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—


Monday, September 24, 2012


Listen, perverts, today's post has nothing to do with t*ts and a*s. The t and a referenced in the title are the missing letters in this roughly handled Connecticut Post caption.

First, the t...

It has demonstrated an uncanny ability to flee from demonstration. Come back, t! Without you, I'm teed off.

Next, the a...

Against all odds, it has escaped from against. I'm aghast!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Three's Company

According to this Sports Illustrated article, quarterback Tim Tebow had consecutive completions of 51, 30 and 58 yards. Impressive, but it's not the only back-to-back-to-back feat pulled off. The 80-yard pass contained an n, an n and then an n again. That's right: The SI writer sneaked an extra n into winner. I doubt a certain Tiger-blooded Warlock would label this a "winning" moment.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's the Score?

Check out the bold keyword in the photo caption. Eraser is used to suggest that Edward Daniel "erases" opposing shots by blocking them. Daniel can erase shots, sure, but by any chance can he erase fact errors as well? One appears in that very caption.

The Racers did not win 71-60, as the caption suggests. If you read the first paragraph of the accompanying story, you'll learn that Murray State won 76-72. The second paragraph notifies us that the Racers led 71-60 with less than two minutes remaining. The caption writer missed the point. Missed 17 of 'em, in fact.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Repeat Offenders

Today I'm combining four separate instances of "writing gone wrong" into one post. I came across these four over the span of two weeks, and they all share the same DNA, so I figured they should stick together on the same strand of double helix.


What does this quartet have in common? Well, each member of our unfortunate foursome erroneously repeats a small word. We've seen instances of this before hereherehere and here, and we'll see more in the future. Why? More specifically, why do we double up on wee words such as in and the but rarely type larger words back to back? In the sentence, "I noticed the ambulance driver was smoking a cigarette," it wouldn't shock me to see an extra the or was, but I'd be quite surprised to see ambulance or cigarette repeated. Is it simply a matter of character length? Perhaps word placement comes into play. I haven't delved deep enough into this mystery to formulate a theory. I do know one thing: In situations such as these, it's not OK to repeat a word, big or small. Let me repeat. In situations such as these, it's not OK to repeat a word, big or small.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Be True to Your School

My hometown has four high schools: two public (Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde) and two private (Fairfield College Preparatory and Notre Dame). Each December, the basketball teams from all four participate in the Fairfield Prep Holiday Classic.

Fairfield Warde, my alma mater, is the defending Holiday Classic champion. The Mustangs defeated the Lancers of Notre Dame by three points in the most recent title game. The image you see here appeared on the front page of the Connecticut Post sports section the day after the game. The accompanying caption, much like a Shaquille O'Neal free throw, was no good.

You don't have to be a Fairfield resident or a hoops junkie to realize that No. 2, Matt McTague, is from my school, not from Fairfield Prep. Those five large capital letters across his chest should have warded off any fact errors. And Matt is not attempting a layup against Fairfield Warde. (If he were, he'd be the antithesis of a team player!) He's playing against Notre Dame. Again, a quick glance at the defender's uniform should have provided a clue.

In deference to tournament MVP Michael Wright, the large headline above this photo read, "Wright stuff." Ah, the irony.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No-No-No-No, No-No-No, No-No

[Owen dials the phone. It rings.]

Hello, you've reached the editorial offices of Entertainment Weekly. No one can come to the phone right now. Leave a message and a representative will get back to you as soon as possible. Beep!

Hey, EW. This is Owen. I'm a longtime subscriber, first-time caller. You do good work ... most of the time. I hate to get all Simon Cowell-y on you, but if only you saw what I could see, you'd understand why I'm calling so judgmentally.

Right now I'm looking at you, EW, and I can't believe you don't know (oh, oh) ... you don't know "join together" is redundant. Oh, how I love redundancies. [Owen coughs.] Everyone else in the room can see it, everyone else but you. Allow me, then, to point you in the right direction — and there is only one direction.

In simple terms, join means to bring or come together. As such, join and together don't need to come together. So, make together go away faster than One Direction left anonymity in the rearview mirror following the boy band's performance on The X Factor. That would be a step in the right direction.

So c-come on — you got it wrong. No big deal. It's forgivable. We all make mistakes. What's important is that we learn from them.

I'm sure you've learned your lesson, EW. That's what makes you beautiful.


Monday, September 10, 2012

You Can Call Me Al

The truth is not always black and white. Sometimes, it is.

The Sporting News pro basketball yearbook, which used to come out annually, had regional versions, for sales-driven purposes. Inside every issue was an ad page that showed all the regional covers. The 2010-11 NBA yearbook was available in 13 versions. If Sporting News had stopped at a dozen, it would have avoided a major fact error.

According to the details in Sporting News, that's Al Jefferson on the Region 13 cover. Trust me — it's not. It's allegedly Al, but he's been altered. Through a bit of alchemy, perhaps, Al has become Gordon Hayward. Both men are tall 20-somethings who play for the Utah Jazz, but a telling characteristic should have precluded Sporting News from presenting us with Al a la Gordon. Al is black; Gordon is white. You don't need much gray matter to tell them apart.

Don't blame Al, readers. He has an alibi: He wasn't present when the crime was committed.

This is Al, a 6'10" center...
... and this is Gordon, a 6'8" forward.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Have an Ad Feeling About This

One is a noun. One is a verb. I advise you to know the difference. That's my advice.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Bold Move

The writer of this USA Today article about popular gift items used boldfaced keywords at the start of paragraphs as a way to break up the text. Nice move, logically and graphically. Problem is, a letter from one of the words in regular body type apparently grew jealous and, in a desperate attempt to make more of itself, sneaked its way into a bold new world.

I caught you, S. You have no right to be so bold. Why are you trying to stand out? Nothing about you screams importance. You are not, for instance, the red S emblazoned on Superman's chest. I cannot emphasize enough that you have no need for emphasis. Stay regular. That dark, heavy type doesn't suit you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Give a Hoot, Don't Misspell

One of my top priorities during a vacation in Los Angeles in September 2008 was to find an area bar or restaurant where I could watch the Florida-Tennessee football game. (Yes, I plan things, even during a vacation, around my Gators!) Fortunately for me, a Hooters in Burbank was hosting a Gator gathering for the game. Sweet!

Even sweeter? During stoppages in the game, the restaurant gave away raffle prizes — and I was one of the afternoon's first winners. I received a Gators T-shirt.

Not so sweet? The glaring fact error that caught my eye when I received said shirt. It may not be obvious to those who didn't matriculate at the University of Florida or those who have never lived in the Sunshine State, but UF is located in Gainesville. The city has two e's in it, just like the Gainesvilles in Georgia, Texas, Virginia, New York, Missouri and Alabama. As an editor, I could not in good conscience keep a shirt with a misspelled city name. I handed over my spoils to my brother. He kept the shirt and is the one modeling it for today's post. (Thanks, Paul!)

Sure, the Burbank Hooters is more than 2,100 miles from Gainesville, Florida, but that's no excuse. Keep your shirt on, Owen? I couldn't. And not even the famous Hooters Girls could save the day. What did? Florida's 24-point victory over Tennessee, of course.