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Nice Publication—Until You Read It
A table by the front door of a hip Northern California restaurant is stacked with complimentary copies of a forty-three-page mini-magazine. This handsome
brochure, produced by the company that manages the establishment, is printed on thick, textured paper. It’s full of sumptuous full-color photos
depicting the glories of food and drink. Somebody spent a lot of time and money on this. But despite a generous budget and a staff of editors, the written
content seems to be an afterthought.
The table of contents lists the wrong page for two of the magazine’s seven articles.
In an introduction, the editor-in-chief writes, “We are enamored by every inch of San Francisco,” even though enamored traditionally
takes the preposition of or with. He goes on to call San Francisco “one of the most unique cities in the world.” A
good copyeditor would remove “most.” All proficient editors know that
unique—meaning “one of a kind”—should
In a piece about a farmers’ market, we find “locally-sourced seafood” and “recently-opened bar.” An article about a Napa
Valley honey farm refers to “strategically-placed bee hives.” Anyone who ever took Proofreading 101 knows that adverbs ending in ly
should not be hyphenated. (And beehive has been one word for eight centuries.)
Proofreading 101 also drills students on avoiding danglers, yet this booklet is teeming with them. In an article about a seafood merchant named Joe, we
read this: “Based in San Francisco, Joe’s fish can be found on dozens of menus.” (Joe is based there, not the fish.) A few pages later we
find, “Open for breakfast and lunch, you can get the best eggs in the city …” (This inept sentence says that “you” are open
for breakfast and lunch.)
Other gaffes range from clumsy to clueless. America’s “west coast” is mentioned but not capitalized. A fish’s texture is called
“velvety-like,” even though velvety by itself means “like velvet.” Whoever wrote “a couple bites of leftovers”
and “a couple calls came in” thinks couple is an adjective. In fact, it’s a noun, requiring of (“couple of bites,” “couple of calls”).
If a company wishes to make a good impression, you’d think fluent grammatical English would be a crucial part of the presentation.
This restaurant’s management group wouldn’t endorse serving baked orange roughy on paper plates with plastic utensils, or Russian osetra caviar on
Wonder Bread slathered in Miracle Whip.
So why produce a sleek publication filled with gorgeous images, only to bring the whole thing crashing down with sloppy articles written by feckless
amateurs? Maybe this inattention to detail says something dark about the company. Or maybe it’s just further evidence that clear and precise writing
is becoming as outmoded and quaint as pay phones and post offices.
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s “Grammar Blog.”
Fix any sentences that need correcting. Our answers are below.
1. The show’s lead role is played by a nationally-famous movie star.
2. Born and raised in Queens, Mr. Walken’s first education for the stage involved dance lessons.
3. The food of New Orleans is absolutely unique—and sinfully delicious.
4. We were lost until a kindly-looking man helped us find our hotel.
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If these newspaper headlines found circulating the Internet are authentic, they surely demonstrate an absence of thoughtful editing.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. The show’s lead role is played by a nationally famous movie star.
2. Mr. Walken was born and raised in Queens. His first education for the stage involved dance lessons.
3. The food of New Orleans is unique—and sinfully delicious.
4. We were lost until a kindly-looking man helped us find our hotel. CORRECT (“kindly” is an adjective here, not an adverb)
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.