Grammar Graphic Ignorance |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Graphic Ignorance

TV networks’ graphics departments have long been out of control with their intrusive cluelessness.

After 9/11, many cable channels initiated a constant “crawl” of news at the bottom of the screen. The spellbinding stream of words, slow and endless, is perversely distracting.

But if you run a news channel, shouldn’t credibility be a front-burner concern? Shaky language skills for all to see raise serious questions about your standards and practices. Are you stupid, or do you just think we are? Who put manic ignoramuses in charge of your graphics department?

The examples that follow all happened in recent months:

• An ABC affiliate, thinking mischievous has four syllables, spelled it “mischievious.” Another ABC graphic said, “Wake Forrest,” then proved it was no fluke with “Angeles National Forrest.”

• An NBC affiliate came up with “To good to be true.” We’re still taught about totoo, and two, aren’t we? Maybe it was Bring Your First-Grader to Work Day.

• PBS is “TV for smart people,” but misspelling your guests’ names isn’t smart. The network fecklessly spelled veteran comic actor Dan Aykroyd’s name “Ackroyd.”

• Fox News Channel, not to be outdone, displayed “Kyber Pass” for hours. This strategic mountain pass, a key supply route for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, is spelled “Khyber.” Look, you don’t guess at stuff like this. You have to look it up.

Fox also fell into a common trap with “wrecking havoc”—the proper phrase is wreaking havoc. And Fox embarrassed itself with “embarassed.” In “alledged embassy bomber,” it earned an F by adding a second d to alleged. A superfluous i in “How has the president faired?” meant fare thee well, credibility.

• CNN joined the party with “theif” and “Iranian peoples’ belief.” Put that apostrophe where it belongs, would you? And CNN might have won the knucklehead sweepstakes with this bizarre bulletin: “Houses OKs climate change.” Where do you begin with that one? It’s an inspired fusion of horrid grammar and utter meaninglessness.

Why do TV networks, some of them scrutinized around the world, undermine themselves with sloppy grammar, spelling, and punctuation? What unholy mix of arrogance, recklessness, and cynicism is at work when words onscreen, the touchstone of a TV network’s fundamental competence, are put in the care of buffoons?

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

16 responses to “Graphic Ignorance”

  1. MN says:

    “The network fecklessly spelled veteran comic actor Dan Aykroyd’s name “Ackroyd.””

    Recklessly, perhaps.

  2. Robin says:

    Thank you for your emails. They offer a reassuring boost in these grammatically troubled times.

  3. TJ says:

    What makes this situation even worse is that those captioned streams of news across the bottom of the screen are, in most if not all cases, entered in real time by people using steno writers who learned that skill through one of several court reporting college level programs which also include required courses in English and legal and medical terminologies along with speed building, computer technology, and software training for graduation. And speed is not the only focus; both graduation and certification require 225 words per minute ***with 98.5 percent accuracy***! (I know, because I went through one of these programs myself and have maintained contact with former classmates who have gone on to become captioners.)

  4. Lynne says:

    You have hit on my favorite reason to complain about television. Do they not realize the importance of hiring people who have a grasp of spelling AND grammar???

  5. Jane says:

    “Why do TV networks, some of them scrutinized around the world, undermine themselves with sloppy grammar, spelling, and punctuation?”

    Why? Because they simply don’t care. America got rid of its standards decades ago. Good dress standards, language standards, moral standards, and most all other standards have all gone down the drain.

    What gets me the very most upset is when I hear newsmen talking about “amounts of people,” as if people are measured by the gallon. Correct English has been declining for some time now. But I agree, we should at least be able to expect our news people and leadership people to know their English grammar, but they don’t. I honestly do not believe they teach English grammar in the government schools any more.

  6. Gerrie says:

    The “crawl” of news is very beneficial for deaf people.

    • We agree that news “crawls” and closed captioning benefit those with limited hearing in gathering more of the content being discussed. We can only hope the content is written or reviewed by someone with a concern for grammatical style and accuracy.

  7. David Sarro says:

    As with all businesses, managers of TV networks concern themselves chiefly with their companies’ “numbers,” by which they mean profitability. Assuming these managers were even able to spot the errors (an unlikely assumption), they probably wouldn’t act to end them. For as long as they perceive the benefit of not editing the material as outweighing the financial burden of doing so, they’re content to perpetuate mediocrity.

    Regrettably, businesses today consider inefficient the pursuit of excellence in communication. “Good enough” is the modern standard. Indeed, in so many ways, it is the slogan of our times.

  8. Bill P. says:

    The “Graphic Ignorance” you identified is pretty scary, but so is the spelling and grammar in some major newspapers. I live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and the Dallas Morning News is often a proofreader’s nightmare. Dictionaries are useful tools.

    • Yes on both counts: this is scary and dictionaries certainly are useful tools. You may remember our 2015 article Get Thee to a Dictionary. And, with the Internet, it’s never been easier to consult a dictionary. Unfortunately, fewer proofreaders are having nightmares because there are fewer proofreaders.

  9. Barbara F. says:

    You have to remember who their audience is and not all are offended. Some may even think those creative spellings should be emulated.

  10. Timothy Z. says:

    I thought you might be interested in the below excerpt from an online Associated Press story that appeared on August 24, 2017. I’ve included the story’s headline and excerpt. The word use in the excerpt is truly exasperating.

    The Latest: Harvey now a hurricane, likely to become major
    The hurricane center says it’s possible the storm then could just stall inland for as many as three days, exasperating the threat of severe flooding.

  11. Glenn Hollister says:

    Great piece. I sometimes drive my wife nuts because I’ll rewind a program because I can’t believe what I saw in a crawler.

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