I was going to ask Google for simultaneous translation of this caption from Yahoo! Style, but I’m rethinking that decision. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know what the writer was saying:
Yahoo! writers aren’t known for their mathematical ability. Or even their 3-grade arithmetic ability. It’s enough that they manage to write a sentence with both a subject and a verb, like this one:
So, don’t be criticizing this writer because this is almost correct — meaning that it is completely wrong:
At 51.5 inches, the woman’s legs are 4 feet, 3.5 inches long. That’s not almost 4 feet, 3 inches because almost means “slightly short of; not quite; nearly,” according to the American Heritage Dictionary. But at least the sentence has a subject and verb. There’s that.
Sometimes separating a number from the words that explain it, isn’t such a bright idea. Take this excerpt from Yahoo! Finance:
You might think, as I did, that $29,000 was 67% less than claimed earnings of $90,000. Then you might think, as I did, that $29,000 was the real median. And then you’d reread the sentence to reassure yourself that the real median was $61,000, or 33% less than claimed. Or maybe $61,000—67% of the amount claimed. But not, 67% less than claimed.
I’m starting to get a headache. I think I’ll go take 4 or 5 Advil and go lie down.
Why do the writers and editors at Yahoo! have so much trouble with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ name? Her last name is Louis-Dreyfus, not Dreyfus:
That’s bad. But it’s not the worst they’ve done to Ms. Louis-Dreyfus. There was the time they called her Julia Louie Dreyfus, which I thought was pretty funny. And the hyphen confusion that produced Julia-Louis Dreyfus. And the gender change that resulted in Julia Louise-Dreyfus. And the time she was both Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Julia Louis Dreyfuss in the same article.
I guess you just gotta admire the creativity, if not the accuracy, of Yahoo! staffers.
This is possibly the worst writing by a professional that I have read in a long, long time. It’s not because of the grammatical errors and wacky word use (though they are factors). It’s because the Yahoo! Style writer made no attempt to state actual facts. It seems she made up most of the information in the article and there was no oversight to stop her.
It starts with this little lie, which alleges that Martha Washington was a great hostess at the White House:
Martha Washington never lived in the White House, since it wasn’t even built when her husband was president. In fact, Mrs. Washington never even lived in Washington, DC. But this writer’s imagination isn’t confined by facts.
Moving on to Eleanor Roosevelt, the writer decided her life needed some enhancements, so she alleges that Mrs. Roosevelt helped serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy:
I don’t know how one does that, but I do know that it was her husband who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. But, let’s just pooh-pooh facts.
Why would a writer make up a name for a first lady? I have no idea, but I have evidence that this writer did:
Pat Nixon’s real name is not and never was Patricia; it was Thelma. Why couldn’t the writer just Google that? Because facts are not important at Yahoo!.
Then there’s the “fact” that Rosalynn Carter’s father helped support her family after he died:
I guess that’s possible, if there’s an inheritance involved.
Nancy Reagan gets a little better treatment: The writer claims that Mrs. Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign was jaw-droppingly successful, while the rest of the country considered it an embarrassment:
Wasn’t it just two months ago that Mrs. Clinton was running for the presidency, and not the “Presidential office”?
She wasn’t “the U.S. Senator of New York” (which makes no sense); she was a U.S. senator from New York. That’s a tad different.
What else is a tad different? This claim that Barbara Bush is Laura Bush’s mother:
Barbara Bush is George W. Bush’s mother; it would be an incestuous scandal if she was also Laura Bush’s mother. She is Laura Bush’s mother-in-law. Laura Bush didn’t create a “literary program,” but a literacy program. But I quibble. After all, it’s only words.
Someone should have a word with this Yahoo! Style writer and suggest that perhaps she up her writing game. A real friend might suggest that she learn how to proofread, so that she doesn’t spell Scrabble like this:
And then maybe someone could explain the importance of getting real facts. Scrabble isn’t the original “friends with words.” It’s considered the original Words with Friends, which is an actual word game. The game didn’t get a face lip (which is where most lips are), it got a facelift. As for the rest of the sentence, a true friend wouldn’t bother to read it since it appears to be a bunch of random words.