Don’t discount the usefulness of a dictionary

I don’t know what’s so “rock-bottom” about a discount of $1.50 at a movie theater. My local cineplex offers a $2.00 senior discount every day. The writer for needs to consult a dictionary; it’ll show that discount means “a reduction from the standard price”:

fp discount

Lessons from Yahoo Health

You can learn a lot just by reading the headlines at the home page of Yahoo! Health. You won’t learn anything about health, but you will learn what not to do when you write.


Lesson 1: Make sure your text isn’t longer than the space reserved for it.

You might read this and wonder “Sneak a workout in at what?” The opera? The line outside the ladies room at Yankee Stadium? Your kid’s piano recital? The options are endless.

miss word health


Lesson 2: Not every sentence beginning with what is a question.

This headline isn’t a question and “Listen to Your Body” isn’t a question. The only question is why would anyone think that question mark is necessary. Oh, and another question: How did you get a job as a writer?

what quest health


Lesson 3: You can’t always trust your spell-checker.

Facing a jury verdict and want to rise above it? You can! And you can do it in time for Race Day, which is apparently when you start running before they take you in for sentencing:

jury health

Just in time for Oktoberfest: Teutonic plates!

What does one use to serve bratwurst, sauerbraten, and wiener schnitzel? Teutonic plates! I think someone needs to explain to the writer for Yahoo! Style that Teutonic means Germanic and that the shifting plates of the Earth’s crust are tectonic:

teutonic plates style

Get the inside scope!

Here’s the inside scoop for the writer for Yahoo! Shopping: This is just wrong:

inside scope shopping

Try scoping out a dictionary next time you’re looking for a common idiom and you don’t want to look like an idiot.

The moral impact of nail polish

Choosing the correct color of nail polish has just be elevated to a moral and ethical decision by a writer at Yahoo! Beauty:

conscientious decision

Those with lesser standards might only make a conscious decision about nail color, but shame on them! This should be a conscientious decision on par with refusing to fight in a war for religious reasons.

Amongst your words, that is the most pretentious

The new site Yahoo! Style may be setting some records in the number and severity of errors that it displays every day. These errors from a recent article are among the most amateurish on the site:

font style 1

The word amongst is a synonym for among. Is it wrong? Not exactly, but it’s just not as common in the U.S. as it is in other English-speaking countries. And Americans aren’t all that fond of the word. The OxfordWords blog sums up the sentiment of many Americans:

[M]any authorities (such as Garner’s Modern American Usage) and language blogs state that, in US English, amongst is now seen as old-fashioned, and even ‘pretentious’. If you are a US English speaker, therefore, and you don’t want to come across to your audience as out of date or, heaven forbid, linguistically la-di-da, then it’s advisable to opt for among.

As for the other error in that paragraph, I believe there’s a mismatch between the subject designer and the verb, which should be tells. I can’t be sure since there appears to be some extra words, but I think the writer promises to let us know what the designer is listening to. That is simply a lie. The interview that follows does not include any such info.

The interviewer was clearly in the dark about Josef Albers’ “Interaction of Color,” which is a book. The designer was also influenced by the Blaschkas, a father and son, and not just one misspelled person:

font style 2

It would have been nice (and expected from a real site with any integrity) to check the references made by the person being interviewed. But this is Yahoo!, and journalistic integrity is not a priority.

Also not a priority? Punctuation. At least, correct punctuation is not a priority. Maybe someone will tell us about the process the writer has for distinguishing between a question and an imperative sentence:

font style 3

What kind of fur does a caterpillar have?

What kind of fur does a caterpillar have? The kind that requires quotation marks. The folks at would have you believe that the puss caterpillar has fur. It does not. It has “fur”:

fp fur caterpillar

The caterpillar’s “fur” is really setae, a hair-like covering of bristles.

When designers quarrel

When designers quarrel, that’s a spat of designers. When you’re looking at a lot of designers, that’s a spate of designers. If you think confusing the two is ridiculous, that’s Yahoo! Style:

spat of designers

Setting back gender equality by decades

At a time when real journalists refer to the late Joan Rivers as a comedian and male and female thespians as actors, why would the writer for Yahoo! Style make a sorry attempt at referring to Anna Wintour as an editrix?

editirix style

I guess if you don’t know if your boss is an editor, editor in chief, or editor-in-chief, you don’t know that a female editor is an editor.

The writing problem I can’t fix

In my decades of editing, I’ve come across a vast array of writing problems that I could easily correct, and maybe teach the writer something in the process. I can correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Most writers learn from the experience. But the one problem I’ve never been able to fix is a writer’s lack of logical thinking. I may be able to rewrite an illogical sentence, but I have never been able to change the thinking of the writer who constructed the nonsensical passage.

I was reminded of that when I read this opening paragraph on Yahoo! Style:

karl style

The writer contends that Karl Lagerfeld can’t be 100 years old because he has no adult children. That faulty assumption was based on a quote from Mr. Lagerfeld. But Mr. Lagerfeld said (at least according to the writer), that adult children made one look 100. Knowing that the designer has no adult children, what can you derive about his appearance? Nothing. About his age? Nothing. It’s a problem in thinking that I’d be challenged to correct.

The rest of the errors in the paragraph are easy to fix. (What’s difficult is trying to imagine how a professional writer could make them in the first place.) I have no problem with the word umpteenth, except that the writer meant umpteen.

I have no idea how “your new fashion newspaper” is related to the fashion labels it’s lumped in with. And a dozens could be charitably called a typo, though I’m not sure it is.

Does Mr. Lagerfeld own a Graf Zeppelin, a great white shark, and a copy of “Weird Al” Yankovich’s “Dare to Be Stupid”? If not, then he doesn’t literally have everything. Just get rid of that word. Or do I have to explain the logic behind that, too?


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