Friday, November 21, 2008

Hoboken Government Poor Spellers

At least "Hoboken" is spelled right

The Proofreader’s maiden post points out the above sign, one of at least four like it, on Constitution Court in Hoboken, New Jersey. The signs serve to warn residents of the hazards of pet waste and inform citizens of local law, but their copy is written with poor spelling and sloppy use of a hyphen. As you can see in the highlighted picture above, the sign features a misspelling of “pursuant” in the phrase “persuant to chapter 93” and it sports an unnecessary hyphen in the phrase “clean-up”

The Proofreader consulted various online resources and was unable to find “persuant” as an alternate or accepted spelling of the word pursuant anywhere in the English language. MSN Encarta, The American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster and all concur that “p-u-r-s-u-a-n-t” is the correct spelling of pursuant. So, it’s definitely a mistake. Interestingly, on Hoboken’s Web guide outlining city regulations for dogs and other animals, the word is spelled correctly (PDF) at least three times. As for the hyphen in “clean-up,” The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage advises “Do not use hyphens…when the meaning is clear without them.” And in this case, the phrase “clean up” would be perfectly clear; the inclusion of a hyphen is unnecessary.

Moreover, a Google search of “persuant” turned up results pointing to numerous misspellings of the word, mostly by individuals on personal blogs or message boards, which isn’t a very big deal. However, two examples should raise eyebrows. One in which yet another government agency, on the other side of the country, misspelled the word on its Web site…at one time (pictured below). But the department, which boasts a phalanx of attorneys who should know how to spell pursuant, has since corrected the gaffe.

The search also turned up this one, which features a misspelling of the word in a headline, from what appears to be a companion Web site of MoneySense, “Canada’s leading personal finance magazine,” a place that should have Microsoft Word and/or a sufficient supply of professional editors available to catch blunders like this before they go to print or get published online.

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