It’s been my observation that the most common mistake in American English is the old it’s versus its mistake. Turns out, it’s a pretty common mistake in British English too! And this from a “educational” website; just one of several British English punctuation, grammar, and spelling mistakes.
Do you enjoy reading biography? Then run, don’t walk, to abebooks.com and pick up a copy of Madame An Intimate Biography of Helena Rubinstein, by Patrick O’Higgins. The story is terrific, but the writing…my dears, the writing is outstanding. Out. Standing.
The first thing I did was look up Mr. O’Higgins, to see if he was still living. Alas, he died in 1980, but wow! What a writer! What a vocabulary! What wit! Brilliant! A must-read!
In fact, I’ll make it easy. Here’s a link:
Ah, the joys of reading CNN.com. I appreciate CNN. I do. But, a lot of the time, its punctuation leaves something to be desired. Or, in the case below, its punctuation left something out.
Here’s the sentence:
The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
This is textbook. Material enclosed by a pair of commas (or one, if it comes towards the end of a sentence) is referred to as parenthetical information; that is, information that’s nice to know but is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence/for the sentence to make sense. Parenthetical information can be removed from the sentence and the sentence still makes sense.
If the CNN.com sentence had commas in the right place, you could remove all the material inside the commas and still have a sentence that makes, well, sense. Does it? I don’t think so!
The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, the Duchess of Cornwall.
That’s an epic mistake! Here’s the way the sentence should read:
The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Take out the parenthetical information now, and you have a sentence that makes perfect sense:
The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne and his wife.
It’s not particularly funny when you arrive at the website of a so-called “association” of writers and find beaucoup mistakes. It just isn’t.
Here are a couple of easy-to-spot mistakes on one group’s introductory, thanks-for-joining email.
The Florida Writer’s Association is comprised of all volunteers.
You can sign up for Bobbie Christmas’s Writers Network News at Writer’s Network Newsletter to get information about events, news, competitions, jobs, questions, answers, agents, and markets, as well as editing tips and writing prompt.
Attend the annual Florida Writers Conference at a lower member rate. Early Bird registration opens on April 1, 2018. To find out more about this year’s stellar line-up go to 2019 Annual Conference.
Reduced advertising rates in The Florida Writer magazine are available to you in this publication which reaches over 1,500 readers.
This weekend I’m supposed to attend a meeting of the National Speakers Association’s Central Florida chapter. It’s almost a tank of gas (the Honda is waiting for parts, so it’s the Plan B car, and that’s a $60 tank), the cost is almost $80, and I have to bring my own lunch (which I don’t mind). The guest speaker had several mistakes in his posted promotional material, which may or may not be his fault, but if it’s not then he hasn’t learned the #1 rule of speaking, and that’s never trust your host. However, a cruise through his business website reveals the fact that he copy/pasted directly from the website, mistakes and all. And he’s going to tell me that he’s an author, has written more than 10,000 articles and blogs (the mind boggles), and that writing books is important for my speaking career. Gee, ya think?
I’d have to leave at 6:30 and would be back at around 3:30. On the gotta-go side is the fact that I’ve dovetailed my entire schedule to attend. Plus, there will be people there who I like very much. Plus, I want to show support for my chapter. On the negative side is that I’m so busy editing books that people actually care about that I can’t see straight.
I guess the bottom line is simple: Would I be better served taking that beautiful chunk of uninterrupted time and focus on my work, focus on people who care about their writing and are paying me to make them look professional or do I go up and hear someone tell me stuff I already know. Hmmm. Sort of an easy answer, huh?
People are busy. Your writing reflects your professionalism. If you can’t write, hire an editor, but be careful who you hire, ’cause there’s an awful lot of people running around who claim to be editors who ain’t.
Every community has its spelling vagaries. Here in Sarasota, we have two community “secrets” that, if you don’t know them, will immediately expose you to laughter and ridicule.
The first is that Michael Saunders is a woman. There’s that old story that goes around about a guy at a cocktail party who brags about how well he knows “Mike”: “Yeah, he and I are real tight.”
The second is a spelling thing. It’s St. Armands. Plural. Don’t ask me why; it just is.
Here are two headings from a realtor’s website that demonstrate that his or her writer just ain’t from around here:
The St. Armand’s Office Virtual Window
Luxury downtown living close to beaches & St. Armand’s Circle.
I got this off one of those pay-per-click ads, which I clicked on, called the realtor, and informed her of the mistake.
Those ads aren’t cheap! Don’t be cheap! Hire locals who know how to spell!
And, writers, when in doubt about a spelling issue, go to some authoritative source, like a chamber of commerce.
Listen, when someone proclaims that he or she is an “editor” of any stripe, give that person a little credit. No matter what, we give you carefully considered writing.
Let me put it another way: If you find a mistake in my writing and tell me, you are my new best friend! I mean it. I’ll heave a sigh of relief. I’ll be so happy and grateful!
But don’t take my writing and (I really hesitated there and successfully resisted using the F-word) make mistakes in it. You know, like (oh! I almost used it again!) make a mess of it by introducing your own mistakes into my polished prose.
I promise you, I’ll be livid.
Here’s what I wrote.
Liz Coursen is an award-winning author, editor, and book coach from Sarasota, Florida, where she owns EditNation.com. Liz is the author of 17 books, including The Book Tourist: Seven Steps to a Wildly Successful Book Tour; Self-Editing for the Modern Author; and Shade in the Sunshine State: Reflections on Segregation in Florida. In 2017, in addition to speaking engagements in the US, Liz presented editing and writing programs in Milan, Zurich, and in five different cities in India. In November 2018, Liz presented editing workshops at WordPress conferences in Portland, Maine, and Seattle, Washington, on back-to-back weekends.
That’s it. That’s what I wrote.
Here’s what they printed:
Liz Cousens owns EditNation.com. Liz is the author of 17 books, including The Book Tourist: Seven Steps to a Wildly Liz Coursens is an awardwinning author, editor, and book coach from Sarasota, Florida, where Successful Book Tour; Self-Editing for the Modern Author; and Shade in the Sunshine State: Reflections on Segregation in Florida. In 2017, in addition to speaking engagements in the US, Liz presented editing and writing programs in Milan, Zurich, and in five different cities in India. In November 2018, Liz presented editing workshops at WordPress conferences in Portland, Maine, and Seattle, Washington, on back-to-back weekends.
I have a couple of questions, but I guess the obvious one is simple: Does my host not know my name? There are two incorrect spellings of my last name in this bio, so someone deliberately altered the text from what I sent, and was not even consistent in the mistake.
And then there’s the jumbled hash at the beginning. It makes no sense. How the hell did that happen? I’ll tell you: sloppiness.
And what in the world is going on with all that downright incorrect use of italics? Mine was perfect! Perfect!
I know this rule, too, damn it: Always double-check what your host is doing. Another way to phrase it is never trust a host. Another way to phrase it is that no one will ever mind your business like you will. And, should. That’s the thing. I assumed competency, and everybody knows what they say about “assume.”
Who makes these kinds of mistakes?
NEVER EDIT AN EDITOR UNLESS YOU ARE RIGHT. And even then, ask for permission. Lots of times, you’ll be wrong.
It really is discouraging to read writing like the three examples below. I’m just going to paste and comment.
Members of the organization that have attended these conferences in the past know what a great learning experience the writer gets from attending.
- I just cut the sentence in more than half, but if you have the original, you’ll know who wrote this.
- Here’s my problem: “members” are not “thats.” A “member,” to my mind, should be a “who,” like so: Members of the organization who have attended these conferences in the past know what a great learning experience the writer gets from attending.
Specify length (example: full-length novels (this means over 80,000 words); short novels (under 80,000 words); novellas (under 50,000 words)
Yes, this is a fragment, and it’s totally acceptable because this is an item in a list. But what’s not acceptable is falling behind in your parenthesis count: Where’s that last parenthesis, hmm? (I saw that right away. Not to toot my own horn.)
Speaking of “not,” not to trample on the writer’s feelings, but you never put a colon after “for example,” “include,” “includes,” or “including.” I thought everybody knew that.
In addition to her work as a literary agent, she also has a new publishing imprint to work one-on-one with authors. where she acquires books that tell literary and compelling stories with a focus on writing about place.
Trust me, this is the way this looks.
First of all, folks, it’s one-to-one. Okay? One-on-one is a basketball strategy; it’s also an expression for having sex. In a business use, 1-2-1 is totally acceptable, and that’s actually my favorite way to express this concept–it’s short and impossible to misinterpret. I don’t like 1:1, which is architectural. Anyway, that’s not what really bothers me about this sentence.
What really bothers me about this sentence is the period after “authors.” What comes after “authors” is a sentence fragment, so what the writer plainly meant to do was put a comma after “authors.”
(Well, hang on. We have no idea of the frame of mind of this author when writing this horrible sentence. There are no excuses.)
Don’t go away, there’s more! That period (regardless of right or wrong) meant that the “W” in “where” should have been capitalized. But, it’s not. In my Word doc, there’s a red line under “where.” Which means we’re in what I call “red-line Word” territory, when Word is right (and that’s not always the case!) and saves your bacon.
That’s why this kind of sloppiness infuriates me. If I copy/paste into Word, the first thing I see is a red line. I go to investigate. Why didn’t these authors?
I am a professional editor, but, gimme a break! This is Editing 101. Who is so arrogant that he or she doesn’t take that last look? Many’s the time I’ve been grateful to Word!
Takeaway from this post: Use Word!
What horrible writing. You bet there’s more, but it’s past time to get on to other things!
As the kids say, OMG. I’ve seen a lot of jaw-droppingly bad writing coming out of WordPress WordCamps. A. Lot. But this, this takes the cake.
Just cast your eyes over this amazingly, appallingly bad bio from the Miami WordCamp site. I’m not sure if it’s a joke, but I don’t think so, because one sentence missing its verb I could sort of understand, but THREE? Three seems to be a deliberate style of sorts, kinda in the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” sense of the barely literate. It makes the fact that he alternates between his first and last names, a huge no-no, not even worthy of discussion.
Four sentences out of five are either missing their verbs or use the wrong verb form. Un-bee-leevable!
Take a look:
James Tryon is the lead ambassador of Wapu.us, co-founder of BizTender.io among other things. James is married with 3 kids. He also helps organizer of WordCamp Orlando & the WordPress Orlando meetup group. He has been in the creative industry since 1998. Tryon has an eye for design and usability, and also possess the know-how to plan, design, and dev it all if needed.
An avid collector of random awesomeness and unique creations, James always finding something interesting to spark his creativity. When James not working, he is more than likely making something, playing with toys, or hanging with friends and family.
Man, I just love it when I get an invite to connect through LinkedIn and (since my mamma didn’t raise no dummy) I go to that person’s profile and find that this invite is a thinly veiled come-on to buy something. It’s just too fun when that happens, and it puts me in such a really fine frame of mind!
In this case, the guy is an “author” and a “speaker” and a book coach, and he’d be happy to sit down with me, remotely, of course, and speak to me for an hour for the small sum of $500.
Only $500! Wow, what a stupendous bargain! Why not, say, four hours? Cheap at that price! What an incredibly exciting opportunity!
So, there I was, just about to pick up the phone and plead with this guy to please, please, please, allow me to pay him for his undoubtedly superior services when, suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, I saw this sentence:
Well, now you can schedule time with Bryan and I to help you to find the solution(s) you need to take that next step in your business.
I read it. I read it again. Oh, no! Just when I thought I’d found my grammar guru and was prepared to worship at his feet, there’s this stinky sentence! Dang, there went his credibility, circling the drain.
Friends, if you want to charge $500 an hour, first spend a lot less and hire an editor.
For the many people who might not know this rule, let me explain. This is that horrible “me” versus “I” thing, which can assuredly trip you up when you’re speaking, but should never confuse you when you’re writing. Okay, ready?
Well, now you can schedule time with Bryan and I to help you to find the solution(s) you need to take that next step in your business.
Me or I? Take out the “Bryan and” part, and what do you have?
Well, now you can schedule time with I to help you to find the solution(s) you need to take that next step in your business.
Doesn’t that make your ears bleed? Ouch! That can’t be right, and it’s not. It’s Bryan and me, Bryan and me.
Too many people think that “I” sounds better, so all this means is that this guy is a bit on the pretentious side. Or maybe he’s a good guy. I don’t know. What I do know, my friends, is that he ain’t no author!
I met some very nice people at the Franchise Expo, sincere people who are sincerely committed to their concept and sincerely convinced that it’ll make them (and you!) a million bucks or more.
A lot of these sincere people have very snazzy, big-bucks websites (as opposed to modest editors whose modest websites look like tattered refugees from the ’90s), with lots of splash, flash, and color.
So why, my friends, should anyone have to read stuff like this on an otherwise lovely website:
At our franchise, we take frozen acai berries, strawberries, bananas and a splash of soy to create a our perfected smoothie like puree that centers every acai bowl.
This is the sentence that came up #1 with a bullet when you Google this company on your phone, and my phone had plenty of space so I could read the mistake. It was the first thing I knew about this company. The fact that this mistake has been up on the internet and stood uncorrected since August of 2018 was the first thing I knew about this company. Not good.
Shoot, let’s break some more rules while we’re at it!
Pitaya, is a super fruit native to origins of Central and South America and Southeast Asia. Also known as “dragon fruit”, pitaya is rich in vitamins and is known for its vibrant pink hue.
Back after back after back sentences featuring basic American English mistakes. That first sentence has two mistakes! It’s like wearing a pretty dress but not taking a shower: you look good from a distance, but, up close…phew!
A whole can of worms is opened when you have mistakes like these on your website. Is your fruit fresh? Is the fruit washed? Are your employees washing their hands?
When a company has obvious mistakes on its website—and especially in its kick-off sentence—I doubt the sincerity of its management.
Truly sincere people put the best of themselves out there.
Truly sincere people pay attention to details.
Truly sincere people are trustworthy.