Monday, September 29, 2014

Nothing to Write Homes About

If you’ve attended elementary school or watched Sesame Street, you are likely familiar with the “What Doesn’t Belong?” game, which aims to boost classification and identification skills. Students (and Sesame Street viewers) are shown multiple items (usually four) and must identify the one that has no connection. Perhaps you recall the tune from Sesame Street’s “One of These Things” segments:

One of these things is not like the others
One of these things doesn’t belong
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time we finish our song?

Not ringing a bell? OK, I’ll share some examples. Good luck!

  1. Cat   /   Dog   /   Hamster   /   Gorilla
  2. Black   /   Helicopter   /   Red   /   Green
  3. Cowboys   /   Cubs   /   Dodgers   /   Yankees
  4. G   /   W   /   9   /   R
  5. Washington   /   Franklin   /   Nixon   /   Lincoln
  6. Grape   /   Shape   /   Cape   /   Truck
  7. Stephen   /   Roger   /   Billy   /   Alec
  8. Actor   /   Crate   /   React   /   Trace
  9. Vancouver   /   Montreal   /   Toronto   /   Seattle
  10. Subject   /   Verb   /   Preposition   /   Adjective
  11. Alps   /   Blade   /   Cheese   /   Miss
  12. Dasher   /   Comet   /   Cherub   /   Blitzen

Now that you’re familiar with the game, try to figure out one more:

Holmes   /   Homes   /   Holmes   /   Holmes

Did you get it?

All four look alike. But wait. Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that one Homes in this cookie-cutter development stands out, for the wrong reasons. Another letter should reside in that Homes. In this article about the madman who allegedly murdered 12 moviegoers in Colorado in 2012, all surname references should be Holmes, not Homes. That’s elementary, my dear readers.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Blame David

The damage inflicted today must be the work of a certain slingshot-toting underdog.

Using the editing talents God has given me, Ive peered beneath the armor and come face to face with a giant problem. It seems impossible to misspell Goliath. Then again, it seems impossible that a young man could defeat an imposing Philistine warrior.

Goliath has been struck down. Again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Comma, Let's Celebrate!

The misuse. Of periods makes. It difficult to. Comprehend. What you’re reading. Commas placed, in the wrong spot are, also a cause for, concern. Many sentences require semicolons, they have commas instead. And don’t get me started on people who “incorrectly use” quotes or put a question mark at the end of a declarative sentence?

My exclamation point, and I do have one, is that punctuation is important. Instead of presenting a typical post today, I thought I’d let everyone know that Sept. 24 is National Punctuation Day — the 10th one, in fact.

Jeff Rubin created the holiday in 2004, and according to (yes, there is a website), it’s “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.”

In short, it’s a punctuation celebration — and I’m down wit’ NPD. So, let’s grab our trusty red pens and, well, paint the town red! I suggest we do some of the following today:

Watch a period piece.
Look for cereal commas in our Alpha-Bits.
Attend an MLB game, but only if Bartolo Colon is pitching.
Compete in a 100-meter dash.
Look up interrobang. (You’ve never heard of an interrobang? Say what‽)

Before we head out, allow me to punctuate today’s “punctuation matters” message with an assortment of humorous images I found online. Happy NPD!

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Late Nite Conversation

This time, it’s personal.

Today I’m afforded an opportunity to discuss an error and share happy news. It’s a win-win situation.

The error is one you’d be hard-pressed to figure out. The happy news is hardly pressing, I figure. Both concern a Nite to remember.

I was on cloud nine around 9 p.m. on 9/9, when my softball team captured its first title in the Fairfield (Conn.) Parks & Recreation Bob Wikman over-35 league with a 14-4 victory at Tom Haydon Field. I realize that news is as trivial to many as leads on potential jaywalkers are to police detectives, but humor me. After fighting so hard for so long for that elusive first championship, it felt fantastic to finally experience the euphoria of winning. To paraphrase a famous saying: ‘Tis better to have won and lost than never to have won at all. What a great night for Late Nite!

My team, you see, is called Late Nite. I’m not sure why our name includes an unconventionally spelled second word — a variation you’re most apt to see on advertisements, bar menus or text messages. Nite reminds me of donut and thru, other informal variant spellings. I’d stick with the more widely accepted spellings (night, doughnut, through) in formal writing — unless the variant spelling is part of a proper noun or a trademarked brand. That’s why we have Nick at Nite, Dead of the Nite, the Good Nite Inn and … Late Nite. The name may look odd, but doesn’t Toronto Maple Leafs? Boston Red Sox?

The Maple Leaves Leafs haven’t won a championship since 1967. The Red Socks Sox waited 86 years before ending their championship drought. Mine lasted “only” 17 years. Still, 17 years represents almost half of my life — and most of my adult life. I’d long wanted to be on a team worthy of my local newspaper’s “Championship Gallery.” The opportunity gloriously presented itself two Tuesdays ago. The following day I submitted a team photo taken immediately after our 10-run victory. Instead of making a Late Nite delivery, however, the paper identified my team as Late Night. How could the paper be in the dark about the Nite? I provided the correct spelling when I e-mailed my submission, and “Late Nite” is visible on the shirts and hats (our “Nite caps,” if you will) most of us were wearing in the submitted photo.

Why change the spelling? Nite and night are as different as night and, well, nite.

The paper should have stopped what it was doing and called it a Nite.

Before I call it a night, readers, I’d like to share one more story about Late Nite’s championship season.

During the regular season, against an inferior opponent that finished with a losing record, we played sluggishly and trailed in the bottom of the seventh (and final) inning. My team down a run with two outs and a runner on second base, I stepped to the plate … and doubled down the right-field line. Tie ball game. The next batter drove me home with a sharp single up the middle to cap a dramatic victory. I bring up this game because later that evening, when I was reading that day’s paper, I looked at my horoscope. Here’s what it said:

Stop your planning — the season to celebrate is this one! This is the one that will bring you the most joy, and you are bringing your awareness to it.

I cut out that horoscope, put tape on both sides and shoved it in my wallet. There it remained until we won it all.

Oh, what a Nite!

THE NITE TEAM IS THE RIGHT TEAM: These big bats — nocturnal creatures of a different sort — won a first-ever championship in 2014. Better Late than never for this marquee Nite club.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Day In, Day Out

Journalists, like detectives, are well aware of the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why. These are the basic questions a reporter must ask when gathering information for an article, whether it’s a lengthy feature or a news brief. The answers, often located in or near the first paragraph, create a framework by providing an article’s essential details.

Let’s take a look at how the five W’s were handled in the USA Today blurb pictured below.

Lauren Conrad

A wedding

Along the coast of California


She heard married people live longer and get tax breaks, and she was facing pressure from family and friends. I kid! She was in love, of course.


Note that I listed the when twice. I didn’t have to. Neither did USA Today.

Forgive me for putting a Weird Al spin on an Elton John lyric, but Saturday’s not all right for writing — not twice in the same sentence, anyway. Take a day-in, day-out approach. Keep one Saturday, but give the other a rest. Invoke a Saturday Sabbath.

USA Today

An error

Page 1 of its “Life” section

Monday, Sept. 15, 2014

The writer included Saturday twice in the same sentence.

Sometimes an H (how) is added to the five W’s. The H in this instance remains unanswered. A few theories, in order of likelihood: 1. The writer originally included a time element only after family, but after reviewing the sentence decided the when would sound better at the end of the sentence. He inserted two words after California but forgot to delete the original Saturday reference. 2. The oversight was made in haste, minutes before a looming deadline. 3. An editor, distracted by images of Lauren Conrad, relied on spell check and didn’t closely examine the sentence.

How … unfortunate.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Out of "Time"

My plan was to reserve this post for prime time, when my reading audience would be at its largest, but I couldn’t wait. As such, it’s relegated to the morning slot. Today’s post couldn’t come soon enough — it’s about time.

Allow me to spell out this prime-time crime, in which a vowel has been stolen, in two ways:

  1. Like Marty McFly, the protagonist of the greatest film in history (to this blogger, anyway), an i needs to get back in time.
  2. A hyphenated word had an i in its prime, but the second i washed away — in time.

Now do you see why I’m giving this newspaper a hard time? Today’s error is one I’d deem over-the-hill, for it comes past its prime. There is a time and a place for everything. The time for i is now. The place for i is time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Requesting Clearance

Sale! Certain words 11 percent off!

Clearance sale! All A’s must go! Only one left in stock!

In this screen grab from the 1984 sci-fi classic The Terminator, a door is ajar … and a word is jarred.

Before he attempts to terminate the woman whose unborn son will one day lead a human revolution against machines, Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing the titular cyborg from a post-apocalyptic future, steals a car and goes “shopping” for guns. As he enters the shop, attentive viewers learn that a storewide clearance sale is in progress. Well, sort of.

CLEARANCE is missing an A, clearly. It should have been stocked with two; one has been terminated. An A is in the CLEAR, but the other has been removed from the shelves, preventing us from getting ANCE-y.

Adding another A to this gun shop’s door would make me trigger-happy, so to speak. So, after the R, clear the way for an A. Have I made myself … understood?

Editor’s note: STOREWIDE is one word. If it can’t be painted on one line, it should be hyphenated. Perhaps the hyphen was left out intentionally, for cosmetic reasons. That is why I didn’t harp on this particular STOREWIDE renovation in today’s post. I couldn’t afford CLEARNCE the same luxury; it, like a Terminator emerging from the fiery wreckage of an exploded tanker truck, is a shell of its former self. The world needed to know. And the next time someone rifles a letter from a word, I’ll be there to tell you all about it, readers. That’s right: I’ll be back.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cyber Not

I’m reporting a cybercrime in a USA Today cover story about Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilder turned actor turned governor turned adulterer returned actor. It’s more than a crime, in fact. It’s an act of terrorism. An r has gone “Commando,” taking off without any support and muscling its way in where it doesn’t belong. See those “Twins” after the o? Wrong spot. The back-to-back r’s belong before the o. After the o comes the solo — the solo r.

According to “The Rundown,” all r’s were present and accounted for, but one of ‘em was in the wrong “cyberspace.” As a result, terrorist became terorrist. That’s teribl— That’s terrible. Not nearly as terrible as fathering a child out of wedlock with your housekeeper, though that’s a story for a different “Judgment Day.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Highway Robbery

In...? In...? In ... what?

Someone doesn’t understand the ins and (left) outs of caption writing. It’s unfortunate that this photo caption wasn’t littered with another word or two. The writer exited the highway before reaching his destination, and this bump in the road is taking its toll.

Something has been left out after in. In case you’re curious, debris from the tractor-trailer was strewn across I-95 in Fairfield, Connecticut — my hometown. Without adding some finishing touches to the caption, however, the pieces of pavement could have been anywhere along the East Coast. Interstate 95 runs for more than 1,900 miles, from Miami all the way north to the Canadian border in Maine, and passes through more states (15) than any other highway.

When writing about an interstate where you’re apt to see both alligators and black bears, it would help readers if you pinpointed your position at the end of the line.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Not-So-Hot Cocoa

USA Today’s “State-by-State” page, which provides news briefs from across the United States, is formatted. That formatting is as follows:

STATE City: Paragraph with information about aforementioned city.

In other words, the state name is in a sans serif typeface, in all caps and in blue; the city name and the colon are in a serif typeface and in bold; and the paragraph is in the same serif typeface as the city name but uses the regular, or roman, font. Here is an example of what a “State-by-State” entry might look like in USA Today:

FLORIDA Gainesville: To honor its most distinguished alumnus, the University of Florida has announced it will rename its journalism building When Write Is Wrong Hall. A dedication ceremony will take place next August. Millions are expected to attend.

Now, knowing what you know, can you find the mistake in the photo? You got it. On this formatted page, a Sunshine State city is deformed. Cocoa (also a term for a reddish brown) is feeling blue when it should be in the black. 

Cocoa’s nuts!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Out of Their League?

I wish Saints coach Sean Payton had commented. Perhaps he would have clued us in as to what league USA Today is referring to in this article.

The Saints apologized to “the NFL and the league. What league? The League of Women Voters? The Ivy League? The Justice League of America? The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? My over-35, Tuesday-night softball league? I imagine its none of these groups.

The league in question is the National Football League, which makes this sentence redundant. Its off by a mile. Heck, its off by 2.4 to 4.6 miles*.

* league n any of various units of distance from about 2.4 to 4.6 miles

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

One for the Burgs

In what burg (i.e., city or town) do you live? A friend and former college roommate lives in St. Petersburg, a coastal Florida city named after Saint Petersburg, Russia.

When used as a suffix, burg (and burgh) also means town, and it historically refers to a fortified one.

Some cities, such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, employ the burg ending. Other cities, including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Plattsburgh, New York, use the burgh ending.* St. Petersburg belongs in the former group, for Pete’s sake!

What’s with the h on the tip of the burg? It’s a burgeoning problem, no doubt about that. My friend’s city is St. Petersburg, or St. Pete for short. Allow me to re-Pete myself: My friend’s city is St. Petersburg.

In St. Pete, where the Tampa Bay Rays play baseball, life’s a beac.

In some words, a closing h is necessary!

* Pittsburgh, named after British statesman William Pitt, was once Pittsburg. In the late 19th century, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, created by President Benjamin Harrison to provide uniform naming to national cities, rivers and the like, dropped the final h from all cities and towns that ended in burgh. Through government intervention, Pittsburgh became Pittsburg. However, Steel City citizens protested, and in 1911 the h was restored.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Frying Pan

In South Carolina’s season-opening football game against North Carolina on Aug. 29, 2013, Elliott Fry, a freshman kicker, made a pair of field goals and converted all three extra points in the Gamecocks’ 27-10 victory.

The sweet Carolina walk-on was perfect in his collegiate debut, but here’s the kicker: His attire didn’t match his performance. It failed to get the job done, which is why I must pan Fry’s jersey.

Fry connected on a 39-yard field goal in the first quarter and added a 26-yarder just before halftime, in addition to those three extra points. Give the kid an A for making all his kicks. He’s earned it.