Sunday, April 11, 2010

Everyday I Have the Blues #19
Don’t blame the writer.

Headlines are seldom dreamed up by the reporter, so I won’t even mention the writer’s name on this piece from the Associated Press that was featured on Yahoo! tonight. For an explanation of the egregious mistake (because it’s in a headline and may be the only part of the story millions of people see), see Everyday I Have the Blues #17.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Everyday I Have the Blues #18

We have another copy editor free zone: AOL’s DailyFinance. In evidence, I submit the lede paragraph from Willow Duttge’s story today about the Kia:
Hamsters That Sell: Kia’s Soul Commercial Wins Auto Ad of the Year
Posted 3:00 PM 04/01/10
Evidently, hamsters are good for sales, or at least for getting viewers to remember your product. The Kia Motors (KIMTF) ad for it's Soul wagon created by ad agency David&Goliath, features dozens of them. The streets of a generic city are littered with hamsters that are stuck spinning on their creaky hamster wheels while hip hamsters zoom past in their bright red Soul. The ad was so effective in grabbing viewer's attentions that it was awarded Automotive Ad of the Year from the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards on Wednesday.
See full article from DailyFinance:
Willow is a seasoned journalist and a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism (you can find out all about her here), but since she can’t rely on copy editor Matthew Schwartz or any of the other veterans listed with him on the DailyFinance site to correct her writing, she needs to learn the difference between “its” and “it’s” (one is a possessive—do you know which one it is?). She also should spend some time studying the concept of agreement: hip hamsters zoom past in their bright red Soul. Just the one? Without seeing the ad, I would guess that we see more than one Soul, no matter how many hamsters are in it. [NOTE: Skip the study. My assumption was wrong. There is only one hip hamster group (a family?) in one car in the ad. Still, it would have been clearer to say “while three hip hamsters zoom past in a bright red Soul.”]

Also, “grabbing viewer’s attentions” is completely confused. If there is more than one viewer, it’s “viewers’ ” but the convention is to refer to the viewer, which may be what she was thinking of at first but when she tried to bring in multiple viewers she couldn’t figure out how to construct the possessive, and then the whole thing just broke down.

And one last thing in this paragraph. The ad was awarded Automotive Ad of the Year at the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards, not from. Never from. Possibly by, but not from.

In the next paragraph we find “startting” for “starring.” It’s hard to understand how such a glaring mistake could have gotten past even a quick read through, but that’s a simple spelling goof. As I’ve said before, Spellcheck is your friend. There’s more, but I’ve had enough.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I applied for a job with AOL last year but was not hired. They thought they could get along without me and they may be right, though this story certainly indicates otherwise. I am not bitter. I am simply a disinterested copy editor, offering guidance to the many writers who struggle to write coherently, out there in the vast reaches of the Internet.

UPDATE: As of May 17th, all of the egregious errors cited above have been corrected, which proves that someone is reading this blog. No need to thank me, guys, it’s all in a day’s work. But DailyFinance could still use a copy editor. Reading the rest of the story, I see that in the next-to-last paragraph the second sentence is inexplicably uncapitalized:

But how did the commercial do in the category that really counts: selling cars? for 2009, Kia's sales were close to 10% higher, a bump the company partly attributed to sales of the Soul.

Since journalists don’t get to claim a dispensation under the poetic license, the quote above consists of two sentences, the second starting after the question mark and therefore requiring a capital F. So go fix it. Well discuss whether audiences can be “impacted” (fourth paragraph) another time.