How do you make 9 mistakes in ONE sentence?

It’s easy for BNI! Besides needing a comma, there are two mistakes made over and over and over and over again.

The offending (and offensive) sentence:

The process to become an Ambassador starts with exemplary leadership in their chapter, they are nominated by someone on our Team, they go through a number of interviews with our Directors, and finally, they complete the Ambassador Orientation.

The first mistake is incorrect capitalization. “Ambassador,” “Team,” “Directors,” and “Ambassador Orientation”—none of these words or phrases are proper nouns or proper noun phrases. If, for example, the phrase was “BNI Ambassador,” I’d let it slide, because it’d be something unique to BNI. But not “team,” not “directors,” not “chapters,” not “members.” Not ever. Someone once told me that “Capitalizing ‘members’ makes our members feel special.” My reply was, “No, it just makes you look wrong.”

The second mistake is noun-pronoun agreement.  We start out with “an ambassador”; in other words, one ambassador. You just cannot pair a singular noun with a plural pronoun. It. Cannot. Be. Done.

Plus, this is a damn long sentence; too long, in my opinion. But I didn’t count that as a mistake.

Still, nine mistakes in one sentence is nine too many!

They had:

The process to become an Ambassador starts with exemplary leadership in their chapter, they are nominated by someone on our Team, they go through a number of interviews with our Directors, and finally, they complete the Ambassador Orientation.


The process to become an ambassador starts with exemplary leadership in his or her chapter. He or she is nominated by someone on our team, and then the candidates go through a number of interviews with our directors, and, finally, they complete the ambassador orientation.

Just ask!

This morning I was tweaking an introduction, and I came across a place that made me pause: is the possessive of CBS written CBS’ or CBS’s? I liked the latter, simply because you do pronounce that last “s”: C-B-S-ess. I went back and forth and then I had a brainwave: Liz, call ’em up and ask!

So, I did. After flummoxing the receptionist and the gal who picked up the phone in HR, the HR gal asked someone who didn’t know, and then she asked someone else who did. CBS prefers CBS’. There you have it.

While poking around its site, I came across a horrible mistake, which I was happy, happy, happy to share with the HR gal when she returned:

CBS is comprised of some of the most successful and recognized properties in media, and fully embraces the spirit of competition.

Regular readers of my blog will recognize the common mistake: “comprised of.” There are two ways this sentence can be written correctly, and that ain’t it. Here we go:

CBS is composed of some of the most successful and recognized properties in media, and fully embraces the spirit of competition.

Some of the most successful and recognized properties in media comprise CBS, and we fully embrace the spirit of competition.

Remember: A large thing is composed of small things; small things comprise a large thing.

It helps me to remember that A jury is composed of jurors; jurors comprise a jury.

Sort of that fewer/less rule I like so much: Fewer snowflakes; less snow.

You can count snowflakes (fewer), but you can’t count snow (less).


What’s in a typo? A lot!

I was looking at a particular lot on an auction house’s site, and came across these two sentences about the condition of the item:

Thistle Brooch: Highest amethyst flower with an inclusion that appears as a chip, but it is internal. Not apparent significant chips or abrasions present.

Wow. The top “amethyst flower” has an “internal inclusion” (but not a chip!), but there are chips or abrasions (significant ones!) present that aren’t apparent?

After some reflection, I wondered if what I was looking at was a typo, and the second sentence should have read: No apparent significant chips or abrasions present.

I called, questioned, and yes, it was a typo: there are no obvious significant chips or abrasions present.

One letter changed everything. A cautionary tale!

Shame on Authors!

It’s pretty easy to run around and find major, jaw-dropping mistakes in the online content of people who are running around representing themselves as editors or publishers. In fact, it’s not “pretty” easy, it’s damn easy.

But, here’s the thing. All you authors, you should know basic principles of American English! There’s NO WAY you should be so ignorant of basic stuff like the placement of quotation marks or noun-pronoun agreement that you get suckered in by charlatans like the companies I’ve been profiling.

So shame on you if your book comes out looking like a sixth grader edited it! Shame on you if your standards aren’t higher. Shame on you if you don’t care enough about your good name to seek out the people who know what they are doing and care enough to make their own online content perfect.

‘Cause I got news for you: If people who call themselves “editors” or “publishers” don’t care about their own writing, they sure as hell aren’t going to care about yours!

Peppertree peppers its piss-poor content with pitiful prose!

Helllooo, Peppertree Press, with writing like this, I wouldn’t let you near my book.

People, if Peppertree is so ignorant of basic writing principles and so sloppy about its writing, what’s going to happen with your manuscript? Answer: more sloppiness, more people taking your money who don’t have a frigging clue what they are doing.

1. We utilize the cover-art, applying those elements to your interior to enhance the look of your interior design.

Why is that hyphen there?

2. All our books are distributed worldwide through Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Books in Print, and launched on online venues such as: the Peppertree Press,, Barnes and Noble and Books a Million.

First, don’t put a colon after a preposition. Second, if there’s ever a time to use a serial comma, it’s now.

3. Each author’s book royalties are disbursed quarterly, reflecting their online sales.

Hey, y’all ever heard of noun-pronoun agreement?

4. As the late Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently stated, “If you prepare yourself…you will be able to grasp opportunity for a broader experience when it appears”.

Christ on a sidecar, why is your period outside the quotation mark? This ain’t England…this is FLORIDA. Plus, I’d use a colon here: we’re quoting, it isn’t conversation.

5. My name is Julie Ann James and along with my colleague and Editorial Director Teri Lynn Franco, are proud to introduce to you a company that offers professional publishing with a personal touch!

Geez! This is a hot mess. I’d stick a pair of commas around the parenthetical phrase about Ms. Franco, but even then you’re still incorrect. I suppose you’d want to stick “we” in front of “are,” but why all this discussion about the online writing of people who bill themselves as “publishers”? “Introduce to you” is a horrible phrase. Incorrect writing + poor writing = a publishing company to AVOID.

6. We welcome you to go on the grand tour of our Web site and take the first step in turning your manuscript into a masterpiece.

“We welcome you to go on…”? Phew! And, last time I checked, website is not capitalized and it’s one word! Yuck!

7. Julie Ann James lives in Sarasota, Florida with her family.

Where’s the comma after “Florida”?

8. Together we have planted the book publishing seed and with great enthusiasm have launched this fine company to aspiring authors who have dreams and aspirations of turning their manuscripts into masterpieces.

‘Bout the only word for this sentence is barf. What I really, really, really hate about it, however, is that “aspirations” and “aspiring” were used in the same sentence, and (two things) that “dreams” and “aspirations” are synonymous, so why use both words?

In a nutshell, it’s a run-on sentence with repetitious words, both physically and spiritually, from people who are bragging about their writing prowess. This kind of writing really pisses me off, and that’s a phrase I never use.  From so-called professionals, it’s inexcusable.

9. Over the years, we have participated in the following Literacy events…

Peppertree has been the Co-Sponsor with The Sarasota Literacy Council’s luncheon, Celebrating Authors and Illustrators
– All of the Proceeds Benefited The Adult Literacy Program

Sponsor of the Florida Writers Association’s yearly Writing Conference …as well as a panelist discussing writing and publishing

Poetry Judge for the Annual Reading Council’s poetry contest, publishing the winners in The Pepper Tree Literary Magazine

Continuing education by giving talks to Creative Writing classes at local schools, colleges and Universities

Book basket donations to a variety of non-for-profit organizations

The capitalization here is so wrong! And what’s up with the ellipsis? But, there’s also the little gem: non-for-profit. Never seen that before!

Wow. Just wow.

11. Q: What genres does Peppertree publish?

A: We publish, fiction, non-fiction, inspirational/ religious, children’s, educational, poetry, biography, auto-biography and cookbooks.

Why in the world is there a hyphen in “nonfiction” and “autobiography”? “Auto-biography”? Are you kidding me?

11. Q: Do you provide e-book services?

A: Yes. After you have approved your final book, we can re-format it to an e-book version.

Reformat, ebook.

12. Q: How will my book be marketed and distributed?

A: Most importantly through each authors marketing efforts.

Um, did you mean “each author’s”?

13. This was a paper that was simply priceless and something that the community could not only grasp in their hands, but one in which they could participate, both as readers and contributors.

Whaat? WTF (as the kids say) does that mean?

And, I got a newsflash for you, Peppertree: “Community” is a collective noun, which means it’s a singular noun, so you cannot use plural pronouns with it. Plus, don’t stick a comma in a “not…but” phrase.