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


Did you mean a turkey hooker?

I’d like to ask the writer for Yahoo! Food one question: What the heck were you thinking?

solicit food

The only food I’ve seen soliciting was a turkey standing on a street corner — before she was stuffed:

turkey hooker

I’ve had lots of foods that elicited (or even more appropriately, evoked) an emotional response from me, including cottage cheese (blehk) and ham-and-banana hollandaise (yum!).

A number of errors and the amount of brainpower behind them

Here are a couple of errors on Yahoo! Sports that are relatively rare. So unusual, in fact, that I think the writer may be a student of English as a Second Language:

amount of leagues

How often have you seen amount used when number is so obviously called-for? Uh, never. At the risk of boring all the literate Terribly Write readers, let me summarize: Use amount of with uncountable nouns; it is often used with singular mass nouns such as an amount of money, an amount of love, an amount of time. Number of is used with countable nouns, which are usually plural, like number of errors, number of students, number of leagues.

And since we’re talking about leagues, we might want to consider why the writer thought that they should be referred to by the pronoun who, which should be used exclusively for human beings. (The writer should have chosen that instead of who.) Maybe the writer thought leagues are people, too.

Right below Yu Darvish’s what?

Yahoo! Sports suggests that Yu Darvish and his inflamed right below shouldn’t pitch again this season. That’s just wrong:

right below sports

That’s a typo that even a spell-checker (should Yahoo!’s writers deign to use one) wouldn’t catch. Of course, it’s his right elbow that’s left us wondering how a proofreader missed that.

This could be prevented

It’s a word I haven’t heard in years: preventative. Is it an incorrect adjectival form of prevent? Not really. It’s considered an alternate form, though not preferred by most authorities. In fact, preventive is far more popular in the U.S. than preventative, which is as popular as preventive in the U.K. So, when I read this on the Yahoo! front page, did I think the writer made a horrible mistake?

fp preventative 2

Kinda, though it’s not the word I would chose. (I tend to favor the dictionary’s preferred spelling of words over the acceptable spellings.) But then I read this on Daily Writing Tips and it was enough to solidify my preference for preventive:

“The most respected publications favor preventive, while preventative is more likely to appear in print and online sources with less rigorous editorial standards. That’s a good enough reason to favor preventive.”

Fewer would be better

You know what would make Yahoo! Travel better? Fewer errors.

less deals travel

If the writers and editors wanted to be scrupulously correct, they’d appreciate the difference between fewer (which is used for countable things like deals and promotions and errors) and less (which is used for stuff you can’t count individually, like water and music).

Of course, it wouldn’t be English if there weren’t some exceptions. Nouns of time, money, and distance are described by less, not fewer: less than two hours, less than ten dollars, less than three miles.

A historic mistake. Again

What is it about the word historic that makes the writers lose all sense? This would be correct only if they pronounce the word as istoric (and I’m not sayin’ they don’t):

fp an historic 2

The indefinite article an goes before a word that starts with a vowel sound, regardless the word’s first letter. So, in the U.S., it’s an herb (since we don’t pronounce the H), but in the U.K. it’s a herb (since they do).

Neanderthals among us

Neanderthals live! And I don’t mean those crude twits who lick their fingers after eating Buffalo wings. I’m talking about the species that we all thought was extinct. Not so! According to the Yahoo! front page, Neanderthals live among us:

fp live

It would still be wrong

Even if the writer for Yahoo! Movies had remembered to put the hyphen in run-in, the word would still be wrong:

run in omg 1

A run-in is a quarrel or argument; it’s not a casual meeting.

But aside from that, what mistakes did the writer make? There’s some problem with familiar faces, because the writer implies that Lindsay Lohan and Tina Fey share the same face:

run in omg 2

This writer really has issues with punctuation. She puts an erroneous apostrophe is Wednesdays and puts a semicolon within quotation marks. In U.S. English, two punctuation characters never, ever go before a closing quotation mark: a colon and a semicolon.

Will Johnny Manziel be on the field?

If footballer Johnny Manziel stands on the sideline, is he in the field of play?

fp sideline

Generally, inactive players stand on the sidelines. A sideline (without the S) is a line that marks the limit of a field or court, which is where the folks at think he’ll be.


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