Sunday, December 28, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #13
CompuServe remains a source of surprising copy. I call this one It’s A Hell of a Wine.
Zin vs. Primitivo
What happens when American Zinfidels
go head-to-head with Italian Primitivos?

Everyday I Have the Blues #12

Sara Elder had a good story in The Times last month called “Learning How to Walk (Chewing Gum Not Included), about retraining adults to walk in a non-stressful way. It was quite interesting but I’d say it illustrates the danger of cutting and pasting from your notes. I scanned the relevant part of the article and tried to highlight the passages that escaped the copy editor’s eye, but if the highlighting is hard to read here they are:

“Each part of the body has it’s own job, and everything is connected.”

“You can’t make your bones go in different direction than than they want to go in,” he said.

said Ms Goldman, the editor of a marketing trade magazine.

And darned if they arent all in the version of the story posted on the Web.

NOTE: I checked the story on August 27, 2009, and
than than” had been corrected in the online version. The other mistakes were still there.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #11

AOL’s CompuServe features several stories on its home page each day. Here’s the headline and teaser for one from Thursday, October 2:
The Secret of How to Barter
Why pay $100 for something if you can get it for $75? Learn how to barter in 4 steps.
Why indeed? And why barter when you can bargain?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #10
Monday, September 29, must have been an extraordinary day at The Times, what with the bailout package collapsing and stock markets swooning. Just look at the lead story on the first page of Tuesday’s Business Day, “The Banking Crisis Trickles Up,” and let your eye travel down until it stops just above the fold. There you will see HEAD W. SANDWICHKICKER TAG, underneath which are two lines of what we call in the business Greeked type. Oops. Of all the things they hate in the newsroom, a big goof in a headline or caption is right up there at the top of the list. Maybe it was corrected in a later edition. I hope so.

But that’s not what gave me the blues. It was a story in SportsTuesday about Charles “Chongo” Tucker, a rock climber who lived in Yosemite Park: “His Roof Is the Sky” by Michael Brick. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I rarely read a sports story. It’s not a very Addison thing to do. This story piqued my interest, though, and I read it from beginning to end, stopping only to puzzle over two sentences.

The first was this one, on the first page: “Rumors of his whereabouts began to trade around the big rocks and rope-walking fixtures of the Western states.” Huh? Rumors traded? “Hold on a doggone minute, Mr. Brick,” I said to myself. “Rumors are not independent actors, no matter how much you may want them to be, and they’re not traveling around the West on their own.” The sentence reads as if he wanted to construct it without any people, who would be the ones trading rumors as they climbed the rocks. Why he’d want to do that I haven’t a clue but it didn’t work for me.

On the next page, Mr. Brick tries to strike another literary note in describing Chongo: “Leathery skin, knowing eyes and a dilettante’s smile gave him the cabalistic twinkle of a movie pirate.” Leaving aside the dilettante’s smile, which I still have trouble imagining, I was baffled by the cabalistic twinkle. If the second meaning of “cabala,” according to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is “a traditional, esoteric, occult, or secret matter,” then is a cabalistic twinkle “a way of looking at someone that implies possession of esoteric or occult knowledge,” a la Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean? It could be but just what was twinkling? His whole face? Just his eyes? If they’re already knowing how are they radiating cabalistic knowledge at the same time?

It’s a pity no one had the time to wrestle his meaning out of Mr. Brick when the story was being edited. Except for those two clunkers it’s a good story.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #9

Last week, The Times published an obituary of Norman Whitfield, the Motown Records songwriter and producer. As a dedicated follower of obits and a fan of Motown’s golden era, I read it with great interest until the last sentence in this paragraph stopped me cold.
For all his renown as a composer, Mr. Whitfield was even more prominent as a producer and arranger. He was known especially for his work with the Temptations; he produced many of their recordings for Motown, including the album “Cloud Nine,” whose title track earned the group a Grammy in 1969. He also helped usher in the era of psychedelic soul, producing the work of artists like Edwin Starr and the Undisputed Truth.
Look at the name of the second artist. If the group’s name is Undisputed Truth, then that is what it should be called. If the group called itself The Undisputed Truth, then “the” should be capitalized, the same way The New York Times styles its own name. Sheesh.

NOTE: And the same thing goes for The Temptations.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #8

David Pogue had me awfully confused today. In his State of the Art column, “Nontechies, This One's For You,” he threw what looks like a comma splice into his review of the Peek.
The power cord ends in a micro U.S.B. connector, alas, you can’t recharge the Peek from a computer, as you can with a BlackBerry or an iPod.
I had to read that pesky sentence two or three times and I still don’t know why he didn’t either put a semicolon after “connector” or just split the darn thing into two sentences. If anyone can explain what he was doing there I’d love to hear it.
“Nontechies, This One's For You,” by David Pogue. Page C1, The New York Times, September 11, 2008.

NOTE: Read the comment for David Pogue’s response.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #7

That little gem is from the e-mail newsletter “Back to School All-Category Savings Spectacular! Up to 60% Off!” from August 19.
Everyday I Have the Blues #6

Sometimes Spellcheck is your friend.
Add creative inspiration and a love for trends and brand indentity, and you’re on your way to forging breakthrough ads.
“Copywriting: Mastering Ad Writing. Break into advertising,” e-mail from

This was the pullquote they used:
Before taking this course I knew nothing about copywriting now I know how to take an idea and turn it into a great ad.
--Latrice Harris

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #5

Typos don’t really count as wince-inducing but this one is too amusing not to pass along.
It is also the most ambitious classical music offering to date at Le Poisson Rouge, a new Greenwich Village club started by a pair of still-practicing classical sting players intent on presenting music of every description.
Can’t you just see Robert Redford on violin and Paul Newman on viola, playing the Maple Leaf Rag?

The Listings: Classical: Opera: “The Coronation of Poppea,” by Allan Kozin. The New York Times, p. E21, Friday, August 15, 2008.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #4

When I read today’s sentence my first reaction was “Didn’t anyone read this?” And it’s possible that there wasn’t time to read the story, just run it through the grammar and spelling checker. Spellcheck is a great thing, but it won’t save you if you don’t know the difference between “there” and “their,” “your” and “you’re,” or “a device that fits inside or around a garment for hanging from a hook or rod” and “a covered and usually enclosed area for housing and repairing aircraft.”
A vibrant 55-year-old, Ms. Olsen is coming to terms with the unceremonious end of her fashion career — as the windows of the last remaining stores were papered over last month and the stock sold at discounts of 70 percent, including the hangars — at the same time she is starting over as an artist and entrepreneur.
“Her Forced Retirement” by Eric Wilson. The New York Times, G1, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #3

I tell people not to use “comprise” unless they have the proper training and permit, but do they listen to me? No, they don’t. They just go right on and embarrass themselves in print anyway. This is from sign-on instructions I received the other day from the human resources department of one of the biggest banks in the world.

Step 1 Begin the Sign-on Process.
* Enter your standard ID on the single sign-on screen.
* Enter your default password, which is comprised of:
* The first three characters of your Standard ID
* The last four digits of your Social Security number or national ID number.
et cetera

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #2a and 2b

I know, I know, it’s not really fair to spotlight goofs in The New York Times. They work under a daily deadline and there aren’t enough copy editors to give the copy a good going over. However, my criterion is the wince factor and these two examples supplied a good wince apiece.
Mr. Medoff said he hoped that people would read the comic and agree. “There’s a certain amount of ongoing pressure, but it’s been so far not efficient to make the authorities bow.”
“Comic-Book Idols Rally to Aid a Holocaust Artist” by George Gene Gustines, p. B7, Saturday, August 9, 2008

Did Mr. Gustines transcribe the interview poorly, did he misread his notes, or can we blame the editor for transforming “sufficient” into “efficient”? I can’t say but the quote doesn't make sense as it was printed.

(Mr. Kraus said he was germophobe when it came to the subway.)
Jamie Bishop/Christian Kraus wedding announcement, Sunday Styles p. 16, Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just what did Mr. Kraus say? That he was a germophobe or that he was germophobic? Maybe the editor couldn’t make up her mind, or maybe she doesn’t know the difference.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Everyday I Have the Blues #1

This is the first in an occasional, though possibly daily, series of posts featuring English usage that makes me wince. Spotlighting these won’t make the world a better place, I know, but they deserve to be shared.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Membership News, the lead sentence in a story about the horticulturalist at The Cloisters:
Even in a city of more than 8 million residents, Deirdre Larkin easily has one of the most unique jobs.