Thursday, 29 December 2011

Apostrophe Catastrophe

My Twitter friend Aptronym passed on this piece of illiteracy from the Boxing Day sales. Honestly, did no-one in the company notice?

Monday, 26 December 2011

Commas Again

Why would a meltdown spread to Australia through a series of stress tests?

Or should there, possibly, be a comma between 'Australia' and 'through'?

And are commas being rationed at the Financial Review? Surely one could have been spared, to place after 'fortnight' (and shouldn't that, ideally, be 'of', rather than 'in' in the phrase 'some aspects in the ministerial ...'?
Meanwhile, in the first sentence of this passage, there appears to have been some kind of Georges Perec (La disparition) decision, although, instead of the letter 'e', it is commas that have been targeted for ostracism, (who knows why):

Friday, 16 December 2011

Reshuffle those Words

And some who will have trouble forming a proper sentence:
Either, 'The result is there are some ministers who have too much on their plate to possibly be effective and some who ...' or 'The result is some ministers have too much on their plate to possibly be effective and some will have trouble justifying their existence'.

Great Artist, Dud Editor

I'm sad that the attention to detail shown by the featured artist in this magazine  was not copied by those in charge of the text.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Blistering Barnacles

Was the Ancients' name for it censored? Instead of a blank before the bracket, should it read *!!*#*!!, in homage to Captain Haddock:


It would have taken so little to transform this:
Wouldn't this be an improvement: 'The fire began burning last week, but late yesterday, fanned by winds gusting at up to 50km/h, it roared out of control, breaking containment lines.'

Batty Headlines

It may be just me, but the impression I get from this one is that someone's been engaging in some dubious sexual practices (what exactly is 'sandbag' a euphemism for, I wonder):

Meanwhile, this one:

even though the article to which it is connected does eventually provide an explanation for that p-word:

fails to achieve the task of a headline - to instantly let most readers know what the article is going to be about.

More of the Enemy (Ambiguity, I Mean)

Whose wife is being referred to here - Gilham's or Hills's:

Changing the opening line of the second paragraph to 'Gilham's wife, Robecca', (and yes, it appears that is how her name is spelled), would have removed any confusion.

Near Enough is Not Good Enough

'Accessed' may look a lot like 'assessed' but the words have different meanings:

Oh Dear

The most cursory bit of fact checking would have revealed that the name of the mother of Martin Amis is Hilary Ann Bardwell:

Old News

In a paper published on the Friday in question, it is not a good idea to refer to an event as happening in the future when it actually occurred on the evening before publication:

The Enemy

Unless intentional, ambiguity is the editor's enemy. This sentence would be far clearer if it were written thus: 'Opposition finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, has demanded that any government proposal to lift the borrowing cap should be presented as a stand-alone measure to Parliament' (and I think I'm right in putting those commas around Andrew Robb's name, since he is the only opposition finance spokesman in existence).

I Heart Semi-Colons

If commas are not particularly fashionable, then semi-colons are wide satin lapels teamed with purple Crimplene flares. Nevertheless, I love a well-used semi-colon. For instance, in this passage, between 'mining' and 'we' a semi-colon would be so much better than that comma:


'Less is more' is today's fashion when it comes to commas. As a consequence, they are often  left out, at times when they could be helping readers to make their way through complex sentences. In my view, this is a mistake. Commas serve many useful roles and should not be treated as optional extras.

For instance, they often act as stepping stones, helping readers to thread their way through a tangle of clauses:

a) a comma between 'forth' and 'along' would work in that way here, I think:
 b) commas around 'starting today' might give the reader a couple of places to rest and gather their thoughts here, (and can a government really be a force for the future? Surely, the future is a given; it does not respond to force):
 c) a comma between' yesterday' and 'with' in the sentence beginning 'Mr Abbott' would stop any possible confusion about whether the promise came with the NSW business function, like some kind of free gift in a packet of cereal:
 d) Again, a comma between 'reform' and 'even' would aid the reader to follow the meaning of the sentence beginning 'He skirted', in my view:
 e) I would rewrite the main paragraph here so that it read thus: "Last night, the faction's position was being finalised, ahead of the economic policy debate, which is scheduled to follow Ms Gillard's opening speech at the ALP conference this morning"

Commas also help to eliminate ambiguity. For example, had the editor placed a comma after 'platform' in the paragraph beginning 'Ms Scott', there would have been no doubt at all that it was not the platform itself that was calling for an end to mandatory detention but rather Ms Scott and her mates:

 Personally, I also think that, like their cousins, inverted commas, commas should almost always go about in twos. Thus, I would place a comma after 'so', in this passage:

and before 'if' in this one (I should also point out that 'not only' is in the wrong position):
and before 'when' in this one (and I would remove the comma and 'and' after 'billion' and replace it with that much neglected but superb piece of punctuation, the semi-colon):

Working on the same pairing policy, I would either remove the comma after 'sector' in this passage, possibly adding 'both' between the next 'sector' and the word 'had', or I would add another comma after the next occurrence of 'sector' in the piece:

Sometimes, of course, commas are redundant. It is disruptive and confusing, for example, to insert a comma that separates a verb from its subject:
'Hockey said he would look to monetary policy first and would want the RBA ...' seems to me to be perfectly fine.

I also cannot see what help the comma between 'business' and 'simplifying' is to anyone in this passage:
I would remove it and cut 'a promise to appoint', since 'promise' is really a repetition of 'pledge', and replace it with 'the appointment of a'. Here is my recast sentence: 'These included the appointment of a cabinet minister for small business and the simplification of the administration of compulsory superannuation contributions'. If you insisted on keeping 'promise', I would rewrite the sentence to read like this: 'These included promises to appoint a cabinet minister for small business and to simplify the administration of ....'

Verbless in Gaza

Either the Left left their opposition to the proposal in the dustbin, or somebody left out the verb:


Inverted commas need to go about in pairs at all times:

(and, what is more, I would have charitably removed that last 'going forward', a phrase that I hope made the Senator blush as soon as it was out of his mouth.)


I think 'meet with' is a silly phrase, particularly in this context; 'have discussions with' would probably far more accurately describe the process that will be undertaken, which is almost certain to involve telephone calls and emails as often as it involves meetings:

You What?

I am not sure that a person who says, 'I don't not need' can start throwing round accusations about lunatics, (or, heaven forbid, has he been ill-served by the editor?):

In Answer to Your Question

You are missing correct word order, just for a start:

Try to Agree

Since when did 'savings' become a word that took a singular verb?
 and, while we're at it, since when did 'advertisements' take a singular verb:

Tense Moments

1. Labor is prepared ...if the crisis further destabilises OR Labor was prepared ...if the crisis further destabilised:

 2. They are likely, if it comes OR they were likely, if it came:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Ergonomic Post

@r_marce has pointed out this mistake in the Australian Financial Review, which he has kindly posted sideways, ensuring readers' improve their neck flexibility - or possibly it's just me being stupid and it's the right way round for everybody else.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

This Has Got to Stop

The word is definitely 'definitely'. Everywhere I look, it is becoming 'definately', but it is definitely not 'definately'; it is definitely. It definitely is:

They Usually Go in Pairs

Either 'the glove's off'' or 'the gloves are off'':

The Worse for Wear

It was claimed this morning on ABC television that the new Speaker of the Australian Parliament has a tendency to be tired and emotional quite early in the morning. It does seem to me, judging by this article, with its peculiarly isolated sentence beginning, 'But the ...' in the third column, that the sub may have been in a similar state:

Monday, 21 November 2011

There Should Be a Law Against It

Surely they're protected (and anyway, where do they get them in Yass, which is where I saw this):

Wait for Me

A former BBC correspondent called Nick Bryant wrote the Diary in the Australian version of the Spectator last week. As well as committing the sin of repeating one of his own jokes without a hint of self-deprecation:
 he also seems unable to tell the difference between 'wait for' and 'await', which could be used beside 'for' in the sentence he has written, but only with a comma after it:

Speaking Ill of the Dead

Many unpleasant things have been written about Peter Roebuck since he killed himself the other day, but surely it is scurrilous slander to suggest he bought his skills:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Ha'porth of Tar

I really wanted to enjoy the new novel called The Night Circus. Unfortunately, I kept being distracted by bad editing. For instance, in this extract:
what would it have taken to rewrite it thus:

'The magician scans the office, a stack of letters in one hand, a black velvet cape lined with shockingly white silk cascading behind him. He expects to see a paper-wrapped box or crate,'

Thus would have been avoided the confusing - and distracting - impression that the cape is expecting something.

So much time and effort goes into the writing of a novel; surely it is worth putting in that last bit of effort, to make sure it reads smoothly. And yet so often contemporary novels seem to miss out at this crucial stage.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Surprising News and Inaccuracy at the Sydney Morning Herald

 I thought Andrew Wilkie was opposed to heavy gambling and yet he is thinking of placing $1 on all poker machines - how much is that going to cost him:
 As for Griffith being 'highbrow', I think that it would be more accurate to say that there would be a tight contest between the suburbs of O'Connor and Ainslie to gain that honour:

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Or a Speciwoman

Nitpick All You Like

Bring Back Boris

I'm sure I never saw mistakes in the Spectator when Boris Johnson was editing the magazine:

1. The phrase is 'bored out of your mind:
2. '...shouldn't this girl, trying to concentrate on more practical, realisable issues', do what?
3. Things so worse are that word order has gone awry: