Monday, 29 November 2010

National Australia Bank

Should you really trust a bank that can neither handle its computers nor deal with apostrophes?

"to assist customers' access cash" makes no sense to me.


A tweet from Darryn King:
"Bathurst is a sub-editor's nightmare. At this pub they serve betroot, avorcado, caeser salad and beef nacho's."

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Cry the Beloved Comma

Commas can be overdone, especially when they are scattered through prose haphazardly, like raisins in muesli. On the other hand, they can remove ambiguity or simply act as a breathing post for a reader plodding through a long sentence.

In this excerpt from an article in the Australian Financial Review on 25 November, for example, a comma after companies would remove the faint suggestion that the agreements were made to bolster the corporate regulator's case, which is not what the writer intended:
In this excerpt from Paul Kelly's article in the Australian on 24th November, on the other hand, a comma would not alter the reader's perception of meaning. However, if one were inserted before "with", it would, in my view make the sentence a lot easier to follow:
In this last case, however, also from Kelly's article, a comma is absolutely necessary before "with", if you do not want "rhetoric and policies geared to its southeastern base" to be linked to "nation" rather than to "Labor":

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Off with his Head

I was in two minds about Kevin Rudd's political assassination, until a copy of his speech to Caucus before his dumping was published a day or two ago:

"...for which I am responsible for as leader" he wrote - tut tut.
As for that last sentence, what a tangled verbal thicket. Maybe it's unfair to judge him though on this piece of text - after all, he must have been under considerable emotional stress. And there's been little improvement anyway, since his replacement is a hardened criminal when it comes to assaulting the English language. 

Friday, 26 November 2010

Another Pedant Emerges

Someone in Tasmania notices things too.

Australian Financial Review, 25th November, 2010

The curse of the subs hits another female journalist - Laura Tingle this time, and she wasn't even trying to be funny (can she be; has it ever been known?)

"Their confidence would help boost the case the government must make the win back", indeed.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Australian 24th November, 2010

Doesn't Glenn Stevens have "the task of denying":

and is the government(ment) intending to deliver a curriculum to query its competence, or should there be a comma in that sentence:

and what happened to "ed" on the end of "accept":

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Official Hansard of the Australian Federal Parliament, 20th October, 2010

"The effects .... is"  - you can do better than this, Hansard, you know you can (and what about the change of preposition from "on" to "to"?):

"The effects of war on those now in Afghanistan
and those who have already returned
is just as far-reaching as it was to previous
generations of Anzacs and we must be
conscious of that at all times."

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Australian, November 23rd, 2010

Although I've got several examples of useless editing from the weekend, I've been trying to lay off the Sydney Morning Herald for a day or two. Instead, I bought the Australian this morning. Once again, it seems that subs can't cope with women journalists being amusing. Samantha Maiden has a funny turn of phrase about Malcolm Turnbull - "A hot-tempered thoroughbred, marked for the knackery by the toothless peasantry of the Coalition climate change debate" - but is undone by careless editors, just as Lenore Taylor was in the SMH the other day. It's not meant to be "on outbreak", surely:

Mind you, Dennis Shanahan fares no better, despite not being female and making no effort to be amusing. An alert editor would, I think, have removed "little" from the sentence beginning "But Labor", in order for it to mean what I think Shanahan wants it to mean:
and is that our old friend the rogue apostrophe sheltering in the lee of the Greens:

For heaven's sake, Australian, all this and I haven't even got to the end of page 4.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sydney Morning Herald, 20th to 21st November, 2010

Verb tenses should correspond within a sentence; verb number should correspond with the number of the verb's subject. I pay for my paper. I expect to read English, not rubbish.

"..if Roe were ... there likely will ..."
"...a complex issue that already have been ..."

Friday, 19 November 2010

I Never Learn

Once again, I trusted the reviews and bought a novel - The Legacy, by Kirsten Tranter. It is the most badly edited book I have ever read. I have chosen two examples to support this contention; they appear only a couple of paragraphs from each other. Excuse the white-out, which I used to cover my handwritten expletives:

I suppose it could be argued that there is no lack of logic there really. After all, in the first example it is not the character's own hair, but the hair of her eyes that is gathered at the back. Therefore, there is no reason at all that only a few lines later her thick blonde hair shouldn't be drawn over to one side of her neck. That's different hair, presumably, the stuff that's growing on her head, rather than the stuff sprouting from her eyeballs. All the same, there's no getting away from the fact that she's an unusually hairy girl.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Australian, 13th to 14th November

I suppose just the mention of the great Mark Colvin is exciting enough to make some editors forget their pronouns:

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

You May Call Me Old Fashioned

You may even call me a stick in the mud. Even so, I do believe that, if you have a plural subject (in this instance, "non-compliances") in a sentence, it is a good idea to marry it to a plural verb:

Whether it is the fault of the Sydney Morning Herald or of Shayne Watson or of the education system, I don't know.  I'm sick of being mean to the poor old Sydney Morning Herald though, so I'll blame the education system today.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Head Injury

Head injury can make you jumble up your words so you think it's all right to allow phrases like, "That could be put that down ..." to be printed in the newspaper. It's more likely laziness that does it though. Either way, it's probably a good idea to give up copy editing when it starts happening:


Is this a mistake (from the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend)? Would Patrick White be ambiguously pleased about David Foster's win? Possibly; possibly not. That's the trouble with ambiguity:

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sydney Morning Herald, 13th to 14th November, 2010

Just because you're writing about Burma, there's no need to start writing as if you are Burmese and English is your second language. It's 'accept any conditions', not 'any accept conditions'. It's no good arguing; that's just how it is (it's called grammar).

And just because Lenore Taylor sheds her usual surliness and lets rip with some genuinely funny lines -

   Gillard's “speech, to the Rotary club of Adelaide, began with some folksy reminiscences about her hometown, which, she said, was about 'Mum and Dad and Uncle Frank and Auntie Glad, backyard fruit trees and Brown Hill Creek, learning to knit and learning to read'.
    It felt like she was building up to a story about evenings in a log cabin sitting by the fireplace working on her embroidery while her dad did a spot of whittling and her sister played the fiddle, but it quickly changed pace …
    The real political joke at the moment is Richo's own NSW Labor Party, which, if it was a kids sports team, you'd have to think was getting to the point where it should forfeit.
    Fifteen departures in a matter of months leaves Kristina Keneally's outfit looking like the under-8s on one of those Saturday mornings when you're two kids short, you've already brought in the second reserve and one of the youngsters you're considering fielding is on crutches."

- doesn't mean the sub-editors can all put their feet up and relax. Who is going to a long, long road? And what are they going to do when they get there? Or could there be a 'be' that someone couldn't be bothered to insert in the text, because it was just too much trouble, even though it is their job to get things right?

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Rogue Apostrophe Strikes Again

On Remembrance Day, you would expect the Sydney Morning Herald could manage to check the name of the organisation to which many who fought for us belong. But no:

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

I loathed this book, (you can read more about that on my other blog). Still, after all the fuss about the edition that was mistakenly published full of typos, I imagined the text would at least be free of editing errors. Imagine my surprise then to find that only 70 pages in a "than" goes missing:

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sydney Morning Herald, 9th November, 2010

What is worse than a sub who doesn't check? A sub who does check but doesn't know anything - presumably someone looked up Prussia in the atlas and couldn't find it and therefore decided it didn't exist and never had:

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Weekend Australian, 6-7 November

From an article about Julian Assange:

Should it read  "... whether he and the website he might relocate there might get married", or " ... whether he and the website he might relocate there might think about the consequences of their actions and wipe themselves off the face of the earth", or should it be something else entirely?

The Wealth Supplement of the Australian

I have a hard enough time preventing my eyes from glazing over when I try to understand about superannuation without typos making things more complicated than they already are:

"... an employer can make contributions above than these figures ..." What the hell does that mean?

I Feel Let Down

The Australian Literary Review is reasonably well-funded; it is certainly not a backyard, produced-on-a-shoestring kind of publication (unlike me, I hastily insert, providing myself with a defence for the inevitable day when I stuff up completely). In fact, I suspect the ALR sees itself as a pillar of Australian intellectual life. If so, it needs to get a lot more beady-eyed about its copy editing, in my view.

Possibly the error in the bit of text pictured here - surely it's either 'either ... or' or 'neither ... nor' - is the work of Random House, rather than ALR staff:

but there is no excuse for not picking up the word 'heis' in the piece below:

and why have a sentence without a verb, when you could have a semi-colon (in which case it would read thus: "It's good, but not brilliant; interesting, but not compelling"):

and why mar a beautifully written review by putting the author's words - "be might" - around the wrong way?

Sydney Morning Herald, 6th November, 2010

How lucky the Qantas pilot this article is about was less sloppy than the article's typesetters and editors:

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Friday, 5 November 2010

Good Advice

The Washington Post managed to misspell the name of a man in his own obituary.

I Am Not the Only Pedant in Australia

Malcolm Farnsworth put this on his Twitter stream, with a comment about declining standards of proof-reading at the Herald-Sun, and Robert Candelori put this on his, wondering why News Limited staff can't spell.

Get it Right

This is proof of the importance of writing accurately. Near enough is rarely good enough in life or politics.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Australian, 3rd November, 2010

I was going to buy the Sydney Morning Herald, but the Australian had the Australian Literary Review as well, so I got it instead.

The paper included a story about Julia Gillard's friend Tim Mathieson, who accompanied her on her travels through Asia:

I may have lost my grasp of tenses, but my understanding is that 'might' suggests that in fact he didn't - plans were changed or something. Am I wrong, or should 'may' be the word - or perhaps the sentence could be recast to read: 'he probably had an interesting time'?

Meanwhile this article about overseas student numbers seems to have descended into some kind of English as a second language style of communication - 'just how big a hole the problem could blow in Australia education sector'

And even the Australian Literary Review let me down - and they really shouldn't; they do, after all, have a whole month to get things right:

"It's only a tiny 't' that's missing, get over it, stop complaining." But precision doesn't only matter in engineering and brain surgery. Perfectionism is not a sin.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Too Easy

I wasn't ever going to bother with the Guardian, because it almost makes a fetish of its own corrections, but this passage from an article on Lebedev being menaced by police proved  irresistible:

'The aide initially said that he feared Lebedev "may be arrested" but later clarified that the Russian billionaire had not been not arrested and was holding talks with police, who are carrying out a search.'

He 'clarified that the Russian billionaire had not been not arrested' - I suppose it's okay; it's just I always find double negatives so difficult to grasp.

Hip-Hip Hurray

Is that three cheers and hip hip hurray from the Australian newspaper for Jay Z, or is the caption referring to a Swinging Blue Jeans revival (incidentally, was the Hippy Hippy Shake the most excruciating song name ever conceived?) Of course, I am very old, so I may be demonstrating my ignorance. Possibly Jay Z is no longer a hip hopper but a hip hipper:

Anyway, even if I am demonstrating the fact that I am the one who is out of touch with 'young people's' music,  elsewhere in the paper Cup Fever certainly hit today. That must be why they left out a lot of little words, like 'of' between 'lot' and 'steps' in this example:

I imagine they were listening to old Davy Jones of the Monkees tracks when this 'believer' slipped in, in place of 'believe' (and, if they were, it might explain the hip hip/hip hop incident)

The problem for me is not so much that I care about what Jay Z is doing or what the author of Defrag has to say, so much as that I paid $1.50 for my copy of the newspaper and I would prefer to have well-written, well-edited articles than a bonus 'so much' in exchange for my money:

P.S Heaven alone knows what the first sentence in this article means either:

Monday, 1 November 2010

Unnecessary Ambiguity

This is from an article by John Garnaut in the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 November, 2010. The sentence beginning, "Gillard built on the work that Rudd, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan ...." assumes the reader knows that it is not Rudd but Wayne Swan who is the Treasurer. Writers and editors should never assume this kind of knowledge, when it is just as easy to write an unambiguous sentence that conveys the same information: "Gillard built on the work done by Rudd and both the current Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and his predecessor, Peter Costello, to establish the G20 ..."

It matters - after all, the SMH is struggling to survive. If it expects people to pay to buy it, it needs to remember that its readers expect it to provide clear, well-written news.

And, while we're at it, "The standard time a person would have to wait ... will soar"? If that "would" were "might" and that "will" were "would", I think the sentence could work, but I'm worried about it as it stands, (although open to arguments explaining that it actually makes perfect sense):