Monday, December 31, 2012

That's Your First Strike

In this blog last year, I ran a post detailing the incorrect usage of a/an. I revisited the subject earlier this year in a post about being shortchanged by Money magazine. Time to travel down that a/an road once again.

In the very first sentence on the very first page of the 2011 Sporting News pro football yearbook, I came across a featured typo. Before the editor could even get comfortable in the batter's box he fell behind in the count. Striiiiiiike one!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Not Very Becoming

What did football player Jared Allen do in his last game last season?

He sacked the quarterback 3.5 times.

What did those sacks do?

They allowed Allen to finish with 22 for the season.

They also allowed Allen to come within a half-sack of the record.

Coming? Come again? It should be come, not coming. Come on!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Catching an Error While Catching Passes

Xbox 360? PS3? Wii? Not for me. I'm old-school. If I get a hankering to play a video game, I'll plug in my vintage Sega Genesis console and play a sports game — a 16-bit game with simple graphics and simple player control. One of the regulars in my rotation is Tecmo Super Bowl. It's fun to play in full-season mode and keep tabs on the league leaders. I run a pass-happy offense, so my receivers are usually atop the leader boards. What I am not happy about, however, is that each time I check in to see if my go-to wide receiver leads the NFL in receptions, I come face to face with a spelling error.

Those pixelated letters at the top center of the screen are, like a 20-yard field goal in a domed stadium, hard to miss. I'm forced to check the recieving leaders.

Tecmo is a Japanese company and English isn't the native language of its video-game developers, so I can almost overlook the mistake. Having said that, I see receive spelled incorrectly often, and I shouldn't have to. Remember, readers: i before e except after c.

Back to the game. I have a feeling Michael Irvin is going to have a big day against the New York Giants.

Mele Kalikimaka to all my readers!

Friday, December 21, 2012

One for the Thumb

College sports fans can be passionate. Very passionate. I know. I am one of them. Want to get a rise out of me? Mistakenly refer to my alma mater, the University of Florida, as Florida State University, or erroneously state that its nickname is Seminoles. I know Auburn and Alabama fans can relate, and I'm guessing the same goes for Michigan and Michigan State. Both schools are located in the Great Lakes State. Both play in the Big Ten Conference. (Which has 12 schools. Go figure.) Both are public universities founded in the 19th century. Both have more than 40,000 students. Despite these similarities — and despite the schools' proximity (about 50 miles) — on certain matters these rivals couldn't be further apart.

Some Michiganders proudly wear maize and blue, Michigan's colors. Others sport Michigan State's green and white. Want to make them both see red, though? Call a Michigan State Spartan a Michigan Wolverine, or vice versa. That's what this USA Today writer did. The Wolverines, not the Spartans, defeated Penn State.

The state's Lower Peninsula, where both universities are located, is shaped like a mitten. An eastern portion of this region resembles a thumb and is known as — duh — the Thumb. I'm guessing any Wolverines who read this USA Today article wanted to give the writer the finger.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Technical Foul

Tweeeeeet! That's the sound of my whistle. I blew it because we have a violation. The caption writer has committed an illegal substitution. He replaced scorer with scoring.

Monday, December 17, 2012

In the Line of Duty

A forgetful actor might ask, "What's my line?" I am no thespian, so those words have never crossed my lips. If I were an actor, would they? Allow me to see if my acting chops will, pardon the pun, cut it. I will be playing the part of a proofreader at Sports Illustrated. It's my first acting gig, so bear with me.


It's holiday time in New York City. Christmas is looming. Inside the midtown offices of Sports Illustrated, deadlines are looming. The SI editors are busy prepping their final issue for the year. An article about the sports figures who have passed away in the last 12 months has been laid out, printed and moved to the copy-editing department. A senior editor pops his head into an immaculate, organized office.

                    Owen, here's that article on the 2011 deaths. Take a look.
                    Work your usual magic. We can send this issue to the printer
                    when you're done.

                    Sure thing, boss.

Owen takes the proofs, props his feet up on the Mahogany desk in his Time & Life Building office and gets to work, oblivious to the Manhattan hustle and bustle outside his window. He's focused on the task at hand. He reviews the first three pages of the 16-page story for typographical and formatting errors. Then, the phone rings.


                    May I please speak with Owen?

                    This is he.

                    Hi, Owen. This is Jennifer Love Hewitt. I'm a big fan and, well,
                    I've got a bit of a crush on you. I'm in the Big Apple for another
                    couple of hours before I head back to Los Angeles, and I was
                    wondering if you'd like to get together for coffee or something.

                    Oh, Jennifer, that's so sweet. I'd love to, but I've got some
                    proofreading to do. I'm really sorry. Perhaps another time.
                    Thanks for the offer though.

                    Well, you can't blame a girl for trying. I'll give you a ring the
                    next time I'm in town. Keep up the great work at Sports
                    Illustrated and with When Write Is Wrong. Bye.

Jennifer hangs up, and Owen, with his priorities in place, resumes his proofreading duties. The assignment goes smoothly, and Owen quickly makes it to the last page of the 16-page article. That's when he spots it.

                                   OWEN (talking aloud to himself)
                    A forgetful actor might ask, "What's my line?" I have to ask,
                    "Where's my line?" What happened to the line between the
                    Jim Northrup entry and the Rick Rypien entry?

Owen inserts a proofreader mark to let the editors know a line is missing. A few minutes later he finishes reviewing the article. After initialing the pages and returning them to his boss, Owen glances at his watch and notices that he got through the article quicker than he thought he would. He picks up the phone, accesses the last incoming call he received and presses redial.

                    Hello, Jennifer, this is Owen...

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Flurry of Activity

There's sure to be a flurry of interest in today's post, according to me. Not according me. According to me. When the verb accord, in any of its forms, appears without that two-letter preposition, it means to grant something to someone or to bestow something upon someone. For example, my readers are accorded witty, hilarious posts. (Or so I like to think. Doing so enables me to drift ever so softly into la-la land each night.) But Flurry Analytics was accorded nothing in this above-the-fold article in the Money section of USA Today. Are we all in accordance with the point I'm trying to get across? I just want a to. Just one to.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Design Flaws

I’m “White & Nerdy,” so give me long, Samson-like locks and call me Weird O (and perhaps weirdo), because I’m in the mood to parody a song. I’ve chosen the 1968 Beatles classic “Hey Jude.” My version is called “Hey Judy.” I have only two verses so far — the first and the last:

Hey, Judy, don’t make me sad
Take a bad sign and make it better
Remember the letters after the r
Then you can start to make it better

Hey, Judy, don’t make me sad
Take a bad sign and make it better
Remember to sever blunders you did
Then you begin to make it better 
(better, better, better, better, better, oh!)

Nursery’s? No siree. Y-apostrophe? Why? That’s not the plural of nursery.

Enter the nursery with me, Judy. (Soothing voices only in here.) Walk past the crib and make a beeline for the changing table. We’ve got a dirty word to fix. First, keeping one hand on nursery’s at all times (or securing her with a strap), wipe away the y and the apostrophe. Set them aside. Next, apply petroleum jelly to prevent a rash of errors. Then, fasten a fresh ie to the right side of the second r. It should be snug but not too tight. Put nurseries in a safe place while you clean the area. Dispose of the y and the apostrophe and, finally, wash your hands thoroughly. We’re done! Wasn’t that easy? Fixing that child’s room was child’s play.

My brother’s friend Vickey noticed this design flaw while out to lunch with friends at 5th Street Marketplace in Crossville, Tennessee. The marketplace is a one-stop destination for clothes, jewelry, artwork, greeting cards, pet products and home d├ęcor fashioned by local designers, artists and other vendors. Vickey, however, was not window-shopping on her lunch hour. She was window-editing. Thank you, Vickey! You understand that while open windows should be screened to keep out bugs, or insects, all windows should be screened to point out bugs, or imperfections.

This particular window has more than one imperfection. The flaws aren’t confined to the nursery. Kid’s Rooms wasn’t handled with kid gloves. The apostrophe comes after the s. I kid you not. Kids is a plural noun. When creating the possessive form of a plural noun ending in s, you add an apostrophe — at the end. What possessed Judy to insert it before the s? I stand corrected, of course, if Judy works her magic on only the myriad rooms of one spoiled kid. If, say, little Billy has two bedrooms, a rec room, a playroom, an office, a panic room, a private bath and an art studio, then Judy has done no wrong. But if she designs rooms for Billy, Susie and other kids, the punctuation mark missed the mark, and I must judge Judy.

Judge her I must. I’ve weighed the evidence, and it’s time to put the hammer gavel down: Judy, I find you guilty of multiple counts of improper apostrophe usage. If you are going to decorate your window with a fancy font, don’t fancy yourself an editor. Have someone who understands the rules of grammar and punctuation look it over before your windowpane becomes a window pain.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Serious Cause for Concern

Much to my dismay, it's time for another installment of what I will dub Ridiculous Redundancies. Let's do it again. (Or, if I want to impress members of the Redundancy Club, I'd say, "Let's redo it again.")

While doing some channel-surfing a while back I hit a gnarly wave and came face to face with this White Shadow episode listing. That unruly student has a history of teacher abuse, not a "past history" of teacher abuse. Past has neither a need nor a right to be there, but it made like a Janet Jackson nipple and slipped past the censors. I had to report such abuse.

Thank you, readers, for helping me get past this terrible ordeal.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Take "Up" Down

I'm not sure why the word situation is necessary, though that is not what has me up in arms about this blurb. Want to know what's up? A writer was up to no good. Read the second sentence. Slowly. Two ups show up. What's up with that?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Don't Discount Gullible Shoppers

How does America's largest retailer remain solvent during these tough economic times? I think a When Write Is Wrong reader named Dodie (who just so happens to be my "West Coast mom") has discovered the secret. She sent me this photo a while ago after seeing it on a friend's Facebook page. Thank you, Dodie!

That item was $9.72, but now you can have it for $12.50. Sweeeeet! Now I can get three for the price of four. What a deal! Still, I'm a savvy shopper, always on the lookout for lower prices, so I think I may wait a few weeks. If my calculations are correct, by then I'll be able to get one of these babies for only $15.28.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Broken Record

On the final day of the NFL's 2011 regular season, I spent a portion of my Sunday watching a rather meaningless Saints-Panthers game. The outcome would have no playoff implications, so the only wisp of drama involved the record books. Namely:

  • How many passing yards would Saints quarterback Drew Brees add to his record-setting total? (He had 389, finishing with a single-season mark of 5,476.)
  • Would New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham set a single-season record for receiving yards at his position? (He did, albeit briefly. Graham finished with 1,310 yards, but minutes later, more than 1,000 miles away, New England tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in a 28-yard pass in the closing moments of the Patriots' game against the Bills to finish with 1,327 yards.)
  • Would the Saints' Darren Sproles amass the most all-purpose yards in a season?
Well, according to the excerpt you see above, Sproles shattered the mark. Not so fast. Sproles did establish a record, but just barely. He did not finish with 2,969 all-purpose yards. The writer did a number on that sentence. Here's what really happened:

Early in the fourth quarter, Sproles' season total stood at 2,688 all-purpose yards. With less than 10 minutes to play, he took a handoff from backup quarterback Chase Daniel and rushed for 8 yards, eclipsing the old mark of 2,690, set by Derrick Mason in 2000. At that moment, Sproles — and his 2,696 all-purpose yards — headed to the sideline. His day was done. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


It sates me to know that if a magazine is going to mess up a team's name, it's the name of my alma mater's biggest rival. In this top-25 rundown of women's college basketball teams, the editors at Sporting News botched No. 14. Even for those with little to no sports background, it's stating the obvious that Sate should be State. It looks like FSU* has been misrepresented.

* To most people, FSU stands for Florida State University. For those of us who attended the University of Florida, it's short for Florida's Second-rate University. Ah, college humor.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Medicare is a government-run social insurance program that provides health insurance to people who are over 65 and to others who meet special criteria. Medicaid is a health-care program, run by states, for individuals with low incomes.

Both are U.S. programs; both have insurance at their core. They are not, however, one in the same.

Alas, the headline writer didn't get the memo. Or he did, and it was illegible. Probably written by a doctor. It's time, therefore, for a checkup — a spelling checkup. I have physically examined the headline, and my diagnosis is that -re should be -id. My home state has assumed control of Medicaid, not Medicare.

Do you lack Medicaid? Or Medicare? No worries. This examination is pro bono.

Friday, November 23, 2012

War Crimes

As acting officer for the When Write Is Wrong 31st Battalion's summary court-martial, I find the writer guilty of a faulty opening sentence. Did the Pentagon report mention that "from the previous year earlier" is redundant? It's a shame earlier wasn't AWOL, because it's as necessary as a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in Nebraska.

The USA Today writer's punishment? He must tidy up his barracks and his prose.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Dirty Dozen

My mom loves Cape Cod. It's her favorite vacation spot, ranking slightly ahead of Michigan's Mackinac Island. She visits the Cape on an almost-annual basis, and she is on the mailing lists of many Cape Cod businesses. One of those establishments, Red Cottage Restaurant, e-mailed Mom a couple of days prior to Thanksgiving. I'm calling out the restaurant, located in South Dennis, for a dozen reasons.

1. Why is a.m. necessary after the 7? The line above it notifies us that these are morning hours. If you omit a.m., we're not going to think it's 7 p.m. If you want to keep a.m., delete morning in the preceding line.

2. Why "12 noon"? It's redundant. Use 12 p.m. Or noon.

3. Wouldn't it be better if greetings were replaced with wishes in the first sentence?

4. Why is happy capitalized in the first sentence? Would you capitalize happy in the sentence I am a happy person when the Gators win? Of course not.

5. The first sentence's clause, which starts with the word where, doesn't work. What is "where we look forward to seeing all of our Red Cottage family this holiday season for breakfast and lunch" modifying? As written, that clause modifies "Chef Dan and the staff," and that doesn't make any sense. Ending the first sentence after staff, deleting where and beginning sentence No. 2 with we would be one solution. Others exist.

6. Why the extra character space between Cottage and family? Aren't we supposed to come together during the holidays?

7. Not technically an error, but I don't think the first sentence deserves an exclamation point. A period will do.

8. A minor problem in the second sentence is the capital N in noon. Why? It's not a proper noun.

9. A major problem in the second sentence is the conflicting information. At the top of its e-mail announcement, Red Cottage alerts us that it'll be open from 7 to 12, yet two lines later we've gained an hour. Do you open at 6 or 7 on Thanksgiving? Perhaps we can split the difference and open at 6:30.

10. Delete morning or a.m. in the second sentence. For a more detailed explanation, see No. 1.

11. Not technically an error, but I don't think the second sentence deserves an exclamation point. A period will do.

12. Take a gander at the last word. You've got one too many g's in Thanksgiving, Red Cottage. Geez!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fine-tuning Required

Pictured here is a portion of a story, posted on in January 2009, about friends and family marking the one-year anniversary of a young actor's death. My friend Lindsay, of IAMNOTASTALKER, tuned me in to this one. Thank you, Lindsay.

I'm reading the image Lindsay sent. Looking good, looking good... There doesn't appear to be — stop the music! There it is, near the end of the second paragraph. See it?

The stereo in my beat-up '93 Accord is unable to read CDs anymore, and its AM/FM playback is replete with static and crackling, yet the stereo I'm reading about in this article has the ability to detach from its carcass, if you will, and self-park. Impressive!

When I looked at the full online article, it had five reader comments, including this one from someone identified as EducateNow:

Glad to hear the car stereo was parked in the graveyard. Wonder where the rest of the car was?

Despite EducateNow's remark, which was posted the same day the article appeared, a correction has yet to be made. On the Knoxville website, that car stereo remains parked in the graveyard. I wonder if the strains of Led Zeppelin still echo in the cemetery trees.

Ooh, it makes me wonder. Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

Friday, November 16, 2012

On a Stakeout

As Detroit police search for a potential serial killer, I undertake the far easier task of searching this USA Today article for mistakes. Searching, searching...

Found one!

Shift into high gear and make your way to the end of this Motor City article to spot it. In the last paragraph, the word is should have been deleted or replaced with has. Either that, or reached should have been changed to reaching.

Before I target my next typo, I'd like to throw a woohoo the writer's way for correctly pluralizing attorney general. That's a tricky one!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Family Problems

Not me. I’d rather be watching Family Ties, which is my all-time favorite show. I’ve never heard of Family Tie’s.

For only $5.50 (plus $4 shipping), you can purchase your very own inaccurate license-plate frame on eBay. That’s where my friend Lindsay, of IAMNOTASTALKER, spotted this while doing some birthday shopping for, ahem, the world’s greatest blogger.

At first glance, she thought she’d found the perfect gift. Upon closer inspection, however, she noticed that this frame was unfit to be Tie’s — and that had her fit to be tied. As she put it in an e-mail: “Great idea, horrible execution!”

This apocalyptic apostrophe got me thinking about other television programs and how they might look with similar, unnecessary punctuation. Here’s a fall lineup that falls flat on its face:


Park’s and Recreation

The Simpson’s

Dancing With the Star’s

Game of Throne’s


60 Minute’s

2 Broke Girl’s

Pawn Star’s

Grey’s Anatomy

Oh, wait, that last one is correct. But you get the idea. In the first nine examples — and in Family Ties — an apostrophe is an unwelcome guest, like Skippy Handelman.

Monday, November 12, 2012

This Is a Problem

A pronoun is a substitute for a noun. The noun to which it refers, known as the antecedent, must agree with the pronoun in number (i.e., singular or plural). The word this, when used as a pronoun, is singular (the plural form is these) and thus must refer to a singular noun.

Examples (with antecedents in bold):

This is the blog that excites the masses.

This may be the greatest sentence ever written.

If I die in two seconds, this will be an incomplete post.

This represents the last example you will receive.

In the photo above, we have a pronoun-antecedent disagreement. The singular noun should be season. This season. These seasons.

As Robert Plant once crowed, "Many is a word that only leaves you guessing."

Any guesses as to why the writer used seasons?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

You Dummy!

It’s been a week. Against your better judgment, you’ve probably consumed much, if not all, of the leftover candy in the bowl by the front door. Your costume has been mothballed for another year, another party. Thoughts have shifted from carving pumpkins to carving turkeys, from haunted houses to crowded houses. (Here come the in-laws!) Not for all of us.

Today, Nov. 7, is Halloween in Fairfield, Connecticut. Well, it was, until it was pushed back to Nov. 10. More on that to come.

Have you heard the theory that if a monkey typed at random for an infinite amount of time, it would almost surely produce works of Shakespeare? What’s pictured at right, I suppose, is a simian first draft of King Lear.

What you see here on the Opinion page of the Connecticut Post is an example of dummy text, which is gibberish filler text used as a space holder until final copy (for headlines, captions, articles and so forth) is ready.

Don’t judge the Post too harshly for its production error. Put yourself in the newspaper’s Sandy shoes. The gaffe occurred the day Hurricane Sandy, the 800-pound (and 800-mile-wide) gorilla of a storm, pummeled southwestern Connecticut. I was surprised the daily paper even went to press, considering Sandy’s ability to cease operations. Her “closing speed” was as swift as her winds; she shut down roads, businesses, schools, airports, railroads, subways, the New York Stock Exchange, an NBA season opener and, after much backlash, the New York City Marathon.

New Jersey and New York bore the brunt of Sandy’s wrath, but Fairfield, where I live, was not immune to her fury:

More than 95 percent of the town (population: 60,000) lost power. A week after storming out, Sandy continues to be a monkey on our back: More than 1,500 residents remain powerless.

Storm surges sent water more than a quarter mile inland, and flooding damage was widespread. Forget sandy shoes — we had Sandy roads, Sandy basements, Sandy cars.

More than 300 toppled trees (some on houses; others on automobiles) and downed wires dotted neighborhood streets, which are currently patrolled by National Guard members.

Houses built on sand, it turns out, had no chance against Sandy. Beach homes just down the road were washed out to sea. The image of one such house, adrift in Pine Creek with only a portion of its gable roof visible, won’t soon be forgotten.

My family was fortunate. Despite living only a mile from Long Island Sound, we suffered no flood damage. The strong winds destroyed our backyard arbor, toppled a small shed and knocked a pair of 10-foot tree branches harmlessly onto the lawn. We lost power for 65 hours and 50 minutes, but who’s counting? No electricity. No heat. No fun.

LATERAL DAMAGE: Sandy was a real downer in Fairfield. This 80-foot oak
on the historic Town Hall Green was one of more than 300 fallen trees.
While folks in the tri-state area are in the midst of picking up the pieces, literally and figuratively, in Sandy's wake, word comes that a nor’easter is headed our way this afternoon and into tomorrow, bringing with it a mix of snow and rain, high winds and lower temps. As a safety measure, town officials in Fairfield have proactively moved Halloween celebrations from today to Saturday. The pending storm is an unwelcome development for an already battered and weary Northeast.

SANDY POINT: This National Guardsman controlled traffic on Reef Road, making sure
only residents and authorized personnel had access to the heavily damaged beach area.
Haven’t we weathered enough? If I lose power again, I may have to outsource my When Write Is Wrong posts. I know of a few monkeys looking for work. To see if they take their monkey business seriously, I’m giving them a test run. I’m allowing them to compose the closing paragraph of today’s post. If I find some hidden gems in their work, they’re my go-to primates, should the need arise.

Lsoru mnowl gnbix oe rqirpx hobvci dqcvom sakhx you suck, Hurricane Sandy polkj gfid u weropty cizuy nebb stay safe, everyone lider ghof vwkuy jytxn leson fri mpoicy. Juyth nbihi wepr opin cfdoo fumba doon happy belated Halloween srutd awegum voo tricodomy bom dastic crutivb cyxishor.

SLOWLY RECEDING: Four days after Sandy — an uninvited guest if there ever was
one — wreaked havoc on my hometown, a road leading to the beach remained flooded.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Getting My Money's Worth

I purchased the August 2006 issue of Money magazine because my hometown, Fairfield, Connecticut, was named the ninth-best place to live. Fairfield wouldn't make my top 10 (too cold, too crowded, too costly...), though that's a debate for another day. I'm writing, of course, because Money failed to balance its books, and I'm cashing in.

I'm quite familiar with those headache-inducing commutes that Money touches on. Forget about reaching even, oh, 40 mph anywhere along the 20-mile I-95 corridor between Stamford and Fairfield during rush hour. Too many vehicles. Forget, too, about reaching the end of the pictured blurb without finding an error. Too many letters.

If you're looking for an article to use before "60-minute headache," which begins with a consonant sound, my money is on a, not an.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Oldies But Goodies

The Four Seasons' "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)." My handheld Mattel Electronics football game. Betty White. I'd classify all three as oldies but goodies. Here is the brief tale of two more items that deserve similar recognition.

I found — make that found again — two typos while doing some cleaning and organizing at my parents' house earlier this year. When I lived in Florida years ago, I sent my family clippings from time to time. Turns out, my mother, whose DNA lacks a "we can get rid of this" gene — held on to all the clippings. When Write Is Wrong thanks her, for two reasons.

Here's the lowdown on the first...

In late 2005, Gainesville, Florida, was in the midst of a downtown revitalization. Changes were abundant. Famous apparel companies coming, popular letters leaving. The n in The Gainesville Sun's above-the-fold headline made like the local pub-hopping college kids shortly after last call and departed downtown. I hate to come down on The Gainesville Sun, but a front-page headline with an n out of downtown is a down-and-out headline.

And here's the anatomy of the second...

For space purposes, team names often have to be abbreviated in a publication. Colorado State becomes Colo. St., Michigan becomes Mich., and Virginia becomes ... well, in this case, it becomes a slightly dirty, unintentionally funny Virgina. This was no attempt to abbreviate the word Virginia, of course. It was merely a muffed spelling, albeit one that elicits a tee-hee.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Making "Cents" of Halloween Treats

Allow me to be Frank(enstein), readers. You’d have better luck finding actual corn in candy corn than you will have finding anything about editing in today’s post. If this development is a tad too spooky and you wish to stop here, I understand. If you’re brave enough to continue, that’s boo-tiful. I’ve carved out a devil of a story. I promise.

Many moons ago, I trick-or-treated in suburban Fairfield County, Connecticut. One year, I knocked on the door of a house at the end of my block, and the friendly elderly gentleman who lived there answered. I held out my kick-ass Incredible Hulk candy bucket and awaited my next tooth-rotting treasure. Clink, clink, clink. That’s the sound pennies make when they hit the Hulk’s plastic bottom. If memory serves, Mr. Lincoln* gave me seven pennies. Seven cents!

When that door closed behind me and I made my way to the next house, I was tempted to perform a pennyectomy on the Hulk and toss those coins at Mr. Lincoln’s humble home. Despite being clad in red from head to toe, sporting horns on my head and gripping a plastic pitchfork, I resisted. I may have been dressed like a little devil, but my mom raised me to be a little angel.

But why, Mr. Lincoln? Why give out pennies on Halloween? For all the dentists, nutritionists, overprotective parents and like-minded others reading this post, I get it: Candy isn’t dandy. It rots your teeth. It makes you fat. Blah, blah, blah. It’s one night a year. It’s supposed to be a fun holiday for the kids. Indulge your neighborhood trick-or-treaters' sweet teeth. Give them candy, especially full-sized bars of chocolate candy. Do not give them pennies or, for that matter, any of the following items:

Fruit, fresh
Fruit, dried
Cheesy plastic trinkets
Pencils — or school supplies of any kind
Religious pamphlets
Granola bars

It’s too bad I didn’t hang on to Mr. Lincoln’s seven pennies. With my financial acumen, and given the performances of my retirement accounts, today I’d probably have, oh, four cents.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of out-of-touch trick-or-treatees.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Politically Incorrect

I’m Owen, and I approve this message.

The finish line is in sight. It’s almost time to put an end to the negative ads, the prerecorded political phone calls, the partisan mudslinging, the campaign signs staked into front lawns from coast to coast, the SNL prime-time specials and the election-season rhetoric. Obama or Romney? Romney or Obama?

We’re T minus eight days and counting until the presidential election. We’re minus t, too. Distorting has been distorted. Disturbing. Approval ratings plummet when letters go off the campaign trail. According to a recent When Write Is Wrong/Gallup Poll, 100 percent of those surveyed* are opposed to misspellings. Step aside, immigration, gun control and economy. A new hot-button issue has arisen, just in time for Election Day: spelling.

Right or left?

That’s your business.

Right or wrong?

That’s my business!

* Source: WWIW poll of 1 American adult 18 and older conducted Oct. 29, 2012; margin of error is +/- 0 percentage points.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Error to the nth Degree

A month should not be abbreviated unless it is part of a full date (such as Dec. 7, 2009), so the Dec. you see in this excerpt should have been December. But that's an AP style rule and is probably too esoteric to be of much interest. The month mishap is not why I'm sharing this section of a Connecticut Post article.

It's blog-worthy for a "number" of reasons. We were given an ordinal number, seventh, when we needed its cardinal counterpart, seven. A cardinal number shows quantity; an ordinal number shows rank or position. Let's try using both in a sentence.

The earth and the heavens were created in seven days, 
and God rested on the seventh day.

I will not rest in my pursuit of misspellings, fact errors and other typos. I'll sail the seven seas in search of them, if that's what it takes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Your Awful Postseason Means You're Terrible

This month bore the Great Depression. What, you thought it started 83 years ago? No, no, no. I’m talking about a crash of a different kind. I’m talking about the New York Yankees’ offense, postseason version. The “vaunted” Yankees led the American League in home runs, total bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage and were second in runs scored during the 2012 regular season, but once the playoffs started, the offense crashed like an October 1929 stock market. While getting swept by the Detroit Tigers, the Yankees suffered through Black Tuesday (Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, or ALCS) and Black Saturday (Game 1), Black Sunday (Game 2) and Black Thursday (Game 4).

The Yankees never let their bats out of the cave, hitting .188 — the worst team average in Major League Baseball history in a single postseason (minimum seven games). For a 20-inning stretch during the ALCS, the Yanks, like new pantyhose, had no runs. They failed to score in the first five innings of any of the four ALCS games, and they never held a lead. Robinson Cano, the team’s best player, endured a 0-for-29 slump and finished 3 for 40 (.075). Curtis Granderson went 3 for 30 (.100) with 16 strikeouts. (Did I spell Granderson wrong? His name doesn’t look right without a few K’s in it.) Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez combined to go 10 for 77 (.130). Overall, the team had about as many hits as Right Said Fred.

When the Bronx Bombers bombed offensively, however, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez was the lightning rod for the fans’ discontent. That makes sense, for a few reasons:

1. He struggled in the playoffs, going 3 for 25 (.120) with zero extra-base hits, zero runs batted in and a dozen strikeouts. With runners in scoring position, he was a robust 0 for 10. His futility got him benched in three of nine postseason games.

2. He signed a 10-year, $275 million contract in 2007, making him the highest-paid baseball player ever. He’s paid BIG money to perform, and in the Bronx performance is measured in ring sizes. The World Series ring is the thing — the only thing.

3. The 2012 postseason wasn’t the first time A-Rod went AWOL when summer turned to autumn. (In 2010, he was 7 for 32. In 2011, he was 2 for 18. In the last three postseasons, A-Rod batted .160 with zero home runs and two extra-base hits.) The Yankees haven’t gotten much bang for their 275 million bucks.

In the midst of this ill-timed, team-wide slump, Rodriguez spoke to reporters about his much-dissected postseason struggles. When asked about being dropped from the Game 4 starting lineup, he described the situation as disappointing and said, “You’ve got to accept being a cheerleader and also make sure that you’re ready when your number’s called.”

That’s what he said. That’s not the way ESPN transcribed it on the network’s scrolling ticker. This mistake almost got by me. But the ticker isn’t a fastball, and I’m not Alex Rodriguez.

You’re, you see, is a contraction, short for you are. Your, on the other hand, is an adjective, functioning as a possessive. You’re not familiar with the differences, ticker typer. Keep failing at your job and, like A-Rod in a clutch moment, you’re out!

Perhaps I’ve been a tad harsh on Rodriguez in today’s post. Allow me to reply to such charges in a way A-Rod and all of his teammates can relate:

“No offense.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Chronicle of Errors

John, a reader who submitted a birdbrained typo back in 2011, noticed multiple errors in a photo caption on SFGate, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle. He was curious if I could spot the same ones. Well, here's what I found, John.

Three of the errors I'd label glaring. 1. Misspelling authorities at the start of the sentence. 2. Omitting an s at the end of resident. (Or failing to insert the word a before resident, if it was but a lone resident involved in the search.) 3. Failing to add an –ing to the end of cling.

Those are just the biggies. Here are some of the other errors I noticed:

 There is no need to use continue and continues in the same sentence. It's redundant. I would have reworded that portion to something along the lines of "Authorities and residents continue to search for a burglary suspect who is hiding in the tall brush..." or "Authorities and residents search for a burglary suspect who continues to hide in the tall brush..."

Eastern should not be capitalized. When terms like this indicate compass direction, lowercase them. Capitalize them when they designate regions or are part of a proper name. (Examples: the western end of the island; a Southern accent; the Eastern Shore)

How about putting an in between Hill and San?

Ca. is not correct. The caption writer should have used the abbreviation Calif. If he or she wanted to use the two-letter postal abbreviation, it should have been CA, with no period. The best approach, however, would have been to forgo any state reference. San Francisco is a well-known city that requires no state reference in datelines, body text and so forth — especially when it appears in a San Francisco-based publication!

A comma is used to separate a day of the week from the rest of a date, so the writer should have inserted a comma after Wednesday.

When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, the year must be set off with commas. That means we're missing a comma after 4.

One short photo caption, nine errors spotted. Did I miss any, John?

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's Not the Same Without U

A kiss may be just a kiss, and a sigh may be just a sigh, but a by is most certainly not just a by.

Pay close attention to the penultimate paragraph. In its last sentence, which happens to be worth-less, we're informed that "some sailors by more" than $50 worth of raffle tickets. I hate to kiss and tell, but it should be buy. Sound familiar? It should, it's a homophone.

This post has been sealed with a kiss. By me. For those who are gay, straight or bi.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Holy Moses!

Following the NBA's 1981-82 regular season, reigning MVP Moses Malone parted the red-hot city of Houston and headed east to Philadelphia. His exodus weakened the Houston Rockets, but in Malone's first season with the Philadelphia 76ers (this blogger's favorite NBA team) he reached the Promised Land, leading the Sixers to an NBA championship. Malone was named MVP of the regular season and the NBA Finals. To date, he is the only NBA player to win the MVP award in consecutive seasons with different teams. Not too shabby.

One — especially one who writes for an NBA publication — need not be a prophet to tell the story of Moses accurately. The editors of the 2010-11 Sporting News pro basketball yearbook used "Look It Up" as the title for their Malone-based factoid. Had they looked it up — or asked this Sixers supporter — they would have learned that Malone went from Houston to Philadelphia, not vice versa.

I command thee, Sporting News: Thou shalt not bear false information against thy readers.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Masters of Their Domains

The Internet domains .com, .org, .net., .edu and the rest welcomed a new member not too long ago. The triple-x domain joined the fray, and faster than you can say porn, people purchased .xxx domain names to keep from being affiliated with pornographic websites. The University of Kansas, along with other schools, bought specific .xxx domain names to prevent their use by adult content providers. A prudent move, I must say.

For protective purposes, the University of Kansas acquired the rights to several addresses, including, and Corporations, brands and individuals followed suit; they preempted any X-rated association by reserving the important .xxx domains. That's .xxx, not .sxxx, which you will find in the photo above. A .xxx domain might lead you to a black screen with the words "This domain has been reserved from registration," as does. A .xxx domain might lead you down a dark, dirty path, as ... sorry, I won't be providing any examples. A .sxxx domain will lead you nowhere.

In short, we have an excess s in .xxx.

Friday, October 12, 2012

You're Too Close, Period

I've heard of using multiple exclamation points for dramatic emphasis or using an exclamation point and a question mark to denote a question being asked exasperatingly, but a comma followed immediately by a period? Those two, much like drinking and driving, should never go together.

My theory is that the original NFL blurb was lengthier, but in an effort to edit for space, an editor trimmed some fat, so to speak. In his quest to fit this blurb into its allocated spot, however, he failed to delete the comma. That gives me the urge to throw a host of punctuation marks and other symbols together. *&#%@!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Giving Players a Bad Name

Shhhhhhh! Come closer. I'll let you in on a secret. I've been chosen to select a basketball squad that will compete in the Greatest Ever Tournament. It's open to all NBA players, past and present, and through the use of rather hush-hush technology, each player will be represented in his peak, playing-days form.

I'm in the early stages of the process, still weeding out the wannabes. My backcourt currently consists of His Airness, who is the greatest player of all time, and the point guard who led the Showtime-era Lakers to five titles in the '80s. In the frontcourt I have Dr. J and Sir Charles, despite his stiff Saturday Night Live performances. Manning the middle is the big guy who claimed to have slept with more than 20,000 women. My lineup reads as follows:

Michael Guard
Magic Guard
Julius Forward
Charles Forward
Wilt Center

Pretty good team, huh? What, you haven't heard of any of these retired NBA players? But they're famous! The best of the best! Did I do something wrong? (Editor's note: Owen paused here to take another look at what he had written so far. He spotted his wrongdoing.)

Oh, now I see. I slipped into a bad habit I picked up from the Connecticut Post writer whose work is pictured above. I replaced players' last names with the positions they play. Fairfield University does not have a Ryan Center on its roster. It has a Ryan Olander, who plays center. You may even remember him from his appearance in a previous post. It seems if Ryan Olander is the flame, errors are the moths.

I apologize to my readers for giving the players on my team a bad name. That's not a position in which I want to be. Here, then, is my corrected lineup:

Michael Jordan
Magic Johnson
Julius Erving
Charles Barkley
Wilt Chamberlain

Stay tuned for the aforementioned Greatest Ever Tournament, in which my team will undoubtedly make a name for itself.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Property Damage

I am a man, and I am not afraid to admit that I’ve cried while watching my share of movies. My emotional response is usually limited to glassy, bloodshot eyes. Usually. Once, it escalated to full-on tears, upper-body shaking and that raw, sandpapery irritation at the back of the throat.

In Marley & Me, this animal lover lost it when — SPOILER ALERT — John Grogan, played by Owen Wilson, had to put his beloved dog to sleep. A year before the movie’s release, this Owen had been in the very same situation as the character played by the wealthier, well-known Owen. I could relate. (I miss you today as if you left yesterday, Prime, and it’s been more than five years. I love you.)

If we’re monitoring Marley & Me from start to finish with an electrocardiograph, looking for signs of heavyheartedness, the strongest reading comes near the end, when Marley dies. But pay attention to the heart monitor a few minutes in, just after the opening credits roll, and you’ll notice another blip. It’s an overlooked melancholy moment from David Frankel’s 2008 tearjerker:

Reporter Jenny Grogan (Jennifer Aniston) is reading a Sun-Sentinel article written by her husband, John, a fellow reporter. While she’s doing so, a full-page ad is visible. It’s for Florida Electronics Wholesale and, doggone, this improper prop requires wholesale changes. The ad makes me sad, for three reasons:

1. What’s with the slipped “disc”? Discounted has been reduced. I must dis the prop person for not saying yes to an s. (Full disclaimer: I missed the “DICOUNTED” mistake when I watched the movie and learned of its existence when I was checking out a site detailing South Florida filming locations. Can you blame me? It’s difficult to focus on a prop newspaper when it’s in the hands of Aniston, who, like a dog in retrieval mode, is fetching.)

2. Stop the prop presses! It seems someone has co-opted the role of the unruly yellow Labrador and taken a bite out of your. You and I have a problem, prop person, because you and r aren’t together. Why you’d take out the r? You can’t take it with you, so leave it with you.

3. You may be a super store, Florida Electronics Wholesale, but I’m fairly certain you meant to identify yourself as a superstore, which is a large store offering a wide variety of merchandise. To paraphrase the reggae legend who inspired the canine’s name, let’s get super and store together and I’ll feel all right. While we’re at it, let’s insert a hyphen between super and cool. Can we do that? We can? Super.

No animals were harmed in the making of Marley & Me. I can’t say the same for the phony newspaper ads. It’s a prop chop shop, for crying out loud, where words are stripped for parts. So sad. 

Pass the tissues!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Some Prep Work Needed

Read an interesting cover story in USA Today about authors who successfully self-publish their work as e-books. Perhaps if this story had been self-published as an e-article it wouldn't have contained the error I noticed before the jump. Can you find it?

Check out the quote. I'm assuming Prescott said the word to between going and make. What's that military motto, no man left behind? Let's apply that principle to our writing. No words left behind — at least no necessary words, however small they may be. Come back, to, you little preposition. We want you. We need you. It's not the same without you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hook, Second Line and Stinker

Curb Your Enthusiasm about this ad.
Sniff. Sniff.

Something smells funny.

I've pinpointed the foul odor; it's emanating from the second line of this online advertisement. I "Wanda" know why hook, you and up are hooked with hyphens. Gain — with the help of actress/comedienne/"Scent Matchmaker" Wanda Sykes — may make scents, but its use of hyphens in this ad doesn't make sense.

You may leave, hyphens. You're off the hook. Your loss will be Gain's gain.

What, you don't like my "scents" of humor?

This ad, sans hyphens, is scent-sational.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tag! You're It

My friend Lindsay, of IAMNOTASTALKER, sends me greeting cards from time to time. For the Millennials reading this post, a greeting card is a piece of folded paper or thin cardboard that bears a message and is sent via an agency called the U.S. Postal Service. Sending a greeting card is a thoughtful albeit lengthy process that requires a writing utensil, some sort of paper stock and a stamp.


A Lindsay card often includes added bonuses, such as magazine clippings, funny magnets or other goodies. One such goodie is the item you see here. It's the tag from a sweater Lindsay purchased. "I don't even know what to say about this one!" she commented in the card. I'm with you, my friend.

Hand Craft by Los Angeles

The tags on the articles of clothing I own usually begin with a verb, so it is with just a tinge of uncertainty that I declare the maker of this particular tag was looking for the verb handcraft, which is one word.

The verb-starting clothing tags in my possession also happen to be in the past tense. I paused just now to rifle through my closet, and here are some of the tags I found:

Made in Sri Lanka
Knitted in Taiwan
Assembled in India
Tailored in El Salvador
Made to Last
Established 1999

So, taking things a step further, I will make the assumption that the tag maker would have preferred the past tense of handcraft, which is handcrafted. That gives us the following revised tag:

Handcrafted by Los Angeles

Much better. But not perfect. We've handled the spelling and tense issues, but that doesn't iron out (clothing pun intended) the tag's ambiguity. Who made Lindsay's sweater? According to this tag, Los Angeles did. As Lindsay asked in the card, "Do you really think the entire city of L.A. got together to handcraft the sweater for me?" The City of Angels has about 3.8 million inhabitants. If fashioning a sweater were a 3.8 million-person job, our nation's unemployment rate would not be hovering around 8.5 percent, that's for sure.

The line in this tag reminds me of the tagline in Lake Placid: "Part mystery. Part thriller. Parts missing."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Unlikely? You Bet!

According to a Sporting News college basketball yearbook I purchased a couple of years ago, Roscoe Smith was a likely All-Big Ten Rookie pick. My roulette bet on number 31 and a pair of $10 sports wagers during my lone trip to Vegas notwithstanding, I am not much of a gambler. Having said that, in 2010 I would have bet the farm that Smith would not make the All-Big Ten rookie team. Why? Simple. At the time, Smith played for the University of Connecticut, which is in the Big East Conference. (He transferred to UNLV earlier this year.) "Bettor" luck next time, Sporting News editors.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tech Support

A reader has contacted me to complain that a caption on the front page of the Connecticut Post has malfunctioned. One of its technological parts needs some servicing. I'm sort of busy here at When Write Is Wrong, so I've outsourced the job. I recommended that the reader call 1-800-SPELLER, which she did. She recorded the phone call. Here is the transcript:

AUTOMATED VOICE: Thank you for contacting Speller, Incorporated. To continue in English, please press or say 1. To continue in Spanish, please pr—


AUTOMATED VOICE: Your call is very important to us. You are currently *** fourth *** in our queue. Please hold and a representative will be with you shortly.

[Music plays for 2 5 10 15 minutes.] What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Please select the level of frustration you are experiencing. Press or say 1 for low. Press or say 2 for moderate. Press or say 3 for high. Press or say 4 for stratospheric.


AUTOMATED VOICE: A representative will be with you shortly. Please continue to hold.

[More music.] I wanna hold you till I die, till we both break down and cry. I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides.

TECH GUY: Hi. My name is Sanjay, but you can call me Dave. How may I help you today?

CUSTOMER: Something's wrong with my newspaper. The display is distorted. I was reading a photo caption and thought, Oh, gee, where's the o before -gy?

DAVE:  OK, gotcha. One of the words is missing an o. I'd be annoyed too, because I'm lacked-o's intolerant. Get it? Lactose intolerant?

CUSTOMER: Um, yeah, you're hilarious. Can we get back to the problem?

DAVE: Sure. But before we proceed, may I please have the last four digits of your Social Security number?

CUSTOMER: One-two-three-four.

DAVE: May I please have your mother's maiden name?


DAVE: Can you spell that?

CUSTOMER: Yes, I can.

DAVE: That's good. May I please have your zodiac sign?

CUSTOMER: Sagittarius.

DAVE: May I please have your favorite type of tree?

CUSTOMER: Palm. No, wait, I take that back. Family.

DAVE: OK, thank you. I can further assist you now. Please hold while I do some troubleshooting.

[More music.] Tender love is blind. It requires a dedication. All this love we feel needs no conversation. We can ride it together, ah-ha.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Thank you for holding. Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.

[More music.] Then turn around. Stick it out. Even white boys got to shout. Baby got back!

DAVE: Sorry about the wait. I think I may have diagnosed your problem. Is your sentence plugged in?


DAVE: Hmm. Have you tried restarting it?

CUSTOMER: [In exasperated tone] Yes.

DAVE: Do me a favor: Try pressing the W, H, 7, shift, F9, right-bracket, control and escape keys simultaneously.

CUSTOMER: OK, hold on. ...

CUSTOMER: ... The back of my monitor is now smoking, and the original problem still exists.

DAVE: Don't worry about the smoke. It'll dissipate. Let's try fixing this "biohazard" by clicking the 32nd word's drop-down menu.


DAVE: Do you see biotechnology in the drop-down menu?


DAVE: OK, good. Scroll down and select it. That should fix your problem.

CUSTOMER: Oh, my god, it did!

DAVE: Ah, good. It was an Error Type O. In layman's terms, it's a connection issue. The l should not be connected to the g.

CUSTOMER: Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!

DAVE: You're welcome. Be sure to save your current settings. Should you come across this situation in the future, simply install basic spelling software and reconfigure the misspelled word.

CUSTOMER: Will do.

DAVE: Do you need any further assistance today?

CUSTOMER: Nope. I'm good.

DAVE: Thank you for using Speller, Incorporated technical support. Goodbye.

CUSTOMER: Whoa! Wait a sec! The smoke is getting thicker. What should I—