Posts Tagged ‘The Birmingham News’

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…

 

 

 


“Pokemon Go” Articles Need Copy Editor

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Pokemon GoThe Birmingham News must have been in a hurry to rush its Pokemon stories to press on Wednesday. Their copy on Page A2 is full of errors. The first Glitch is in a headline:

"Games digital popularity also warping real life"

Whoops! #1: Assuming the headline creator means the digital popularity of Pokemon Go (one game), this headline needs an apostrophe before the S in "Games." It should read this way: Game's digital popularity also warping real life."

Whoops #2: Although I am not a Pokemon expert (yet), I do know that the phrase "a Pokemon" refers to one creature and that THEM is a plural pronoun referring to more than one of something, like Pokemon (plural) in general. Consider this sentence"

"Once you catch a Pokemon, you can take them to a gym where they can battle other Pokemon."

Okay, so what pronoun is appropriate for a single captured Pokemon? I'm not sure that has been worked out yet–it? she? he? The best solution, for now, is to avoid the pronoun completely, like this: Once you catch a Pokemon, you can take your captive to a gym for battles with other Pokemon.

Whoops #3: I had to read this sentence a couple times to figure out what the reporter was trying to say. One apostrophe and the correct spelling of THAN would have solved the confusion:

"AR (augmented reality), as its known, is different that virtual reality in which a completely computer-generated world is created."

It should read this way: AR, as it's known, is different than virtual reality in which a completely computer-generated world is created.

Whoops #4: Subject/verb agreement is the crime in this sentence. PERMISSIONS is plural, but the reporter chooses the singular verb MEANS to go with it:

The permissions, according to Engadget, means Niantic has access to your Google drive docs, search history, private Google photos and other items tied to your account."

For grammatically correct agreement, the sentence should read this way: The permissions, according to Engadget, mean Niantic has access to your google drive docs,….

Whoops #5: The reporter of the side story made the correct choice with  IT'S (IT + IS) but failed to recognize that the second ITS (correctly possessive) refers to the plural word PEOPLE.

"Niantic issued a statement assuring people it's not accessing its personal information and will only have access to a person's Google user ID and password."

The problem here is that the use of ITS makes it sound as if Niantic is not accessing Niantic's personal information, but they are referring to the PEOPLE'S personal information. It should read this way: Niantic issued a statement assuring people it's not accessing their personal information and will only have access to people's user IDs and passwords.

Whew! And all those Glitches appeared on ONE page.


Agreement Errors–Again!

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

AGREEMENT 2For those of you who struggle to use subject/verb agreement correctly in your writing, here are two Birmingham News examples of how it should NOT be done:

#1: From an article about spring break issues with beaches in Alabama:

The comments from the two mayors comes amid social buzz about photos showing garbage strewn on Gulf Shores' beaches and gatherings of college students moving about.

Whoops! The subject of this sentence is COMMENTS (plural), but the writer chose the verb COMES (singular). The sentence should read this way:

       The comments from the two mayors come amid social buzz about….

#2: From yet another Birmingham News article on politics:

The success of the Democrats' plans hinge in part on rallying their grass roots to the cause….

Whoops again! The subject of this sentence is SUCCESS (singular), but the writer has chosen the verb HINGE (plural). The sentence should read this way:

The success of the Democrats' plans hinges in part on rallying their grass roots to the cause….


A First: Grammar Glitch spotted in The New Yorker!

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

polar bear with melting iceI read articles in The New Yorker whenever I have a little down time. They are always informative, interesting, and well written. The magazine's editorial staff is meticulous.

I'm often several months behind because the magazine comes every week, so last week I was reading an article in the August 24, 2015, issue about the efforts of Christiana Figueres to persuade us all to take climate change seriously.

On page 30, I was surprised to come across this sentence with a Subject/Verb Agreement Glitch:

     "The practical obstacles to realizing any of these scenarios has prompted some experts to observe that, for all intents and purposes, the two-degree limit has already been breached."

Whoops! The subject of the sentence is OBSTACLES (plural), so the verb should be HAVE PROMPTED not HAS PROMPTED (singular).

This is the first time I have ever spotted a Grammar Glitch in The New Yorker. I suspect it will be a long time before I see another one!

NOTE: The Subject/Verb Agreement Glitch is rampant in "lesser" publications–especially headlines in local newspapers. To see three examples, please check my Facebook post for December 23 on the Grammar Glitch Central page.

 


To continue to keep….Another example of “bopping it twice.”

Monday, December 7th, 2015

It is easy to bop a concept twice when you are writing something. We all do it. Common examples include using ALSO and AS WELL together, BOTH of the TWO people, ALL of the TOTAL income, and money earned ANNUALLY PER YEAR. These examples have appeared in previous Grammar Glitch posts. 

I came across a new one in an article for The Birmingham News last week. In discussing gas prices, Leada Gore wrote this:

So how low can we go? According to AAA, prices are expected to continue to keep falling into 2016.

bopping it onceWhoops! Only one of the red phrases is needed. Either prices are expected TO CONTINUE FALLING or prices are expected TO KEEP FALLING. Bopping the nail on the head once will do!

The trick of a good writer–even a reporter who is on deadline–is to read back through and spot these redundancies before hitting the SEND button on the copy.


Reporter locates apostrophe correctly, then forgets the rule before the end of the sentence.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

One short article about taxes and sewage contains two Glitches.

Here is the first Glitch, which is puzzling because the reporter uses the apostrophe correctly in the first part of the sentence but then uses it incorrectly later in the same sentence:

Evans also said he met with the USDA about the agency's grant and loan programs to help with the towns old sewage system.

It is correct to show that the PROGRAMS belong to the AGENCY (agency's programs). Okay, so why would it not be correct to refer to the SEWAGE SYSTEM as belonging to the TOWN (town's old sewage system)? The sentence should read this way:

Evans also said he met with the USDA about the agency's grant and loan programs to help with the town's old sewage system.

This same reporter does not know the difference between THERE (location) and THEIR (possessive). Here is the second Glitch:

The USDA told the town in there meeting that they needed an audit to go forward.

Whoops! The meeting belongs to the town, so it should be spelled THEIR.


Subject/Verb Agreement Glitches Shared by a Regular Reader

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

It is not just The Birimingham News that is creating Glitches with its headlines. Regular reader Joe C. sent three examples from Florida recently. Here is the first one: 

Joe C headline April 2015  Whoops! DRONE KILLINGS is plural, so the verb used with it should be UP (with no S), not UPS (which is singular). DRONE KILLINGS UP PRESSURE FOR NEW HOSTAGE STRATEGY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THREATS MAKES headline Joe C April 2015  Whoops again! THREATS is plural, so the verb with it should be MAKES (without the S). RISING THREATS MAKE KURDISH OIL LESS ATTRACTIVE.

 

 

 

 

 

Pic for Grammar Glitch from Joe C Whoops once more!

 

Apparently, those who create those pesky crawls at the bottom of the screen are not immune to this Grammar Glitch either. STRIKES (plural) is the subject here, so the verb should be KILL, not KILLS, which is singular. U.S. DRONE STRIKES ACCIDENTALLY KILL AMERICAN, ITALIAN AL-QAEDA HOSTAGES.

PLEASE NOTE: Aside from the grammar points relating to these news items, this is a sad subject, and we offer condolences to the families involved.

 

 

Apparently the subject/verb agreement Glitch is reaching epidemic proportions. Here is an advertisement headline with the reverse problem. It appeared on my screen the other day as I tried to play Words with Friends:

NEW RULE LEAVE DRIVERS SURPRISED

In this one, the subject is RULE, which is singular. Therefore, the verb should be LEAVES, not LEAVE, which is plural. It should read: NEW RULE LEAVES DRIVERS SURPRISED. NOTE: I didn't bother to click and find out what the new rule is.

 


Newspapers Still Need Copy Editors!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Newspaper reporters and columnists can no longer rely on copy editors to polish their usage and grammar. More than one of them has actually thanked Grammar Glitch Central for pointing out an error or two. There should be someone at the newspaper office whose job it is to know good writing standards and apply them while proofreading. These days that is not happening. Reporters write their own copy, do their own proofreading, and click SEND.

Recently, a new problem is cropping up. Even if the reporters get it right, whoever creates the photo captions, headlines, and sidebars is making careless errors that detract from the quality of the reporting. That person ought to have a good command of standard writing skills and a desire to proofread for correctness. In ONE issue of The Birmingham News this past week, the following errors appeared in headlines, captions, and sidebars:

Whoops #1: In an article about the gyrocopter that landed in DC, the Tribune News Service reporter correctly stated that the pilot must stay away from the CAPITOL (the building), but the photographic caption says that "Doug Hughes landed on the grass in front of the United States CAPITAL on Wednesday." CAPITAL refers to the entire city. CAPITOL is the building in front of which Hughes landed.

Whoops #2: Columnist Edward Bowser correctly named the Birmingham Children's THEATRE when he referred to it numerous times in his article about their wonderful program of taking performances to schools. However, the headline for his column is this: "Birmingham Children's THEATER brings magic of stage to schools." Perhaps the incorrect spelling of a proper name is not a big deal, but I'm sure that group consciously chose to use the THEATRE spelling, and it would not have taken the headline creator more than a minute to check the website for the proper spelling–especially since Bowser had handed that person the correct spelling.

Whoops #3: In Mike Oliver's creepy but informative article about Alabama's 58 spider varieties, Mike correctly spelled RECLUSE when he listed the brown recluse as one of the three highly venomous spiders in the state. However, the caption next to the photo of this spider refers to it as the Brown RECLUDE Spider.

Whoops #4: In a sidebar that summarizes the details of an article about Alabama's pro-life legislature and the abortion issue, the first bullet contains this grammatically incorrect sentence: "Women must receive counseling designed to discourage her from having an abortion." WOMEN is plural. Therefore, the correct pronoun would be THEY. The sentence should be worded one of two ways: 1) WOMEN must receive counseling to discourage THEM from having ABORTIONS. or 2) A WOMAN must receive counseling to discourage HER from having an abortion.

Whoops #5: Those who create photo captions should understand where commas should go and, more importantly, where they should not go. One comma "rule" is that, if a title comes before a person's name, it is not necessary to set that name off (like an appositive) with commas. A second "rule" is that a subject should not be separated from a verb by a comma. In this sentence from a caption about a tour of a school campus, the comma between WILLIAMS and LEADS is incorrect: "Here, former Hoover schools Superintendent Connie Williams, leads faculty and parents from Shades Mountain Christian Schoool on a tour…."

It should not be unreasonable to expect a better level of correct usage than this. These are not acceptable errors.


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.


Two spaces after a period? Kelly Kazek column has great answer!

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Kelly KazekDuring business writing workshops, I am often asked about the proper number of spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. There is usually disagreement among the participants. Some say two spaces, absolutely. Others say one is enough.

The simple answer in 2015 is that one space is enough. Unlike typewriters, word processors automatically apportion the correct amount of space between letters and punctuation marks. If you doublespace after the period in something you've keyed in on a word processor, the receiver might have to make adjustments in the copy for your extra space.

In her column in The Birmingham News on Sunday, March 22, 2015, Kelly Kazek, who writes for Al.com from her base in Huntsville, offered a humorous look at this dilemma as well as some good examples of how that doublespace after a period is often viewed:

  • It makes you look older than carrying an AARP card in your wallet.
  • People will know you are now old enough to be a Walmart greeter.
  • Some HR folks use this to screen job applicants.
  • It is obsolete. No one teaches typing anymore.
  • Editors have to rekey copy submitted with two spaces after the period.
  • It is a "travesty" that bugs Kelly Kazek.

If you'd like to read Kelly's complete column, which is as hilarious as it is informative, you can find her on Pinterest at "Odd Travels" or "Real Alabama." Kelly says she writes about "the quirkiness of human nature from a humorous point of view," and this column is a perfect example. You can contact her at kkazek@al.com, find her on Facebook, or use this link to read her actual column: http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2015/03/for_the_love_of_punctuation_st.html. If you follow this link, you can also read the amazing array of comments.

Speaking of Facebook, please check out my post from March 25, 2015, which chastises Birmingham News reporters for using an apostrophe to form the plural of a word. As of this afternoon, this has been my most popular Facebook post yet at Grammar Glitch Central. That apostrophe error bugs me as much as the extra space after the period bugs Kelly.