•on January 31st, 2011
First, I must say that if you haven’t checked out Catalog Living yet, do so now. Don’t waste any time. Actually, you should stop reading this post altogether and just go there instead.
The website chronicles the lives of fictional couple Gary and Elaine (and their children) as seen through the pages of home-decor catalogues. The site is hilarious, and I especially chuckled at this post, which contained the photo at left and the following caption:
Gary had no idea who The Mather was, but he got the message loud and clear not to mess with his iced tea.
•on January 26th, 2011
My sister and her boyfriend came to town in November, and we spotted this guy in Times Square wearing a sandwich board and passing out pamphlets for Jesus.
At first, it looks cutely generic: the penciled-in lines and crude bubble letters offer a bit of innocent charm that many of New York’s rather menacing street preachers seem to lack. But my favorite part, by far, is the grammar correction in the last word.
Kudos, sir, for your creative method to change the incorrect Do to Does.
Blog, Digital Wall of Shame
•on January 24th, 2011
Back in the day, I loved Contempo Casuals. My town didn’t have one, so whenever I was at a real mall in a real city, I would beg my mom to take me in there. I remember buying my share of Contempo baby tees, floral-print skirts and giant sweaters back in the early ’90s. Then Wet Seal came in and bought all the stores, merging them with their own brand, and the clothes went from slightly edgy preteen garb to teen-hooker club clothes that disintegrated in the first wash.
But I will say that the clothes send a message. This tunic, for example, says, Hey, I’m a total skank who’s, like, too cool for grammar. And stuff.
(Image from Elysia, who saw it here.)
•on January 11th, 2011
In the professional world, I’ve noticed a funny stigma about memorization. People seem to think that in order to be fully competent and good at your job, you need to know everything off the top of your head — you can’t look anything up. Doctors need to be able to diagnose you without consulting a medical reference book; plumbers can’t reference a manual before fixing your sink; and copy editors shouldn’t need to consult a style guide or dictionary during their editing.
If you were really good, the theory goes, you would already KNOW.
Well, that’s just ridiculous. The key to being good at your job doesn’t lie in knowing everything; it depends upon realizing when you don’t know something. There is no shame in saying that you don’t know and will need to look something up, but there is a lot of danger in assuming knowledge and then being wrong. In certain fields, such as in the medical profession, this kind of arrogance could even result in death. In fields such as editing, it can lead to typos, mistakes, embarrassment, and a loss of your professional reputation.
Copy editors love to memorize style guides. It becomes almost competitive — if one person asks a question and I can spout the answer from the top of my head, I feel a sense of pride and satisfaction that I wouldn’t get if I had to open the style guide and seek out the answer. I enjoy being a wealth of information and love being the person who gets the answer right.
In the past, I used to feel embarrassed every time I needed to consult the dictionary or style manual during the course of my editing. But as I encountered more and more styles — I have had to learn and master five very different style guides in my career so far — I’ve realized that there’s simply no way to keep them straight. It’s a bit like learning a new foreign language. When you first learn French, it’s easy to remember the word for horse. But if you already know French and then try to master Spanish, you’ll occasionally find yourself wondering if the correct word is cheval or caballo. The more you learn, the harder it is to keep the information straight.
It’s fine to look things up, especially if there’s a chance that you’ll be wrong, and it’s surprising how admitting that you don’t know something — then quickly looking up the answer — doesn’t diminish people’s faith in your abilities. If anything, it confirms that you are thorough and accurate and unwilling to just guess.
Blog, Digital Wall of Shame
•on October 26th, 2010
Like most New Yorkers, I have a love-hate relationship with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. On one hand, New York has amazing public transit that allows most of its residents to exist peacefully without the hassle of owning a car. On the other hand, they keep hiking their damn rates while cutting subway and bus service citywide.
I know times are tough for the MTA. I know that a copy editor’s salary could be spent more efficiently on making subway speaker systems that actually project the conductors’ words (ha!) or on the electronic signs that announce when the train is coming (love these!). At the same time, most eighth-graders know the difference between “it’s” and “its,” so I can’t help but giggle at the latest MTA signage gaffe.
(Image and error found on Gothamist)
•on September 24th, 2007
Happy National Punctuation Day!
Today is the day you give love, not to mothers or fathers or to your boss or secretary, but to the incredibly useful and horribly unappreciated semicolon, apostrophe, comma and hyphen.
So take that ellipsis out for a drink and let her know how special she really is.
; – ( ) : … < > ! ? , ‘ .