Grammar Media Watch: Proofreading, Effective Writing |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Media Watch: Proofreading, Effective Writing

Recent cringe-inducers from the print media …

An upscale music venue ran ads for “An Evening With Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.” The second line said, “Formally of the 5th Dimension.” It was only after several weeks that someone caught the silly gaffe and sheepishly changed “Formally” to “Formerly.”

From an article about a musician: “He hardly fit the paradigm of an insecure singer/songwriter.” Why not “singer-songwriter,” with a hyphen, instead? In recent years the slash has become all the rage, but many authorities dismiss it as a substandard option—“a mark that doesn’t appear much in first-rate writing,” says Bryan A. Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage. “Use it as a last resort.”

A columnist wrote, “It is I who is the bamboozled one.” At least he didn’t write “It is me.” But written correctly, the sentence would say, “It is I who am the bamboozled one.” In technical terms, the relative pronoun who agrees with its antecedent (“I”) in both number and person. If who is representing I, it must take am, the same verb that I takes.

A curious sentence about a San Francisco neighborhood: “They can kiss goodbye to Alamo Square.” No, they can say goodbye to Alamo Square. Or they can kiss Alamo Square goodbye. They could even give the beloved locale a kiss goodbye. But “can kiss goodbye to”?! Maybe the copyeditor was on vacation.

A world-famous writer of steamy novels fired a broadside at critics of her larger-than-lifestyle: “Reading the latest vitriolic article about the hedge around my house, my reaction was enormous sadness.” The sentence falls apart under close analysis: it says her “reaction” can read articles. A best-selling author who writes danglers? Say it isn’t so. She should have either replaced “Reading” with “When I read” or changed the second part to “I reacted with enormous sadness.”

Even seasoned professionals are liable to make loopy mistakes when they don’t proofread.


Pop Quiz
The following are sentences recently heard over the airwaves. See if you can spot the errors.
1. “If he believes that canard, he’s grieviously mistaken.”
2. “It depends on Hillary Clinton or whomever gets the nomination.”
3. “I want to see if I have this correctly.”


Pop Quiz Answers
1. “If he believes that canard, he’s grievously mistaken.”
2. “It depends on Hillary Clinton or whoever gets the nomination.”
3. “I want to see if I have this correct.”

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8 responses to “Media Watch: Proofreading, Effective Writing”

  1. John King says:

    It’s quite possible that the world-famous writer of steamy novels doesn’t write her own books. Many books by famous authors are ghost written these days.

  2. Barbara says:

    I recently received this via e-mail…
    Individual Income Tax ZIP Code and County Data—United States’ ZIP code and county data for Tax Year 2011 are now available on Tax Stats. The data present selected income and tax return items by State, ZIP code, county, and size of adjusted gross income. These data are based on individual income tax returns filed with the IRS.

    Is the last sentence correct? Isn’t ‘data’ considered plural anyway? Shouldn’t it read ‘This data is…’

  3. Aaron says:

    #3. “I want to see if I correctly understood your post?”
    Is that correct?

  4. Laurie M. says:

    Alamo Square must be deteriorating and residents moving out. A lost cause.

    “Kiss goodbye to…” is a colloquial expression I have heard my entire life. It is not used to be nice, actually only in anger or disappointment. It is dismissive, sometimes a bit insulting

    “The service at that new restaurant was worse than dreadful. They can kiss goodbye to me.”

    My non-Jewish friends never understand this ancient phrase: “May his memory be for a blessing.” This is how we say it. Not to be overanalyzed or interpreted. Same goes for “kiss goodbye to.”

    • Jane says:

      It’s always possible that a particular community could start using its own phrasing for otherwise commonly heard expressions. Whether “kiss goodbye to” is used in a dismissive way as you recall it, or in a friendly way, such as “Kiss goodbye to your grandmother,” it strikes us as awkward at best.

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