Monday, March 30, 2009

E&P Writes "Twats" On Blog

Joining the annoyingly escalating buzz about Twitter with a recent post on its blog, Editor & Publisher made a typo that resulted in the printing of "twats," a plural slang term for a part (or all) of the female genitalia--mwahahaha! Twats! The blunder, highlighted in the screen shot below, was brought to the Proofreader's attention by the sharp-eyed Lynn Klyde-Silverstein, a university professor. Wait, HTF does a mistake like this happen on the blog of a dignified trade journal like Editor & Publisher?

"The E&P Pub" blog posts aren't reviewed by copy editors before being published. In fact, surprisingly, Editor & Publisher doesn't have any copy editors or proofreaders on its staff. What? Really?

"We haven't had a copy editor or proofreader for years," said Greg Mitchell, the editor of Editor & Publisher, when asked how a silly gaffe like this gets published. "We only have a staff of eight people."

Editor & Publisher's managing editor, who wears a number of hats at the monthly journal, is the de facto copy chief, despite having multiple important duties competing for his attention. Also, editorial standards are less strict on the blog. Often, only one or two writers will look at copy before it's published and then later, perhaps, someone might notice a typo and get it corrected. "With blogs, you have to expect a few more typos," added Mr. Mitchell.

Evidently, the Twitter craze has led to an uptick in the use of the word twat by people trying to be funny. In a recent appearance on NBC's Today show, Stephen Colbert told Meredith Vieira he has "twatted." It's kind of funny, especially if watched on live T.V. rather than on YouTube. Also, in a February 12th video post on his blog titled "Twitter - The Movie," the comedian John Cleese wryly tells fans, "I definitely do twitter...with all the other twats."

Despite its similarity to Cleese's proclamation, Mr. Mitchell was quick to point out that the usage of twats on "The E&P Pub" blog was a mistake. "Our policy would be to not use a word like twat."

The Proofreader thanks Lynn Klyde-Silverstein and Greg Mitchell.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Affect or Effect Conundrum

Today's post about the affect/effect conundrum is a result of a reader submission. Stan Kost e-mailed the Proofreader inquiring about a questionable word choice in an A.P. story on Alaska's frequently erupting Mount Redoubt that he saw recently on Yahoo! News. Mr. Kost wrote, "This Yahoo! News story used 'affects' as a noun. Shouldn't it be 'effects'? Or is it a legitimate alternate spelling?"

No, when used as nouns affect and effect are not interchangeable. When to use affect or effect is a dilemma that's stymied many a deadline-driven writer, because the affect/effect rules are really hard to remember, even for pro writers--maybe because they don't lend well to a catchy mnemonic device. Referring to a style guide, such as The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, would swiftly resolve the matter, but sometimes writers don't have time or forget to check. Hence the existence of copy editors and proofreaders who should catch these kinds of subtle mistakes most people never even notice.

As you can see, highlighted in the above screen shot, the last sentence of graph twelve reads, "She was experiencing other affects, too." Interestingly, in the preceding paragraph, the word "affect" is used correctly--as a verb meaning "to influence or change," according to page 10 of the Times style manual. An argument can be made that affects is the correct word choice in the above sentence because it's being used as a noun meaning "an emotional response or feeling," as is noted on page 11 of the Times style manual. It's plausible somebody living next to an eruption-happy volcano could be experiencing feelings of fright or concern. But the very next line of the article shoots a bunch of holes in that theory:

The woman quoted here explains the effects (not affects) or physical "results or consequences" the volcanic ash in the air had on her eyes. Affect/effect confusion is a common problem and this is a subtle mistake that only the most alert readers catch, but it's certainly a mistake that should've been caught by someone at the A.P. or Yahoo! News.

The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistake.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Trifecta of Missing Spaces In The Atlantic

Urbane. Erudite. Sophisticated. Sloppy. Three of the four preceding words are fitting descriptions of The Atlantic, a monthly magazine that usually lives up to those laudatory adjectives. Sloppy, however, is the apt description for a recent article on the magazine's Web site titled "End Times." The article, about the potential demise of The New York Times, is eminently interesting and particularly frightening for the Proofreader, because The Times, while being the gold standard for reportage, is a vast source of printed mistakes that shouldn't have been made. Hopefully the article is intriguing and not prescient. Now, on to the mistakes.

As you can see in the above screen shot, the first error occurs in the last line of the twelfth paragraph. Notice the missing space between "The" and "Washington." Just below, in the first line of paragraph thirteen, there is a space missing between "The" and "New."

Adjust your view to the first line of the article's eighteenth and final paragraph to see The Atlantic complete the typo trifecta. This time a space is missing between the words "York" and "Times." The Atlantic is a quality magazine and hopefully these lapses by the copy department are an aberration and not a new rule.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

K-Rock Forgets Letter Then Changes Format

If you live in the New York City area and still haven't migrated to satellite radio, there's a good chance you've noticed a difference in the sound of 92.3 K-Rock, the famous FM rock radio station and former home of Howard Stern. And that's because the station changed its format from classic and grunge rock to vapid Top 40 on March 11th. Read the story about it on The New York Times' "Arts Beat" blog and keep your eyes peeled for at least two typos in the blog post (hint: look closely at graphs two and six).

As you can see in the highlighted screen shot above, taken just days before the format overhaul, K-Rock forgot to type an S in the last line of a story about why Robert Plant is reluctant to reunite with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin for what would no doubt be a kick-ass reunion tour. Evidently, K-Rock Web writers and editors, knowing the disappointing change was imminent, slacked off at their jobs. It's hard to blame them for this minor mistake, because it had to be a drag working those final days before the big change which has left Q104.3 and 101.9 as New York City's remaining FM rock radio stations.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wayward Apostrophes in Headline

Sloppiness is becoming a hallmark of the entertainment editors over at A few weeks ago, they seriously bungled the word Oscar in the headline of a story about The Academy Awards. In the headline of an Associated Press story about quarreling lovers Chris Brown and Rihanna, published on March 12th, they messed up again.

As you can see in the above screen shot, highlighted for your viewing convenience, the editors were clueless about where to place two apostrophes. By's account, the stars of multiple Chris Browns have fallen and the stars of multiple Rihannas may also fall. That would be an entirely different story than what appears underneath this faulty headline.

Rather than plural possessive proper nouns, those should be singular possessive proper nouns. Shame on copy editors for allowing the mistake to be published, but give them some credit for at least putting those wayward apostrophes in their proper places and not letting the blunder linger online forever. Pointing out mistakes and letting them linger forever on the Web is the Proofreader's job, thank you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bad Ad Copy

In this economy, where people are eager to shed pounds, but increasingly reluctant to shed dollars, companies have less margin than usual to falter. Ad copy has got to be on-point and on-point it isn't in this online ad, for a Rachael Ray Diet.

As you can see in the screen shot highlighted above, the word guarantee was butchered by ad copy writers and editors. They misspelled it "guarentee." If they were trying to appear learned and distinguished, they could have gone with guaranty, a variant and accepted form of the word.

Also, a hyphen should be separating the words "money" and "back" rather than a space. Interestingly, the people behind this ad copy managed to correctly spell Rachael Ray's name, which, evidently, is no easy task. According to, in 2007, Rachael Ray's name was the second-most misspelled word or phrase typed into Yahoo Web searches. Yet, the correct spelling of guarantee still eluded these the ad. If you click on the banner ad, though, you'll be directed to this page, which features Rachael Ray's named misspelled "Rachel."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Was Geronimo Tougher Than Pneumonia?

Iconic Apache warrior Geronimo is famed for his unparalleled toughness on the battlefield, but was he so tough that it took pneumonia over two decades to kill him? An unclear passage from a February 19th article in The New York Times, titled "Geronimo's Heirs Sue Secret Yale Society Over His Skull," seems to suggest that Geronimo, who died in 1909, lived his last 23 years dying of pneumonia while imprisoned.
As you can see in the above screen shot, highlighted for your viewing convenience, the last sentence of the article's eleventh paragraph reads, "He finally surrendered, with only 35 men left, to Gen. Nelson A. Miles on the New Mexico-Arizona border in 1886 and spent the rest of his life in prison, dying of pneumonia." The article and the passage were brought to the attention of the Proofreader by reader Don Martin, who, in an e-mail message, took issue with the vague phrasing of the sentence. Wait, is it even possible for a human to have pneumonia for over 20 years before succumbing?

Yes, in theory. But it's not likely and it has nothing to do with how tough a person is. Geronimo could have been afflicted with some rare, lingering form of pneumonia, bronchitis or other respiratory condition such as bronchiectasis, the symptoms of which can develop very gradually. Or he could have suffered from hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a lung disease that's been known to wax and wane in patients for years.

It's even possible Geronimo suffered from tuberculosis, to which Native Americans are particularly vulnerable, or M kansasii, a chronic pulmonary infection that resembles TB and about which almost nothing was known in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. All of these conditions could have easily been mistaken for pneumonia by a doctor determining the cause of Geronimo's death for his death certificate, especially if an autopsy wasn't performed on his corpse. Due to the prevalence of respiratory infections at the time, pneumonia was commonly cited on death certificates, much like "heart attack" is a common cause of death cited on death certificates these days.

Regardless of whether or not Geronimo died a long, slow death from pneumonia or another respiratory condition, the copy in the Times story could have been less vague or even broken into two, more clear sentences. As Times deputy news editor Philip B. Corbett astutely noted in a recent blog post, "periods don't add to the word count."

The Proofreader thanks Sidney K. Stein, M.D. and reader Don Martin for sending in the vague copy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

HTML SNAFU In Times Op-Extra Column

Today's Op-Extra column on the Web site of The New York Times, an enlightening piece titled "Bling Training," was temporarily handcuffed by an HTML SNAFU. As you can see in the highlighted screen shot below, the contraction "that's," in the article's eighth paragraph, was surrounded by an HTML tag used to make the word appear italicized to readers. The blunder was quickly corrected, even without the Proofreader notifying Times editors of the mistake.

The "Heading Home" Op-Extra column is written by former MLB player Doug Glanville and is always insightful and sometimes even poignant. Glanville is adept at taking readers inside the mind of a real MLB player, no small achievement. Unfortunately, the column is not always error-free, which subtly undermines its greatness. It's a shame it's not typically better copy-edited before being published.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Hoboken Now" Blog Picks Up Proofreader Story

The blog Hoboken Now on picked up a story first reported by the Proofreader back in November about mistake-riddled street signs in Hoboken, New Jersey. The signs feature sloppy use of a hyphen and a misspelling of the word pursuant, as you can see in the highlighted picture below.

For the original post, click here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Self-Examination: Did the Proofreader Screw Up?

Does the Proofreader dare disturb the universe? Yes, that's the very nature of his undertaking. At least, the potential disturbance of the printed universe is a risk of (sometimes gleefully) pointing out the mistakes of others. And the Proofreader is susceptible to making mistakes too, especially since he has no editors checking his work. But in a minute there is time for decisions and revisions, which some readers would prefer to reverse.

Several readers have e-mailed and a few have commented that the Proofreader bungled the choice of a word in a February 4th post about sloppy copy on The Drudge Report. As you can see in the highlighted screen shot above, the Proofreader wrote, "Recently, though, less errors and typos..." Readers who've e-mailed and commented have contended that the word "fewer" should have been used instead of "less." The Proofreader responded by citing the "fewer/less" entry on page 31 of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage as his reasoning behind the choice of less. Still, people weren't satisfied and some were annoyed.

A reader, John, e-mailed, "Shouldn't you be adding yourself to your list of Poor spelling (24) ? Or at least including a new section of errors (maybe just for yourselves... ) - wrong words"

So, did the Proofreader screw up? He leaves the answer to that question up to the people. Please chime in with your analysis. Perhaps an editor from The New York Times will take a moment to make a ruling. If the Proofreader made a mistake, he will cop to it.