Friday, August 31, 2012

Four for Five

Looks like this Connecticut Post caption writer was having a rough "mourning." He went 4 for 5 in first-sentence comma usage. In baseball, batting .800 would constitute a banner day. In writing? Not so much.

The opening sentence of this caption contains three appositions. (An apposition is a grammatical construction in which a noun or noun phrase is used with an explanatory equivalent.)

Noun or Noun Phrase / Explanatory Equivalent

1. Kim Jong Un / The newly named "supreme commander" of North Korea
2. His father / Kim Jong Il
3. The capital / Pyongyang

None of these appositions is essential. All three can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. Don't believe me? Here's how the sentence would look without any appositions:

Kim Jong Un attends a service for his father in the capital.

See, the sentence still works. The appositions were used to provide additional information, but the reader would not have been misled if they were not there. Such appositions are classified as nonrestrictive, or nonessential, and require commas.

The Connecticut Post writer understood that ... almost fully.

Kim Jong Un's father's name can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence because, in the context, only one person could be meant. That one person, however, is Kim Jong Il, not "Kim Jong Il in the capital." A fifth comma needed to be placed after Il.

If you're opposed to the misapplication of appositions, you probably appreciated this appraisal. If you're the opposite, this post has probably left you feeling apathetic. That's appropriate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Boggling a Blogger

My friend Lindsay, from IAMNOTASTALKER, was on the phone with her mom earlier this year when she came across this sign outside a sushi restaurant in Pasadena, California.

"This is just too good!" she blurted, hanging up to take a picture. She called her mom back and explained the cryptic, colorful sign. Her mom laughed out loud, particularly at the "have a nice time" addendum.

After the laughfest, Lindsay shot me an e-mail. 

"Never before have I seen quotes in that sort of placement," she said, referring to the yellow, kitty-cornered punctuation around all. "It's absolutely mind-boggling!"

It is, Lindsay. It is indeed.

Want to know what about this sign boggles my mind? Grab a beer and read on.

1. Why does all need to be in quotes? It's "all" or nothing. I would have chosen nothing.

2. Why do the closing quote marks align with the bottom of the letters? Did part of "all" fall down? Ashes! Ashes!

3. Why is all the only word written in all caps? That's not ALL right.

4. Why do all, price and beer begin with a capital letter, yet half does not? I'm going to blame it on a halfhearted effort by the sign's creator.

5. How are we supposed to read the sign? All half price beer? That's how it's written, assuming the standard left-to-right, top-to-bottom reading progression. But that makes as much sense as nonalcoholic beer. If anything, beer should be at the top right, half on the bottom left and price on the bottom right: All beer (is) half price(d).

6. What's the point of "have a nice time"? Though not technically incorrect, it is, like a worm in a tequila bottle, an odd thing to find at the bottom.

7. Why is the last word capitalized? Another "time-lapse" in judgment by the aforementioned creator, I suppose.

8. Are those supposed to be tittles above the i's in Asahi, nice and time? I hate to quibble, but those tittles should be little — little dots. Or little hearts, if you're a middle-school girl.

9. Why do we need three exclamation points? Does that sentence indicate strong feelings? Arguably. If so, however, one exclamation point would suffice. No need for such a forceful utterance. Calm down! Relax!!!

Now, if you don't mind, my boggled mind could use a frosty beverage. I'm about to grab a tall, cold one and ... have a nice Time!!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stating My Case

Spelling mistakes and fact errors are the bane of any good editor, naturally, but another source of aggravation, often overlooked, is inconsistency. Allow me to share an example.

I annually purchase the Sporting News college football yearbook, which I flip through so often during the course of the season the pages are dog-eared by the time the final bowl games are upon us. Not just dog-eared, mind you — big, floppy, Beagle-eared. I refer to the University of Florida's team preview on an almost-daily basis from, oh, August to January, which is why I mark that particular page with a Post-it Flag the day I purchase the yearbook. The page that lists the high school All-Americans is also a regular stop, though it will never earn Post-it Flag status. Whenever one of the first- or second-team All-Americans announces that he's going to play for the Gators, I mark it down in my yearbook, unofficially welcoming the youngster to the Gator Nation. (Yes, I have a sickness!) It's here, on this All-American page, where the inconsistency appears. Take a moment and see if you can spot it.

Each player's position, height, weight, school, city and state are listed. The Sporting News editors settled on listing non-familiar cities by putting their states' abbreviations in parentheses. That works for me. What doesn't work is using that format for every city-state listing but one. Look at the second-to-last listing under OFFENSE. There's something rotten in the state of Georgia. Instead of sticking with the established style, the editors left out the parentheses and inserted a comma. That style works too — it is actually the one I would have chosen — but the two styles don't work together. Pick one ... and stick with it. Is that stating the obvious?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Two-for-One Special

While reading this front-page article about baseball star Ryan Braun testing positive for a banned substance, I came across two "misses" in a short span: a missing word and a misspelled word.

The missing word. Look at the last sentence of the top paragraph. The game has been cleaned up, perhaps, but this sentence is stained. Where's the an between as and example?

The misspelled word. Affix your gaze to the lengthy first sentence of the bottom paragraph. Barry Bonds is a lot of things to a lot of people, but he is definitely not an all-tine anything. We were looking for the letter with two humps, not one. The letters m and n look similar and couldn't be closer, alphabetically speaking, but they can't be used interchangeably. If they were, we could be firing N16s, snacking on N&N's and listening to "U Can't Touch This" by NC Hanner.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Misguided Puppet Manipulation

In Tampa, Florida, in 2006, some buddies and I participated in Hoop It Up, a three-on-three basketball tournament. Chris, our captain, came up with our team name, Meat Puppets (don't ask), and had each of us select a "meaty" nickname, which he printed on the back of our shirts.

I chose Bacon. Why not? I smell good, I make so many things better, I have an effect on people's hearts, I get heated quickly, I appeal to the masses, I'm simple yet fascinating, and a BLT* wouldn't be the same without me.

I took the photo below between games at the tournament. That's our coach in the middle, flanked by my teammates: Pork Chop, Spam, Rump Roast and Kilbasa. Kilbasa?

Ordering the shirts was not handled under my auspices and thus I take no responsibility for the misspelling of kielbasa, the tasty Polish sausage. I was the team's point guard and three-point threat, but I wish I also had served as the point man on all apparel-related issues. Oh, well.

The Meat Puppets were more ground chuck than filet mignon at the Tampa tourney, managing only a single victory. If we Hoop It Up again in the future, we'll need to beef up our efforts.

* BLT – blog locating typos

  MEAT THE TEAM: The Meat Puppets scout the competition at the
2006 Hoop It Up tournament. Photo by Bacon

Friday, August 17, 2012

Are You Angered or Enraged?

Spell check, like San Andreas, has its faults. One of them is that it is unable to recognize a mistyped word when the flub results in another, correctly spelled word. If you were to type dariy instead of dairy, for instance, spell check would be all over it. If you accidentally typed diary when you meant dairy, however, spell check would be about as useful as a chess set to a prisoner in solitary confinement. When it comes to anagrams — words or phrases created by rearranging the letters of other words or phrases — spell check is no finder. It's no friend, either. (Get it? Friend. Finder. Anagrams!)

Programmers have yet to develop a spell check sophisticated enough to recognize a misspelled word, if said word is in the program's dictionary. (If such a sophisticated program does exist, I'm not aware of it.) It's why spell check doesn't recognize incorrect homophone usage (their instead of there, for example), and it's why spell check fails to detect anagram mix-ups.

Let's take an anagram-related test. I'll provide four sentences with flaws that remain beyond spell check's reach. You must succeed where spell check fails. Here goes:

  1. The How concert ended with a stirring rendition of "Magic Sub."
  2. I freaked out when I spotted the art in the subway.
  3. If you attend a standing-room-only fart party, it's best to avoid eating baked beans.
  4. Hearing the voice of the coroner really buoyed my spirits.
Speaking of anagrams, here are a few humorous anagrammatic phrases I came across online. Enjoy.

Jay Leno = Enjoy L.A.
A decimal point = I'm a dot in place
George Bush = He bugs Gore
An old shoe = Has no sole
Jennifer Aniston = Fine in torn jeans
Dormitory = Dirty room
Eleven plus two = Twelve plus one
Mother-in-law = Woman Hitler 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Potential Dilemma

Today's error probably won't jump out at you, partly because the sentence in question is rather verbose. Let's break it down. The subject of the sentence is "lack of competitiveness" and "Manning's slow recovery." It's a compound subject, consisting of more than one noun or noun phrase. As such, the plural auxiliary verb haven't must be used with the past participle sunk. The author got this one right. But read on. The problem arises with the words "it has." What does it refer to here? By rereading the sentence, we can determine that it refers to the "lack of competitiveness" and the "slow recovery." Two things. Yet it is a pronoun that roughly translates to "that one." "It has" should have been "they have." The sentence's lack of correctness and Owen's sharp eye have created today's post.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Here's the Kicker

To those without a writing background, a kicker is a person or thing that kicks, or perhaps an unsuspected, surprising turn of events. But here's the kicker: There is another definition.

In journalism circles, a kicker is a brief line of copy, located above a headline and set in smaller type than the headline, that draws a reader's attention. It's sometimes referred to as a teaser or an eyebrow.

The kicker you see here is KICKER GOES HERE. A kicker is a visual cue for a reader, and this particular kicker hints that the Connecticut Post article is about — and this is just a guess — a traveling soccer player.

I jest, of course. KICKER GOES HERE was not meant to be the actual kicker. In publishing, editors often put filler text, also known as dummy text, into layouts. It's for placement purposes only, and it gets replaced with final text prior to publication ... or at least that's the plan. It's not uncommon for the dummy text to make it to print, leaving readers with gibberish or nonsensical headlines, decks and kickers. Most editors could just kick themselves for allowing this to happen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Too Much

I didn't manage to get through the opening sentence of the article seen here without spotting a glaring error. As smartphones lit up, my typo-seeking synapses were alit. It seems two to's are a bit too many — and I didn't need Desmond Tutu to inform me of that.

To use "to to" is erroneous. To err is human. To forgive, divine. OK, OK, I forgive you, USA Today writer. I tend to be persnickety. Turns out I'm divine, to boot.

Too many to-related plays on words? Too bad.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Have a Whale of a Time, Bro


Turns out, 15 years ago the Hartford Whalers blazed a trail that you're just now following. Today it's your turn to put Connecticut in the rearview mirror and head south, to the Carolinas.

Today, the trip begins. An 850-mile trip, measured truly, though we know it's been a much longer journey than that. One, I hope, that leads you to immeasurable happiness.

You won't have to dress like this any longer. Lucky you!
You did it. You got the job you wanted, at the company you wanted. The ride's been bumpy at times, but you kept your head up, maintained your balance, reached for and grabbed that brass ring. Don't let it go. Hold onto it. Polish it from time to time. Make it shine. Shine on, bro!

I hope you're excited. I'm excited for you.

I hope you're proud. I'm proud of you.

You've made headway, going from feeling blue in a blue state to prepping for red-letter days in a red state. I'm green with envy.

Speaking of green, may the grass be greener where the Palmettos grow. It should be — the sun shines brighter and hotter there than it does here in cold, gray Connecticut.

If an omnipotent being had knocked on my door yesterday and offered me one of the following, which do you think I would have chosen?

a. Jennifer Love Hewitt
b. A happy, fulfilled brother with an overwhelming joie de vivre
c. A first-ever College World Series title for a certain orange-and-blue university

The answer, a no-brainer, can be found in this clip:

It's difficult to see you go, though I know it's for the best. It may seem like a strange cup of tea, but if it's what's right for you, then it's all right with me. Of course, I'll miss you the way Andre Drummond misses free throws. Yes, that terribly.

I wish you nothing but the best, bro. You deserve to have fortune and fate smile upon you. It's your time.

If you ever need me, you call me ... maybe. Sorry. I had Carly Rae Jepsen (and your long-ago encounter with Big Dave) on the brain.

It's time to let you go. One last hug before I bid you adieu:

Give my best to the Ol' Ball Coach.


Note to readers: Yes, I know this post has nothing to do with editing. My blog, my rules!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Going OFF on a Coupon

Can a single sheet of paper contain a myriad of mistakes? Until today, I wasn't so sure. After seeing this coupon, which was handed to my friend Lindsay, of IAMNOTASTALKER, outside of a Target in Pasadena, California, I am positive.

Where to begin? I'll start at the top and work my way through. The first two lines look good. Things start to heat up, however, when we reach the address line. My first issue is a persnickety one: When you use a letter to indicate a directional end in a numbered address, abbreviate it and place a period after it. The E, which is short for "East," needs a period.

My next issue pertains to missing periods as well, though it's a much bigger pet peeve. Inconsistencies, even "minor" ones that most readers wouldn't give a darn about, make me want to pull out my red hair. Why put a period after St. in "Green St." but not after Blvd. or Ave.? They are all thoroughfare abbreviations and all merit a period. At the very least, do not include any periods in such cases. It wouldn't be the proper style, but it'd be consistent.

Next up is the case of the oddly placed comma. Shouldn't it come after Blvd., not Ste.? And, when we move the comma, let's make sure to keep one character space between Ste. and 9&11.

Moving on...

Is the word coupon necessary? By including material such as "15% off" and "discount," it's obvious that this is a coupon. You don't have to literally spell it out for us. And, while we're on this line, why is off in all caps? This is informal printed material, so I could understand using an uppercase O for style purposes, but OFF doesn't fly — unless, perhaps, coupon had been in all caps as well. Again, consistency.

Let's proceed to my biggest issue. Where is Discount? Is that a town near Pasadena? I'd like to go there, to dine. The 15 percent markdown is a "dine-in discount," of course. The hyphen is critical.

Moving on...

What's with the word call? Why is it there? Actually, phone isn't necessary either, though something along the lines of Phone: 626-795-3793 makes sense.

Nothing's wrong with the bottom line. First two lines? Good. Last line? Good. In between? Not so good. This coupon incorporates a lot of problems into very little text.

Lindsay informed me that the coupon was printed on thick, glossy paper. She suggested that instead of investing in such high-quality paper perhaps Bua Na should have opted to pay for a proofreader. I can't argue with that line of reasoning. And who knows, the proofreader may have offered his services at 15 percent OFF.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Dark Night

What's in a number? A lot, by my count.

In times of tragedy, words are often inadequate. What can you say to comfort a person who lost a loved one in last month's mass shooting at a movie theater in suburban Denver? How do you make sense of the senseless? When a batty man, wearing a Batman-like suit of body armor, takes shots in the dark, literally, and kills innocent people during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, the why? is hard to answer.

The how many? is not.

In the article pictured above, one more word would have been adequate. Its omission presents a skewed, unintentionally heartless take on the horror in Aurora.

"At least people were killed" makes it sound as if the situation could have been an outright failure, but the deaths of some people kept it from being a total loss, when, in fact, it was a total loss. The total? Twelve. A dozen lives taken by a deeply disturbed individual.

At least one person (this blogger) feels terrible.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Winds of Change

The caption below accompanied a photo of the crew from ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I'm assuming Joplin, Missouri, has weathered its share of hurricanes, but I'm also assuming the caption writer meant to refer to the deadly tornado that touched down in Joplin on May 22, 2011.

Granted, for many, hurricanes and tornados are difficult to differentiate. They both have high winds and often leave devastating trails of damage in their wakes, but differences do exist. A hurricane is a large storm with heavy rains and winds that blow in a large spiral around a calm center (the "eye"); it tends to last for several hours or more — sometimes days. A tornado is a windstorm characterized by a funnel-shaped cloud and usually lasts less than 10 minutes.

Tornados usually have a smaller swath than hurricanes but can do much greater damage, in part because they form much quicker (often within minutes) and generally generate much stronger winds.

It's difficult, given the small window of opportunity once a tornado has been detected, to warn residents and take the necessary precautions. Given the opportunity to choose between tornado and hurricane in a caption, however, a writer typically has the luxury of time to make the correct choice. Weather proofing, anyone?

On an unrelated note, I want to take a moment to wish a very happy birthday to my mom. If I'm compassionate, it came from you, Mom. If I'm passionate, it came from you. If I'm dependable, it came from you. If I'm an animal lover, it came from you. If I'm an excellent speller... Well, that didn't come from you. I'm not sure about the source of that one. I am sure, however, that I love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow. When I cried, at age 7, while watching The Champ, you were there for me. You've always been there for me. You mean the world to me, Mom. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Love, Your First Born

I love you deerly, Mom. I really doe.