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 If you are a US English speaker, therefore, and you don’t want to come across to your audience as out of date or, heaven forbid, linguistically la-di-da, then it’s advisable to opt for among.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:

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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.

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?

Motorola’s new Moto G, not to be confused with the other new Moto G

Motorola has introduced two new phones, both named the Moto G. How do you tell them apart? I have no idea. Perhaps the writer for could enlighten us:

fp moto g

(The phones are actually the Moto G and Moto X.)

Wrecking havoc with the language

Yahoo! just launched a new site called Yahoo! Style. I immediately thought that it must be better written than the rest of Yahoo!; after all, it was new! Wouldn’t the Internet giant invest in the quality of the writing of a new site? Wouldn’t Yahoo! finally hire competent editors to ensure the success of Style? I was hopeful as I jumped at the opportunity to read an article by Style’s editor in chef. Now there’s a person who must appreciate the need for quality writing.

The title promised info on dressing for extreme temperatures, so I’m thinking the heat of summer and the cold of the dead of winter:

how to dress style

By the time I’d finished the article, I’d learned about dressing for heat and for that other temperature extreme — rain. But I shouldn’t have been surprised that the writer (the editor in chief!) couldn’t figure out what he was supposed to be writing about. The more I read the more I realized he probably couldn’t figure out what language he was supposed to be writing in.

Here he takes a serious subject like global warming and reveals its true threat to humanity: It wrecks havoc on fashion:

wrecked havoc style

Well, wrecking havoc sounds good to me; that would be destroying chaos. It’d be much worse if it were wreaking (or bringing about) havoc.

Then, I read this use of then instead of than:

then seersucker style

I’m going to try to ignore the advice, which doesn’t exactly seem like it’s meant for the woman of the twenty-first century, and focus on the writing, which kinda sucks:

wearing is wearing style

When I read this, I thought wearing cotton over silk sounded odd for dressing for hot weather:

allows to breath style

But the writer (the editor in chief!) meant “prefer cotton over silk.” The rest of the stream-of-consciousness writing alleges that cottons allows [sic] the body to breath. Believe me, if your body ain’t breathing, wearing cotton isn’t going to help. The writer meant that cotton is preferable because cotton breaths (that is, it allows air to pass through it).

So, am I hopeful that Yahoo! Style will provide quality content? Not if it’s written by Yahoo! writers (and the editor in chief).

At least you got the color right

Ya’ gotta give props to the Yahoo! TV writer for getting half of this right:

jumper tv 1

In the UK, this is a red jumper:

red jumper uk

In the U.S., this is a red jumper:

red jumper us

And this is what Ed Sheeran, as Little Orphan Annie, wore:

jumper tv 2

That is what is called a red dress.

Your simile went over like a lead balloon

A simile is a great literary device to add color and interest to your writing. Unless you’re writing like this Yahoo! Travel scribe, whose simile goes over like a lead balloon:


Why? Because Kleenex is not tissue paper; it’s called just plain ol’ tissue or facial tissue. This pink stuff is tissue paper:

tissue paper


First, learn to read

You’d think that the ability to read a simple sentence would be a requirement for a position of writer at I don’t think it is. How else do you explain this claim about an article on “offbeat shrines” and “wacky food museums”?

fp museums

Here’s the title of the article:


If by “offbeat shrines” the writer means “factories,” then that’s accurate. If by “wacky food museums” the writer means “factories,” then that’s accurate, too.

Perhaps someone will read the article to the writer, since that seems beyond the scope of the job (or maybe just the writer’s abilities).

Sometimes I just have to say it

Sometimes I just have to say it: This is idiotic. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read on a supposed news site:

tank in texas

As if I needed more evidence that Yahoo! is outsourcing writing of Yahoo! News to non-English-speaking countries, we have this. The writer obviously thinks a tank is the same thing as a tanker. This is a tank (courtesy of Wikipedia):


The vessel in the Yahoo! News picture is a tanker. It is a ship. It holds oil. It travels in the ocean. It could not disappear in Texas since Texas is not an ocean.

The tanker disappeared off the coast of Texas.

Sounds like labor to me

OK. So here’s what happened (according to Yahoo! Travel): A woman went into labor on a plane, her contractions were one minute apart, and there were fears she would go into labor:

birth travel

Anyone else as confused as I am? The confusion arises from the writer who can’t quite figure out what she read in the Daily Mail. But I can. According to the Daily Mail, there were fears the woman would GIVE BIRTH on the plane because SHE WAS ALREADY IN LABOR.


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