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.