Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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 County Executive McNerney, one man, whom he declined to name, makes that particular type of directional road signs for all the counties in the state. County Executive 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 County Executive 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.

This post was originally published on April 2, 2009.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No Eye Candy In This S.I. Screen Shot

Perhaps Sports Illustrated's annual antidote for the winter blues, or "The Swimsuit Issue," grabbed the lion's share of the S.I. editorial staff's attention and proofreading became an afterthought during the lead-up to the issue's publication. A reader has submitted yet another blunder made by the sports mag. This one occurred in a headline on its Web site and is by no means traditional eye candy. It's eye candy maybe only for misanthropic Proofreaders and others susceptible to the inexorable allure of Schadenfreude.

About a month ago, reader T.T. Douglas found the faulty headline pictured and highlighted above and e-mailed the Proofreader the following:

In the headline I believe they are trying to say "outrage" as in "fans are outraged," but instead they typed "outrange." Nice!
Nice, yes. Also nice: T.T. went on to say a couple of laudatory things about the Proofreader--always a great idea.

And yes. T.T., S.I. most definitely intended to to use the word "outrage" (rather than the gibberish "outrange") as evidenced by the correction it made shortly after you noticed the bungled headline. Hopefully this mistake and another recent blunder made by S.I. aren't examples of a new sensibility the magazine is toying with. Stick to the mainstream eye candy you've gotten to know so well over the last 46 years, S.I.: under-clothed skinny babes.

The Proofreader thanks T.T. Douglas for submitting the mistake.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wrong Marriage Being Worried About in Job Posting

As the national unemployment rate continues meandering between ten and eleven percent, it's becoming increasingly hard for Americans to find jobs--or even online job postings that have been competently proofread. In this recent job posting by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism outfit, apostrophes were neglected almost entirely and a couple of words are conspicuously missing.

According to the mistake-riddled screen shot above, ProPublica seeks a blogger "who has a critical eye" and the company freely admits that they "dont pretend to have all the answers about how investigative journalism should best be married with blogging." Perhaps, ProPublica, before tackling the Gordian marriage of investigative journalism and blogging, your rank-and-file should focus on figuring out the more facile marriage of apostrophes and contractions. How's that for a little advice from someone known for having a critical eye?

And a little advice for you, too, Joe Six-pack job-seeker: Please refrain from sending your résumé and cover letter out with similarly careless mistakes. Even though companies like ProPublica are careless and stupid-looking, they'll never forgive you for appearing to be the same. Double standard? Yes. Solution for both Joe Six-pack job-seekers and careless employers looking to hire? Yes, again. Simply avail yourselves of the proofreading services offered by the many proofreading sponsors of this blog.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Times Corrects Minor Typo In Front Page Obama Caption

The New York Times published a caption this afternoon that read a tad awkwardly. As you can see in the side-by-side screen shots below, Times editors published a headline that read, "The president stopped into a White House briefing room..." in a pointer positioned in the main section of its Web site's front page and leading to this story on The Caucus blog. The use of "stopped" in the caption seemed odd to be sure, but not necessarily wrong. However, confirmation that it was a mistake became apparent fourteen minutes later when Gray Lady editors changed "stopped" to "stepped" in the copy.

At the same time, as you probably noticed, Times editors changed the photo of President Obama used on the front page. It's not clear why: Both pictures of the POTUS are actually beautifully shot. Moreover, if you're a regular reader of the blog, you'll realize this is the second time this year the Times has had copy issues in this space of its front Web page.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Double-take In Jock Going Into Government Story

There's an old chewing gum commercial that became famous for positing that people can double their pleasure and fun by simply adding another of the same thing. While that snappy theory may be true of good-looking, twenty-something preppies and sticks of minty gum, it just doesn't necessarily translate when applied to the old written word.

As you can see highlighted in the screen shot above, Philadelphia's KYW Newsradio doubled nobody's fun and pleasure by adding an extra "in" (capitalized, no less) to a sentence in a story about a jock who's planning on running for Congress. Unfortunately, the only thing this story about Jon Runyan managed to double was the Proofreader's exasperation: He found the mistake last November and just checked back to see that, over two months after its publication, the mistake is still uncorrected.

Wait, maybe this is a story about a jock going into politics that was approved and published by a jock who went into proofreading, which would double everyone's pleasure and fun--because what society really lacks is ex-jocks working in government and ex-jocks working in publishing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

WaPo Mangles Name of Twelfth Month

Over the last couple of weeks, the Proofreader's inbox has received a flurry of mistake submissions. Rest assured, readers--he will get to your submission, if he hasn't done so already. With that out of the way, today's mistake comes courtesy of the discerning eye of reader Global Watch Editor, who caught a Washington Post blog mangling the spelling of December.

As you can see highlighted in the above screen shot taken from WaPo's Federal Eye blog, the name of the twelfth month on the Gregorian calendar is spelled "Demceber." The kindergarten-esque blunder occurred in the Tuesday, January 25th edition of the "Eye Opener," a morning "review of government news." According to the blog's tagline, Federal Eye is "keeping tabs on the government." Similarly, the Proofreader is keeping tabs on "all manner of printed mistakes that shouldn't have been made." In this case, Federal Eye, that means the Proofreader is keeping tabs on you, because the word December is one that a team of professional journalists should be able to spell accurately. Inexplicably, over a week after the error was published, it has still yet to have been corrected.

The Proofreader thanks Global Watch Editor for submitting the mistake.