Thursday, January 28, 2010

Times Publishes Salinger Obit Without Striking TK Placeholder

Huge news of the death of iconic author and recluse J.D. Salinger swept across the media today, with innumerable news outlets clamoring to publish their obits ASAP after the news broke. In doing so, The New York Times made an embarrassing blunder in what was an otherwise gripping and exhaustive summation of the 91-year-old Salinger's life and times: Editors failed to remove a TK placeholder prior to publishing the obituary on its Web site.

As you can see highlighted in the screen shot above, taken from the article's second page, editors left a TK (a common abbreviation used in publishing to indicate that there is more material "to come") after the quote from Salinger's agent, for which it was apparently holding a place. As you can see below in a screen shot of the exact same graph, Times editors quickly realized the presence of the composition vestige and deleted it from the article--but not before the Proofreader saw it!

Don't forget to scroll down for today's regularly scheduled post.

KOAM-TV Needs Refresher on Contraction and Possessive Forms of It

Holy fuck! Look at all the virtual ink the Proofreader had to waste on that screen shot below, found by Stan Kost on the Web site of a CBS affiliate serving the Pittsburg, Kansas/Joplin, Missouri markets. That baby's lit up like a Christmas tree. Perhaps--since this riveting story was published on December 7--its writers and editors had attended the T.V. station's Christmas party earlier that evening and staggered back to their desks fall-down drunk and desperate to write some news.

That's not the only explanation for this mess, but it might be the most logical one because this onslaught of blunders is literally as incomprehensible as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's movie career. Kost originally e-mailed the Proofreader to point out one of the five erroneous uses of the contraction "it's" and then e-mailed again saying:
I have also noticed in paragraphs two and three, the word "President" is capitalized. I'm not an owner of an A.P. Stylebook, but if it's the president of a company, shouldn't it be lowercase? In addition, the end of paragraph three has an unnecessary "the" in front of president.
Indeed it does. And, as has been noted here before, the Proofreader doesn't own an A.P. Stylebook, either. But he does own a New York Times style guide, page 270 of which confirms that when used to refer to the president of a company, the word president should be lowercase. 

The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistakes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sloppy Copy on TriMet Sign

The ways in which government incompetence manifests are many and that incompetence, too often, reveals itself to the public in the form of sloppy copy on municipal government-issued signage. The latest found example is courtesy of reader Sean Patrick, who snapped the below photo as the TriMet MAX train he was riding pulled into the Gateway Transit Center in Portland, Oregon.

In his e-mail message, Patrick wrote that the mistake was on a sign "on the door to where the operator sits to drive the train" and "it caught my eye." It caught his eye because the S tacked onto the last word of the sign's second line resulted in the usage of the wrong tense of the verb "to vandalize." The copy should just read vandalize, sans the S on the end. In the second paragraph, the sign writers, editors and makers managed to use "vandalizes" properly, but that by no means negates the mistake above it.

TriMet's offering a cool $1,000 reward to people who report the assault of TriMet workers or vandalism of TriMet property to the transportation agency. Too bad for the Proofreader and Sean Patrick that there's not a similar cash reward up for grabs to those who report the assault and vandalism of the English language on government-issued signage.

The Proofreader thanks Sean Patrick for submitting the mistake.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Headline Blunder First of Two Mistakes In Telegraph Story

In this story on the Web site of The Daily Telegraph, Spanish politician Gaspar Llamazares decried the "low level" of intelligence the FBI demonstrated by using his hair and facial features in a digital simulation of what Osama bin Laden might look like sans his usual long beard and turban get-up. (They basically just made Llamazares look older, called him bin Laden and then took the rest of the afternoon off). In a similar vein, the Proofreader is decrying the low level of proofreading skills demonstrated at the Telegraph for allowing spelling mistakes in the headline and body of said article--mistakes reported to the Proofreader by Stan Kost.

As you can see highlighted in the screen shot above, the word politician is short one i, and misspelled "politican." Highlighted in the below screen shot of the article's sixth graph, Kost noticed the word technician was lacking an i, and misspelled "technican."

"I can't attribute it to simply a British spelling variation (as I can with "programme" in the same paragraph)," wrote Kost in his e-mail message, while also marveling at how technician was spelled correctly in the previous sentence and bungled so soon after. The Proofreader's guess: Maybe the i key on the writer's keyboard was sticking or something, because both mistakes are similar in nature. That's an explanation, but not an excuse, because copy editors or proofreaders should've caught these blunders.

The Telegraph offers readers a very thorough online Style Book, however, interestingly, the book mentions nothing on the merit of careful proofreading. Perhaps Telegraph Style Book editors should write that entry--pronto!

The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistakes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Noble Cause Debased By Ignoble Proofreading Failure

Wow! This mistake has to be a colossal embarrassment for, an initiative by the Bob Woodruff Foundation. (Bob Woodruff, you'll remember, is an ABC News journalist who suffered near fatal head injuries four years ago while covering the war in Iraq.) In an attempt to re-brand the "support our troops" phrase as something more than a hollow platitude, the organization awkwardly and unfortunately bungled the spelling of the slogan's middle word, as you can see highlighted in the screen shot below.
We've seen this type of carelessness before in Web ad copy, but those mistakes were made by frivolous companies peddling weight control drugs on the Internet. This one was made by an organization pursuing a noble cause, headed by a high-profile journalist and, presumably, run by many smart people.

And it's not like this is a 2,500 word news story. There are twelve words in the ad that needed to have been proofread. Most fourth-graders could handle that task. And so, probably, could the proofreading sponsors of this blog, so the Proofreader invites everyone to click on their links should you require their services.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

S.I. Makes Error In Baseball Story

Almost a month ago, reader Slapinions e-mailed the Proofreader and stated, ""I found an error in the following S.I. article" about Nick Johnson returning to the New York Yankees. "I thought maybe you'd enjoy it," Slapinions concluded.

Well, Slapinions, the Proofreader never enjoys seeing foolish mistakes like this one, especially when it was made by a publication to which the Proofreader had a subscription for the majority of his youth. But, he most certainly enjoys--with a borderline unhealthy enthusiasm--highlighting, assailing and immortalizing those miscues. So without further ado...

As you can see in the above screen shot, the venerable Sports Illustrated allowed some sloppy copy into an article published on its Web site on December 18, 2009. The bungled phrasing appears to be the result of one or more re-writes made to the sentence. Evidently, writers and editors couldn't decide whether Johnson would replace Matsui, or magically become him. Based on a comparison of Johnson's and Matsui's career stats, Johnson will probably do neither and S.I. writers and editors worth their salt should know that instinctively.

Interestingly, almost a month after the publication of the mistake--an abundance of time to proofread an article--the error still exists on

The Proofreader thanks Slapinions for submitting the mistake.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are Women Aroused By Balboa?

Female desire has long been a mystery sought to be solved by men and women alike. So notes the cover story from the January 25th, 2009 edition of The New York Times Magazine in its highlighting of the efforts made by several researchers who are making headway on the topic. It's an intriguing and much debated story that mentions a lot of weird stuff, like people watching monkey porn while being monitored by scientists. Seriously.

But wait a second. On pages 29 and 30 of the magazine, the article mentions the "long-term effects of ginkgo balboa extract on sexual dysfunction in women," as you can see in the highlighted screen shot below. Gingko Balboa extract? What's that? An involuntary "DNA" sample from Sylvester Stallone? That seems way too weird, even for a story hinging on monkey porn.

And it is. Evidently, the article was attempting to reference the ancient and celebrated herb Ginkgo biloba, which has been used to treat everything from tinnitus to dementia. But somehow the word "balboa" followed Ginkgo in the print edition. Online, Times Web editors caught and corrected the mistake, as you can see below in the highlighted screen shot taken from the second page of the story's Web version. If this is a typo, it's one of catastrophic proportions because Balboa and biloba are really not that similarly spelled. The article listed several different things researchers found to be foolproof aphrodisiacs for women, including lesbian porn and video of a nude woman exercising. Seriously. However, nothing about proficient proofreading skills getting women hot was mentioned. Tragic.

This post was originally published on February 5, 2009.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ESPN Ignores Elementary Mnemonic Device

How often did your fourth grade language arts teacher repeat the mantra to you? I before E except after C. Yeah, it's an old, fairly annoying mnemonic device. But heed it and you'll likely always nail the spelling of the many words to which it applies. Ignore it and what happens? You look like an idiot. Just look at what happened in this story over on, submitted by reader Adam Wade.

Brett Favre is no stranger to controversy and, as we've noted before, no stranger to sloppy copy when he's being written about. In this case, bungled the spelling of believes, misspelling it "beleives," as you can see highlighted in the screen shot above. If only fourth grade language arts teachers read's N.F.L. coverage, they'd be rioting. Luckily for ESPN, there's a good chance that, in the history of the Internet, no grade school language arts teacher has ever navigated to's N.F.L. section.

Now, if someone would please come up with a mnemonic device for spelling mnemonic. That would make everyone's life easier.

The Proofreader thanks Adam Wade for submitting the mistake.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New York Times Starts New Year With Headline Blunder

With 2010 underway for fewer than twelve hours and with, apparently, the effects of the celebration of the new year still lingering, The New York Times made a huge mistake yesterday morning when editors bungled the usage of the indefinite article "a" in the main headline for a story on the front page of its Web site.

As you can see highlighted in the screen shot above on the left, "When Everyone is a Honor Student" is how the faulty headline was published. The very first entry on page three of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage says the following:
"Use an before a word beginning with a vowel sound: onion; uncle; honor."
It's pretty funny that copy editors published that blunder given that the usage guidelines for words beginning with the aspirate H and the silent H are explicitly spelled out in the style guide's very first entry and even include the word honor. But, it was the morning after New Year's Eve and it's likely several editors and copy editors were nursing mind-crippling hangovers, so a little slack can be cut.

Fortunately, as you can see in the screen shot above on the right, somebody at The Times wasn't totally incapacitated from the previous evening's revelry and was able to catch and correct the error moments after it was published--but not before the Proofreader saw it! 

Happy New Year everyone!