They’re only useful if they’re live

Dogs have been known to perform heroic deeds to save human lives. But, life-saving dogs are generally alive, so Yahoo! News‘ “Who Knew?” didn’t really need to tell us that they’re live-saving. We knew that.

news live-saving


Not that sort of congress

If you’re writing about the legislative body in Washington, DC, it’s Congress, with a capital C. (Ha-ha. I made a pun.) If you’re writing about sexual intercourse, it’s congress, as illustrated here by the genius writers at Yahoo! News:

news congress lc

A way with words

Some writers have a way with words. They know how to create images, how to create moods, how to create excitement. This is not one of those writers. She writes for Yahoo! Shine, which is not exactly like writing for the National Review, or even the National Enquirer.

She’s written an article about Sophia Loren, who at 78 years old is still a great beauty. And who somehow proves that beauty isn’t wasted on the young. So that means that the young make good use of beauty? Or that there are no young beauties? I actually have no idea what this is supposed to mean:

But that’s not all. Ms. Loren was attending an event with some models from the 1920s:

At least I think the apostrophe means that some numbers (like “19”) are missing. The arbitrary comma is the kind of mistake this writer often makes.

On the red carpet, all eyes were posing with actors while simultaneously focusing on Ms. Loren:

Hey, that sentence may have a misplaced modifier, but at least it had a verb. That’s more than can be said for this collection of words:

Yes, this writer has a way with words. The wrong way.

How the mighty have fallen

When i read this on the Yahoo! front page I had visions of Maui, Oahu, Molokai, and the rest of Hawaii falling from the sky:

I’m sure that can’t be what happened, but I’m also sure that sentence makes no sense. Perhaps the writer meant that Hawaii has fallen out of the ranks of the world’s top producers of pineapple. Or maybe it just fell out of the producers of pineapple. That could happen.

This is both wrong and awkward

It doesn’t take a grammatical wiz kid to know that this sentence on the Yahoo! front page is both wrong and awkward:

It illustrates a common error, though in a way that is so egregious we all can spot it, even if we can’t quite describe it. The problem is the correlative conjunction.

A correlative conjunction is a pair of words that joins words, phrases, and clauses that are usually parallel, that is, they’re similar in length and grammatical form. That means that it joins two nouns or two phrases or two verbs. That sort of thing. One of the most common correlative conjunctions is both…and, and that’s what the writer used. And got wrong.

One way to correct the grammatical goof — and shorten the sentence (always a good thing) — is to eliminate the word both:

… edges out New York as the top Christmas and New Year’s locale

If writer really, really wanted to include the word both (perhaps to emphasize there are two holidays), then this would be the correct form:

… edges out New York as both the top Christmas and the top New Year’s locale

It’s correct, but wordy and repetitive. Yet another alternative is shorter, more direct, and joins the two holidays with the correlative conjunction:

… edges out New York as the top locale for both Christmas and New Year’s

Editors agree: This sucks

Editors disagree on many things, including how to form the possessive of a name ending in S. The folks behind the Associated Press style book advocate adding just an apostrophe. So, the possessive of Spears is Spears’ if you follow AP style.  The editors at the Chicago Manual of Style recommend adding an apostrophe and an S: Spears’s.

But nowhere is there more violent disagreement than among the editors for the Yahoo! front page, who can’t agree among themselves on the possessive of Spears. The rest of the editing world agrees that using both forms on the same page, in the same module, makes them look like total incompetents:

Did anyone else take offense at this?

For many people learning English as a second language, prepositions pose a particular challenge. They often use the wrong word in idioms that include prepositions like to, in, and at. If you employ writers whose first language isn’t English, then you should provide them with competent editors who can correct their mistakes. At least that would be my advice to the management responsible for

This error is not something we should take offense at:

It’s not offensive, it’s just wrong. And so is the expression “arrive to.” The Saints didn’t arrive to town, but they did arrive in town:

Prepositions may be small words, but using the wrong one can give the impression that you’re still struggling to learn English.

Making a little mischief

What do you call someone who makes mischief? A mischief-maker! Unless you write for the Yahoo! front page, in which case you drop the hyphen:

When better is better than best

Is the Cadillac ATS or the BMW 335i the best car? Really, do you know which one is the best car in the entire universe? I don’t. I don’t even know which is the better car.  But the folks on the Yahoo! front page apparently know which is the most awesomest automobile in the world:

Of course, we know something that they don’t: When you compare two things, like cars, you use the comparative of an adjective, not the superlative. The superlative is reserved for comparing three or more things. For the adjective good, the comparative is better, the superlative is best. We are wicked smart and know that the correct question is: Which is better? It clearly shows that you’re comparing two cars, and not every car in the world.

Here’s a little ditty I learned from my mother many decades ago. I still use it to remind myself of the comparative forms of good:

Good, better, best
Never let it rest,
Until your good is better
And your better is best.

Powerball: You can win with this simple plan

You — yes, you — can be a multimillionaire, just by following this advice on the Yahoo! front page:

Yes, you can win Powerball, and it will only cost you $118. There are 59 numbers in Powerball, and it costs $2 to purchase a Powerball ticket, so if you buy “every possible number,” you’re guaranteed a winner!

Unless the Einsteins who write for are mistaken. Perhaps they’re a little changed in the vocabulary department. Perhaps they don’t realize that “number” is not the same thing as “combination of numbers.” You’d have to buy every possible combination, which is a little bit more than 59. In fact, it’s a little bit more than 175,000,000.

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