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10 Very Costly Typos

Typos can be embarrassing. They can also be costly. And not just for those individuals whose jobs depend on knowing the difference between “it’s” and “its” or where a comma is most appropriate. Last weekend, bauble-loving Texans got the deal of a lifetime when a misprint in a Macy’s mailer advertised a $1500 necklace for just $47. (It should have read $497.) It didn’t take long for the entire inventory to be zapped, at a loss of $450 a pop to the retail giant. (Not to mention plenty of faces as red as the star in the company’s logo.)

Google, on the other hand, loves a good typing transposition. Not only is the mega-search engine’s own name a happy accident (it was supposed to be Googol; the domain name was incorrectly registered), but Harvard University researchers claim that the company earns about $497 million each year from everyday people mistyping the names of popular websites and landing on “typosquatter” sites… which just happen to be littered with Google ads. (Ka-ching!)

Here are 10 other costly typos that give the phrase “economy of words” new meaning.

1. NASA’S MISSING HYPHEN

The damage: $80 million

Hyphens don’t usually score high on the list of most important punctuation. But a single dash led to absolute failure for NASA in 1962 in the case of Mariner 1, America’s first interplanetary probe. The mission was simple: get up close and personal with close neighbor Venus. But a single missing hyphen in the coding used to set trajectory and speed caused the craft to explode just minutes after takeoff. 2001: A Space Odyssey novelist Arthur C. Clarke called it “the most expensive hyphen in history.”

2. THE CASE OF THE ANTIQUE ALE

The damage: $502,996

A missing ‘P’ cost one sloppy (and we’d have to surmise ill-informed) eBay seller more than half-a-mill on the 150-year-old beer he was auctioning. Few collectors knew a bottle of Allsopp’s Arctic Ale was up for bid, because it was listed as a bottle of Allsop’s Arctic Ale. One eagle-eyed bidder hit a payday of Antiques Roadshow proportions when he came across the rare booze, purchased it for $304, then immediately re-sold it for $503,300.

3. THE BIBLE PROMOTES PROMISCUITY

The damage: $4590 (and eternal damnation)

Not even the heavenly father is immune to occasional inattention to detail. In 1631, London’s Baker Book House rewrote the 10 Commandments when a missing word in the seventh directive declared, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Parliament was not singing hallelujah; they declared that all erroneous copies of the Good Book—which came to be known as “The Wicked Bible”—be destroyed and fined the London publisher 3000 pounds.

4. PASTA GETS RACIST

The damage: $20,000

A plate of tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto would typically only be offensive to a vegetarian’s senses. But an unfortunate blunder in The Pasta Bible, published by Penguin Australia in 2010, recommended seasoning the dish with “salt and freshly ground black people.” Though no recall was made of the books already in circulation, the printer quickly destroyed all 7000 remaining copies in its inventory. Read More…

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10 Places to Ignore Your Grammar and Spelling Checker

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

Because grammar and spelling checkers are software programs, they can’t read your mind or know your intentions. They also frequently cannot distinguish between correct and incorrect sentence structures and the use of words that sometimes confuse us humans. Below are 10 places in which your software may be suggesting errors rather than correcting them.

 
1. When you use your reader’s name in a sentence. Grammar and spelling checkers may not recognize whether you are talking to or about the person. These sentences are correct, but my grammar and spelling checker flagged them anyway.
Eric, thanks for writing this article. [The comma after Eric’s name is correct because we are addressing him directly.]
Dave, in the employee version, add an example here. [My checker suggested changing add to adds–wrong!]
Lynn, may we have permission to print your material? [It suggested that I capitalize may as a month, which is incorrect, of course!]
2. When you begin a sentence with an introductory clause. Your grammar and spelling checker does not recognize where you intend the clause to end. In the first indented sentence below, for example, it may suggest a comma after write, Mark, or program. Just remember to use a comma before the main part of the sentence, as the sentences below do. They are punctuated correctly, although my grammar and spelling checker suggested additional commas.
When you write to Mark about the program in Kansas City, be sure he understands that it is in Missouri.
         If they do give you a copy of the receipt, keep it for your records.

If you want to help employees improve their writing, use this guide.

3. When your software suggests changing a verb from singular to plural or vice versa (by adding s, removing s, or changing from is to are, for example). Your grammar and spelling checker may frequently suggest new errors in subject-verb agreement. The three sentences below are correct, but my grammar and spelling checker suggested changing them.
Any files beginning with 000 need to be moved to the C drive. [Need is correct–not needs.]
Thank you for letting us know about your shopping experience. [Know is correct–not knows!]

The average number of words per sentence is 15 to 20. [The verb is is correct; are would be wrong.]

Read More…

Convince or persuade?

Understand that some experts say that “persuade” and “convince” are synonyms that go back at least to the sixteenth century. The meanings are so closely knit that often one word serves as well as the other.

Grammar

After ‘persuade’ we use the structure
to + infinitive:

  • I persuaded them to stay for another drink.
  • He persuaded her not to take the job.

After ‘convince’ we cannot use a verb infinitive. We say ‘convince someone that‘:

  • She convinced the police that she was telling the truth.
  • He convinced her that it was the right thing to do.

Both of the above sentence would also be correct without ‘that’:

  • She convinced the police she was telling the truth.
  • He convinced herit was the right thing to do.

 

Meaning

Convince yourself to get these words right. Persuasion is a process. A hoped-for result is to convince.
There can also be a subtle difference in meaning between ‘convince’ and ‘persuade’, as seen here:

Although Robert finally persuaded his girlfriend to move abroad with him, she was not fully convinced that it was the best thing to do.

In the example, Robert’s girlfriend was persuaded (to move) but was not convinced (that it was the correct decision). So, we can see that when we persuade someone to do something it doesn’t always mean that we have also convinced that person.

The teenager is convinced she can win. The boy was persuaded to run the 10-yard dash.
Convinced” is for changing mental beliefs. Persuasion is change of belief followed by action.

One more thing is worth mentioning about ‘persuade’ and ‘convince’. If we are absolutely sure about something, we say I’m convinced:

– Are you sure he’s innocent?
– Yes, I’m convinced.
NOT I’m persuaded

Additional info

Some related words:
convincing (adjective)  It was a convincing argument.
persuasive (adjective) Marta can be very persuasive when she wants.
persuasion (noun) He used his powers of persuasion.

 

When confronted with issues of word choice, I often find it helpful to consider the associations and connotations a word has in its different forms. A convincing person or argument is one that other people cannot help but agree with, whereas a persuasive person or argument is one that other people find compelling, but which leaves more room (in my mind) for the opportunity to disagree.

If you have been convinced, you have clearly and decisively changed your perspective. If you have been persuaded, then you have chosen to agree with those you previously disagreed with. In the latter case, it may not be so much that you’ve found an argument you agree with so much as you’re indulging someone who has appealed to you, either positively or negatively.

Prefer “convince” when the change of opinion must be definite or to deemphasize the role of whomever did the convincing. Prefer “persuade” to draw attention to either the arguments used or the individuals doing the arguing, to emphasize reluctance on the part of the persuaded, or when you need the word to contain more vowels.

 

Resources:

Photocredit: http://persuasionuvm.blogspot.com

Tricky unique grammar

Just another note about the challenges of the English language. Why “a unique…” rather than “an unique…”?

When a “u” word is pronounced as though it begins with a “y” (yoo nique), it’s treated more like the consonant sound of the y.

So:

  • a university;
  • an umbrella;
  • a usual day;
  • an unusual day.

Via http://wordwhirled.blogspot.com

I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.

A small part of my job is to edit, proof-read, correct, …

The major part is to ensure all the departments are conveying the right message and keep a common house style for all communications. Yet some of the complacent co-workers insist that this means that we (PR&Communications Unit) are just a rabble of plain mortals whose sole ability in life is to put commas here and there.

Dear fellows:

“It’s easier to teach a poet how to read a balance sheet than it is to teach an accountant how to write.”
– Henry R. Luce (1898-1967)

Here’s one for you, sloppy co-worker. It matters. Got the chip on my shoulder now.  Try me. 😉

Via Harvard Business Review

If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.

Some might call my approach to grammar extreme, but I prefer Lynne Truss’s more cuddly phraseology: I am a grammar “stickler.” And, like Truss — author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves — I have a “zero tolerance approach” to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid.

Now, Truss and I disagree on what it means to have “zero tolerance.” She thinks that people who mix up their itses “deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave,” while I just think they deserve to be passed over for a job — even if they are otherwise qualified for the position.

Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies, iFixit or Dozuki, takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.), if job hopefuls can’t distinguish between “to” and “too,” their applications go into the bin.

Of course, we write for a living. iFixit.com is the world’s largest online repair manual, and Dozuki helps companies write their own technical documentation, like paperless work instructions and step-by-step user manuals. So, it makes sense that we’ve made a preemptive strike against groan-worthy grammar errors.

But grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.

Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn’t in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.

On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?

Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.

Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.

In the same vein, programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are “essayists who work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms.” The point: programming should be easily understood by real human beings — not just computers.

And just like good writing and good grammar, when it comes to programming, the devil’s in the details. In fact, when it comes to my whole business, details are everything.

I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.

That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.

Kyle Wiens

Ability, capability or capacity

Have you ever wondered “Should I put this into my sentence…or that, or…wait a minute, what was the difference?

Today we will have a look at the abilities, capabilities or capacities.

 

If someone has ability, a particular ability, or the ability to do something, they can do it because they have the skill or the knowledge that is needed to do it. You often use ability to say that someone can do something well:

He had remarkable ability as an administrator.

There are four main factors which determine mathematical ability.

…the ability to bear hardship.

A person’s capability is the amount of work they can do and how well they can do it.

The director has his own ideas both of the role and of the capability of the actor.

It was, in any case, beyond the capability of one man

If someone has a particular capacity, a capacity for something, or a capacity to do something, they have the characteristics required to do it. Capacity is a more formal word than ability.

…their capacity for being inspired by heroes.

…his capacity always to see the other’s point of view.

 

A bit but now you know it.

 

Your newbie Grammar guide,

 

 

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