Friday, July 24, 2009
Most people operating in the journalism field can cite at least one grammatical blunder that ticks them off more than any other.
After all, we make our living manipulating words, so certain errors that come up repeatedly — made by other writers, of course — tend to become magnified once they’re on our radar.
For instance, an informal poll among my three fellow writer/editors on the J-W features staff discloses a few of these pet peeves. (Incidentally, the phrase “pet peeves” is my contribution.)
So as not to reveal their identities, I will refer to these co-workers by code names.
Veggie Blonde claims her bane involves when reporters inject semicolons into direct quotes. (“People don’t talk in semicolons,” she explains.)
Wildcat Fancy cites any abuse of apostrophes as particularly irritating. The most common of these is the frequent swap of “its” and “it’s.” (I once offered a third case that involved making the Stephen King novel “It” possessive that only muddled matters.)
Then there’s Legs, who keeps a list of such atrocities. He is on a current rant about the common fallacy involving “everyday” and “every day.”
In fact, it was Legs who alerted me to the existence of a site dedicated to another of his semantic bugbears: www.unnecessaryquotes.com.
Touted as a “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks, the site scours the world for signage, postings and advertisements in which adding such punctuation somehow changes the meaning.
• Please have your boarding pass and identification out and ready prior to reaching the “Ticket ID Checker.”
• We only take cash “or” checks.
• Our flags are made in “Canada.”
Often the author’s pithy comments really bolster the image. One auto body shop boasted “certified” used cars, “preventative” maintenance and “quality” collision repairs.
The posted comment added: I think it’s definitely a car repair place you can “trust.”
This is hardly the only site on the Internet to catalog public word atrocities.
Grammar Vandal is a record of one Boston woman’s campaign to “eradicate grammar errors in public.” She apparently keeps a sheet of comma stickers and a Sharpie with her at all times to fix these lapses, which she photographs and showcases on her site.
Then there’s lowercase L. The site was launched based on the blogger’s observation that when people create handwritten signs they often capitalize every letter except the “L.”
This is often evident in “FOR SAlE” displays.
And yes, Wildcat Fancy, there’s even a site called Apostrophe Abuse.
I heard “its” terrific.
— Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet in Net Worth. He can be reached at 832-7178.