11 states, not the 12 claimed in the text.

American joined World War I in 1917, not 1916.

The War of Independence began in 1775, not 1776.


One of the historians who reviewed the book stated that, although there were errors, she considered it a well done book overall because of its conciseness and its age-appropriate writing style.  Although I think it is important for textbooks to be interesting and written on the right reading level, I could not judge anything "well done overall" if it contained as many errors as this book does.  We owe students reading material that is not riddled with mistakes.


BONUS POINT: I loved the "Bumper Snicker" quoted by Driving Miss Crazy in The Birmingham News yesterday:  I before E except after C…Weird?  In English, there is ALWAYS an exception!




Newsletter Punctuation (and Wording) Problems–Part III

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Here is another post based on the newsletter I received recently.  The following paragraph would have benefited from a good proofread before publishing:

Sue gave two examples the first was from an existing client that was ecstatic because they were able to increase top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns by 15%. The next example had to deal manufactures that were angry that their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

1. The paragraph begins with a run-on sentence.  There should be a period after EXAMPLES.  Or, using a different style, a colon would be acceptable.

2. It is preferable to use WHO rather than THAT when referring to a person.

2. PERCENT should be written out (as one word) when it appears in a sentence.

3. Why say NEXT?  SECOND is a better and more specific choice.

4. I couldn't make any sense of HAD TO DEAL MANUFACTURES THAT…but I suspect the writer meant that it had to DO with MANUFACTURERS WHO were angry.

Here are two suggested solutions for improving this paragraph:

Sue gave two examples. The first involved an existing client who was ecstatic because his company had increased top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns fifteen percent. The second had to do with manufacturers who were angry because their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

Sue gave two examples: the first of an existing client who was ecstatic because his company had increased top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns fifteen percent, and the second dealing with manufacturers who were angry because their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

There are two good steps to good writing–the draft and the proofreading.  Most of us spend far too much time struggling with the initial draft and not enough time proofreading.  I suggest that you spill your thoughts and words out onto the screen quickly, then use the bulk of your time for editing and polishing.  The final result will be much better–I guarantee it!

If you are letting THEM know, why do I have to quit driving?

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I apologize for my silence this past week. Unfortunately, it has not been because the entire world has suddenly started using good grammar. I have just been busy with other things. HINT: See my blog next week for an update on my marble quarry research in Sylacauga.

To make it up to my regular readers, I'll post two good pieces of grammar advice this afternoon instead of one. The first has to do with the appropriate choice of pronouns. Here is a sentence that appeared in an article in this morning's The Birmingham News:

"We want to let them know that you don't have to quit driving."

This was a quote from someone at AARP, and I recognize that it was said out loud, which is somewhat of an excuse. However, it is confusing. In this sentence, THEM refers to older drivers who need to update their skills to keep driving. The speaker should be letting THEM know that, with the AARP defensive driving class, THEY (not YOU or I) can keep driving. The sentence should read this way:

We want to let them know that they don't have to quit driving.

When you proofread, always make sure the pronoun you use refers clearly to the person or thing it represents and that the antecedent and the pronoun agree in number.

A bullet point in another article in this morning's newspaper brings up my old pet peeve of subject/verb agreement. By the way, this is my thirty-sixth blog post relating to subject/verb agreement.

This bullet point appears in an exciting article about the upcoming Indy Grand Prix of Alabama race to be held at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham in just a few weeks. This is the bullet point:


  • All 250 of the $450 "Speed Pass" packages, which includes admission all three days along with special access to the paddock area and access to the pit area during Friday and Saturday races.

Unless somebody is not playing fair, ALL 250 of the PACKAGES (plural) INCLUDE (plural) the items listed. The bullet point should read this way:\


  • all 250 of the $450 "Speed Pass" packages, which include admission to the paddock aea and access to the pit area during Friday and Saturday races

BONUS POINTS: 1) Whoever proofread this sentence (copy editor perhaps?) did not notice that the word TO had been left out.

2) Bullet points that are not complete sentences (and this one is not–no verb in the main clause) do NOT require end punctuation, so I removed the period after RACES. They also do not require a capital letter at the beginning, so I uncapitalized ALL.

I hope you find this information useful.


Proofreading is Really Important–Even in a Political Campaign!

Friday, November 7th, 2008

 I saved this goof until after the election because I didn't want to appear partisan before everyone voted. However, now that the decision has been made, I cannot resist pointing out a glaring goof that appeared in a letter Sarah Palin sent out about a week ago. There is no formal date at the top of the letter, so I am not sure exactly when it was written.

Underneath her name, SARAH PALIN, which is centered at the top of the page is this phrase:

Wendnesday Morning

I don't want to be like all those mean-spirited people who made fun of the Republican VP nominee for not knowing what the Bush doctrine was or whether Africa is a continent or a country and on and on, but I will suggest that it would be a very good idea to PROOFREAD what other people prepare for you to sign.

This letter has an identifier at the bottom of the page, suggesting it was issued by the Republican National Committee. Somebody there needs to PROOFREAD, including everyday words like WEDNESDAY.

I remember, back in elementary school, having trouble learning to spell the word "Wednesday" because the "d" was silent. Whenever I had to write this word, I would say to myself inside my head: WED…NES…DAY, pronouncing it exactly as it was spelled. To this day, I find myself doing that with  words that have silent letters.

If spelling is difficult for you, try my old trick.

 I hope you voted and that you were as proud as I was on Tuesday evening to see that we Americans could have a peaceful yet exciting day of elections in spite of our differences .