A no-nonsense look at writing

After reading the scribblings of Yahoo! writers and editors for years, few mistakes surprise me. But here are two that I’ve never seen before and hope to never see again:

themself diy

From Yahoo! DIY we get the nonsense that should be no-nonsense and the inscrutable themself. Really? The writer couldn’t figure out the plural themselves? In all the horrible, terrible, no good writing I’ve come across, I’ve never, ever seen a themself. Never.

Editing recommendations were inadequate

For years I’ve been recommending that Yahoo! stop outsourcing the writing on yahoo.com to non-English-speaking countries. But it appears that my recommendations on editing were inadequate:

fp was

Yahoo! continues to employ grammatically challenged staffers. Is it so hard to match a subject (like, oh, say, maybe recommendations) and a verb (like were)? Is it so hard to find writers who can do that?

Apparently it is hard. Because here’s another verb flop from this morning’s yahoo.com:

fp take

The subject of that sentence is one, and it’s singular because, well, because it is one. It takes takes as a verb. The editor must have been on a lunch break when that got posted.

I should have stopped reading

I shouldn’t have read more than this headline on Yahoo! Style:

our stories 1

I should have known that if the headline contains one humongous goof, the article itself is going to be a disaster. The huge mistake in the headline? The article is about a retailer called & Other Stories. How bad is that? Bad. But it gets worse.

At least in the opening paragraph, the writer manages to use the correct words for the retailer, though she does close up the space after the ampersand:

our stories 2

But she drops the the in what should be “in the U.S.” and the hyphen that’s required in brand-new. Maybe the writer is a recent arrival to the States and doesn’t realize that it’s capitalized when referring to the United States.

When it’s a noun or an adjective, must-have must have a hyphen:

our stories 3

This could be a simple typo (names instead of named), but the use of the pronoun their without any known antecedent is just wrong:

our stories 4

How do you explain the misspelling of a product when it appears below a picture of the product?

our stories 5

The final sentence of the article doesn’t disappoint: One hardly ever sees the use of a plural verb with the singular everything:

our stories 6

That was not good. I knew when I read the headline I should have stopped reading. My bad.

Chances are you wouldn’t make this mistake…

…unless you write for yahoo.com:

fp chances takes

The chances are good that if you’re not a writer or editor for Yahoo!, you’d recognize the subject (chances) is plural and the verb (take) should be, too .

Second day of errors takes shape

OK, so maybe I wasn’t completely accurate. This is hardly the second day of errors from Yahoo!, but the title of this post does illustrate the correct verb for the subject day — unlike this headline from Yahoo! News:

take shape news

It just goes from bad to more bad

This headline was my first indication that the article on Yahoo! Style was not going to go well:

ed pick 1

The new ’60s-inspired pieces you need now? I think they involve a correctly placed an apostrophe (which shouldn’t be used to form the plural) and a hyphen.

Things only got worse. It’s hard to imagine what went through the writer’s mind when she pounded out this:

ed pick 2

It’s pretty clear that makes and reminds should be make and remind (because their subject is surfboards) and that summer isn’t a proper noun. But what could be wrong with wool sweater? The answer lies in the handy caption for the sweater that the writer provided:

ed pick 3

WTF? How did the writer screw up that badly? It’s a freakin’ linen sweater, not a wool one!

This writer is just obsessed with wool sweaters, to the point of lying about the actual material of her recommendations:

ed pick 4

First, let’s look at the helpful information the writer supplied because the alleged black stripe is actually navy:

ed pick 5

And is it mohair? Of course not! It’s nylon and acrylic. The writer just likes to make up her own little facts.

Do you know how difficult it is to find the correct spelling of gray? Luckily you don’t have to. In the U.S., it gets an A; in other English-speaking countries, the preferred spelling is grey:

ed pick 55

Again the writer proves that she’s grammatically challenged, unable to identify a plural subject (shape and color) and match it to a verb (which should be are).

When not making up information about sweaters, the writer likes to be creative about pants:

ed pick 6

What could possible wrong with that? The pattern is called dogtooth and the pants aren’t cropped, even though the writer just can’t let go of the whole crop pants thing:

ed pick 7

Geez. This just keeps getting worse. There’s a missing hyphen in must-have, fall is capitalized erroneously, and this sentence makes no sense:

ed pick 8

I don’t know what this means nor what FW means:

ed pick 9

Think it can’t get worse? Think again:

ed pick 85

The handbag is not made from box leather; it’s a leather box bag.And it was seen from a lot of famous people.

I have to keep reminding myself that this article was written by a professional writer, someone who is actually paid real money to write this crap:

ed pick 10

That’s someone who doesn’t know the difference between its and it’s. Who doesn’t know to end a sentence with a period (a comma just won’t do) and stick a hyphen in cat-eye.

It started off with a mistake and just kept piling ‘em on. It went from bad to more bad and more bad.

A writer’s influence on their readers

It shouldn’t be surprising that when people starting using they, their, and them to refer to an individual whose gender was unknown to the writer that there would come a time that those pronouns would be used for an individual whose gender was apparent. That time has come and the place is Yahoo! Style:

their daughters

Did the writer use their instead of her because she didn’t know the mother was a female or because the writer didn’t know that a pronoun should agree with its antecedent?

Not a good place for that

Headlines in mile-high letters are not good places for grammatical errors.

thats sports

I bet the writer for Yahoo! Sports would really be embarrassed to learn that his that’s should be that are.

Me and my dog were appalled

Holy Milk Bone! Even my dog Millie would know that this is a giant grammatical gaffe on Yahoo! Answers:

me and my dog answers

If the writer had said that in front of my mother, he or she would have gotten a smack upside the head. She taught me and all my siblings that you never put yourself first. If the writer had put my dog first, then it would be obvious that the correct pronoun is I, not me: my dog and I were. At least I hope it would be obvious.

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


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