Thursday, April 23, 2009

Legalese Bungle...Made By Lawyers

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," wrote Shakespeare in Henry VI. That quote has become famous due to a general social contempt toward lawyers, but, until now, the Proofreader has never had a reason to dislike attorneys. In fact, he even married one and today's mistake is submitted by the Mrs. Proofreader. So, to paraphrase the Bard, let's mock all the lawyers who wrote the sloppy legalese on the California Department of Insurance Web site. As you can see in the highlighted screen shot below, the attorneys who wrote this riveting broker fee regulations summary erred with their use of "therefor" in the last line of the second graph.

At a glance, it looks like these lawyers simply made a pedestrian typo, forgetting to type the "e" on the end of "therefore." And that may have been what happened, but..."Therefor," albeit seldom used, is a legitimate word, common legalese. The problem is that therefor and therefore have different meanings and these attorneys, who most definitely should be on high alert for a mistake like this, should've gone with the one with the e on the end that means “consequently, hence, for that reason.” Come on, they're lawyers.

Interestingly, this isn't the first time the Proofreader's had to break out the highlighter for this Web site. In his maiden post, the Proofreader pointed out an instance of the word "pursuant," also very common in lawyer parlance, misspelled. These lawyers have got to pull it together.

The Proofreader thanks Mrs. Proofreader for submitting the mistake.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Caption Of A Typo

WTF is going on over at Lately, editors there have been screwing up headlines likes it's their job and now they let some sloppy copy get printed in a photo caption. As you can see highlighted in the screen shot to the left, the caption underneath the picture of the neatly-dressed music teacher claims that this fine, upstanding gentleman "could loss his job next year." Actually, he could lose his job next year and, if he does, that will then be considered a "loss." This article was published on the Newsday Web site on March 26th and, as of this posting, has still not been corrected.

If the Proofreader can opine for a moment here...the euphemistic language (loss, lost, losing, etc.) used in association with people getting fired from their jobs is driving the the Proofreader up a wall because it sounds like a total misnomer. It's not like people wake up bewildered one day and say, "Oh crap...where's my job? Anyone know where my office is? I forget where I work," like they're saying they can't remember where they parked their car. All these people got fired, or laid off through no immediate fault of their own. That means they had their jobs taken from them--they didn't lose them. This practice of sugarcoating is the equivalent of somebody who gets car-jacked casually noting, "Yeah, I lost my car today." Perhaps the spate of recent copy errors over at Newsday is a result of some proofreaders having had their jobs taken from them.

Friday, April 17, 2009

TV Guide and Mediacom Tag-Team Prison Break Mistake

Well, yet another copy mistake has been caught by the sharp-eyed Stan Kost, which has led the Proofreader to hiring him as the blog's Midwest correspondent. Welcome, Stan. In an e-mail, Stan wrote, "The Prison Break repeat episode which airs tonight is indeed titled 'The Sunshine State,' not 'The Sunshire State,' as either TV Guide or Mediacom has indicated." As you can see in the highlighted picture below, Stan noticed a typo in the episode's synopsis on his digital cable guide. So, who's to blame for this screw up?

Both Mediacom and TV Guide, although the mistake originated with TV Guide. According to a spokesperson at Mediacom, who seemed a tad too quick to blame TV Guide for the blunder, the digital cable provider purchases its digital cable guide content from TV Guide...but never proofreads that content before making it available to customers. Therefore, Mediacom, because of its utter and wanton laziness, gets to share some of the blame with poor TV Guide.

You have to feel a little bad for TV Guide. The Internet, TiVo and digital cable have all conspired to render our old favorite, "The Guide," virtually obsolete. Once upon a time, TV Guide was the venerated authority on T.V. listings, but had become so embarrassingly irrelevant in the T.V. listings business, that it was forced to change from a "digest" to a "glossy" format a few years back and now focuses more on gossipy, celeb news. Evidently, its attempt to maintain some of the T.V. listings market share in the digital era hasn't been all smooth sailing.

As you can see in the highlighted screen shot above, the blunder is not only limited to TV Guide-powered digital cable guides. It also exists on the TV Guide Web site, shamefully, just above a correct spelling of the word sunshine. It's a somewhat common mistake among bloggers and what not, but definitely shouldn't be made by pros. Thanks again, Stan, and welcome to the fold.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Agence France-Presse (AFP), the oldest news agency in the world, made a serious faux pas attempting to spell the name one of the biggest cities in the U.S. in a recent article recapping a Bulls/76ers game. The spelling error was submitted by reader Stan Kost and is his second submission to the Proofreader. As you can see in the highlighted screen shot below, AFP misspelled the birthplace of the United States "Philaphia." "The best part is that it's gone unchecked for three days," noted Mr. Kost in an e-mail.

Indeed it has and don't look for it to be changed anytime soon. The above screen shot was taken from this Yahoo! News article posted on April 9th, but the mistake exists in many other places too, such as in this story on MSN Sports. Evidently, editors at places like Yahoo! News and MSN don't read the copy in wire articles before they print them.

And how about AFP? It's not like they screwed up some obscure American slang or something. They neglected to include three key letters in Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the World Champion Phillies. And Ben Franklin, one of the most famous Philadelphians ever, was an ambassador and great friend to France. You'd think they wouldn't disgrace his legacy by bungling the spelling of the name of the city where he became famous and is buried. This is a huge mistake that never should've been made. Shame on zee French.

The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistake.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Yet Another Blagojevich Bungling

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was indicted last week. Blagojevich's big mistake: being unrepentantly corrupt. The media's big mistake in covering the story: misspelling his last name over and over again. In fact, the spelling problems associated with the Blagojevich name were so pervasive, the Proofreader devoted an entire week to pointing them out. While the highlighter was used on nearly every major news outlet in the country, the week bored the Proofreader to tears. It could've gone on forever. Below is another bungling of Blagojevich's last name.

The Proofreader found this one about two months ago, but just now summoned the energy to post it. As you can see in the screen shot highlighted above, a nice big, bold headline on the TV Week Web site featured the ex-Governor's last name misspelled "Blogojevich." As you know, a very common mistake and certainly not the last one of its kind to be made. Interestingly, the name was spelled correctly twice in the body of the article, just below the flawed headline. And, after two months, the TV Week editors have still not corrected the mistake.

Monday, April 6, 2009

New York Mets Make Error In Media Guide

Over the last couple of years the New York Mets have been best known for their September collapses, but they've also had at least one breakdown in the copy editing department. On page 249 of the team's 2008 media guide--ace hurler Johan Santana's page--the Mets media relations office let a typo make it to print. Usually the Mets make their most memorable errors on the field, late in games against the Phillies (Reyes booting a ball or making a mental error, Aaron Heilman throwing the ball away, the bullpen generally choking, are a few that immediately come to the Proofreader's mind), but this error is immortalized in print for everyone to mock for as long as the Internet exists.

As you can see in the highlighted picture above, in the second line of the last bullet point in Santana's biographical info, the Mets made a spelling error with "triubute." That's not a word. Tribute is what they were looking for, but, much like the playoffs the last few years, the Mets were woefully unable to find it. You'd think the Mets wouldn't have allowed a mistake like this to get printed on the page of the team's big off-season fee agent signing--if you're going to slack on proofreading, how about Marlon Anderson's page? But Santana, amazingly, didn't let the slight bother him and was really the only pitcher on the Mets who showed up and pitched well last year.

The Proofreader's MLB prognosis for 2009: much of the same. Santana will be dominant again this year and the Mets may even build what appears to be a comfortable lead in the N.L. East. But, in the end, the Mets will submit to the far superior Philadelphia Phillies. Just watch! Let's go Phils!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bad Spelling in North Jersey Corrected

Tenafly, New Jersey. It's not a city or a town. It's not a village or even a hamlet. It's a borough. But just because it's a mere borough doesn't mean its name deserves anything less than accurate spelling on government-issued road signage. After all, Manhattan is a borough and no one would ever allow an official sign to be posted that depicts a misspelling of Manhattan. Tenafly deserves the same courtesy, yet recently, had been deprived of that simple dignity on a sign in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey...until the Proofreader did something about it.

As you can see in the highlighted picture above, this directional road sign situated at the intersection of Hudson Terrace and Palisade Avenue featured a glaring misspelling: "Teanfly." The name Tenafly traces its roots back to 1688 and is derived from Dutch words meaning "ten swamps" after settlers named it "Tiene Vly." That's actually a cool bit of trivia behind the borough's name, something that shouldn't be sullied by incompetent use of the language. What about Teanfly?

Teanfly is derived from sloppy writing and careless proofreading and means nothing--not nearly as cool as Tenafly. How does a mistake like this happen anyway, given that so many sets of eyes view the copy written on the sign before it gets posted? Even the guy who physically put the sign up didn't notice Tenafly was misspelled? Or did he notice the error, ignore it and hang a faulty sign without notifying his superiors?

We may never know. After discovering the error, the Proofreader contacted Peter Rustin, mayor of Tenafly, who confirmed that the sign was the responsibility of Bergen County. In early 2009, when the mistake was brought to the attention of Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney, a self-described stickler for accuracy, he was reluctant to speculate on its origin.

According to Mr. McNerney, one man, whom he declined to name, makes that particular type of directional road signs for all the counties in the state. Mr. McNerney was unable to say if Bergen County sent the sign maker flawed copy or whether the sign maker screwed up Bergen County's copy. Either way, despite all the opportunities for the mistake to have been noticed and a new sign to have been made, the defective sign was still put up.

As much as that apparent breakdown feeds the perception of government ineptitude, once the mistake was brought to Mr. McNerney's attention, the county executive, to his credit, leaped into action and ordered a new sign. A few weeks later, the directional sign with the misspelling was taken down and replaced with a brand new sign that featured the correct spelling of Tenafly, as you can see in the picture below.

When contacted by e-mail for comment on the posting of the new sign, Mayor Rustin responded, "The misspelling of our name reflected poorly not only on the County but our municipality as well. [This is] One small victory for accuracy and correct spelling!"

Governments are generally thought to waste money doing things the wrong way and, a lot of the time, that's true. While this scenario, in which Bergen County wasted money on a mistake that never should've been made, is by no means the portrait of government efficiency, at least the County acknowledged the mistake and promptly fixed it. Hopefully this kind of response will be a trend that gains traction with all governments, regardless of their size and the size of problems with which they're faced.