More News Release Gaffes

I am still amazed every morning at the spelling and grammatical errors I read in news releases that cross my desk, supposedly written by professional journalists. Is this more evidence of the “dumbing down” of America? Is this the quality of graduates that journalism schools are producing? Did spell check break? Was the copy editor napping?

Or am I just too damn picky?

Everyone makes mistakes, I understand that. I do too, all the time. That is why you have proofreaders for manuscripts and books and copy editors for magazines and newspapers and Denise for this blog. And it’s why you do those things BEFORE you publish the piece.

Before I met and married the love of my life I used to date a copy editor for a (formerly) great metropolitan newspaper. I would routinely, sometimes daily, dissect the incorrect phrasing of an article or point out the spelling and/or grammatical errors of articles in the paper (that were not in the sections she edited) and she always wondered aloud why I didn’t get a job doing what she did.

Anyway, here are the gaffes that came across my desk yesterday morning, along with my snarky remarks.

“…hadn’t been in her basement for two weeks, and low and behold she had water in it.” Well, now this one makes sense because the basement is “low” in the house, right? However the correct phrase is “lo and behold” which is still rather conversational for a news piece. By the way, “lo and behold”, means “look and behold” not “get down and behold”, lol.

“What it did, it shook the house and jared the sheet-rock and made it crack.” Is that Jared, the Subway Sandwich guy? Is he now “Jared the Sheetrock”? More likely is that the writer meant to write “jarred the sheetrock” though simply stating that it cracked the sheetrock would have been sufficient, given the context. Oh, and yes, “sheetrock” is one word, not hyphenated.

“…determined that it needed to be demobilize and…” Let’s just forget about those silly grammar rules that say verb tenses should agree. In other words, if you use a past tense verb in one part of the sentence, any other verbs must be past tense as well. Otherwise you sound like…well, we’ll leave that part out of this.

Interestingly, I just received the November 2009 issue of The Writers Network News (a free monthly newsletter available from Zebra Communications) and it has this little piece on proofreading:

Why the world needs editors and proofreaders

Many, many years ago when I had my first newspaper job I had to both write and proofread my articles. I covered a local wedding and wrote “…the bride was draped in Chantilly lace, except I didn’t catch myself, and the story ran “the bride was raped in chantilly lace…” and THAT’s how you really LEARN. Alvin Guthertz

The Writers Network News is an excellent resource for writers. Go check it out!

I think my desire to read proper English (especially if it is written by professional journalists and writers) is perfectly natural, but Laura Miller has an article up on Salon that says I’m stuck up and should just get over it.

What do you think?

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