Letting the kids near the keyboard

This is what happens when you let youngsters near a keyboard. They think they can write. And then they think their brilliant pearls must be published. Apparently someone at Yahoo! News‘ “Today in Tech” agrees. And the result is not pretty.

The kids these days just don’t get punctuation, putting commas where they don’t belong. They repeat themselves and offer the most obvious of facts as if they were sparkling diamonds of wisdom. They tell you an anniversary is the “30th year anniversary,” because they mark their relationships in weeks and months. They tell you this year is “this 2012” — to distinguish it from that other 2012. And they mangle clichés, mixing them with half thoughts, as if you, dear reader, possess unerring ESP:

They can’t spell and they don’t use a spell-checker. (To them archaeological just looks funny, though it’s correct.) They don’t know how to express dimensions when they come before a noun (it should be “10-foot by 10-foot”), and haven’t learned the benefits of proofreading.

This is what happens when today’s kids are free to write however they choose. And you know what else happens? If they’re writing for Yahoo!, they actually get paid for it. What a world.

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What was she thinking?!

What was the writer for Yahoo! Shine thinking when she decided to chop up mohawked with a hyphen?

What was going through her brain when she wrote this?

It’s probably true that if there were actually a school called the University of Austin, it would be in Texas. But it’s the University of Texas that has an Austin campus. And why didn’t she put all those commas within what should be quotation marks?

Clearly, she has a limited grasp of the correct use of punctuation. Why include a comma here, before a parenthesis?

What was going on in her mind when she wrote this? Was she so distracted she didn’t notice she dropped a word?

Was she so distracted that she didn’t notice she dropped a letter from Sylvia Plath?

Notice anything odd here? The first name of the woman the writer refers to isn’t Elizabeth (it’s Elisabeth) and her last name isn’t Hasselback (it’s Hasselbeck); other than that, this is perfect:

What did she think re means?

It means “in reference to,” not “that is.” A relevant abbreviation might be i.e.

The comparative littler needs something to be compared to. Was that just a typo? Like the misplaced period, the use of apostrophes instead of real quotation marks, and the capitalized pronoun you?

What was she thinking? Or was she thinking at all?

Seeking a crackerjack writer

Not everything you read on the Interwebs is written by a crackerjack writer and edited by a crackerjack editor. Even articles written by professional writers can contain grammatical gaffes, punctuation problems, and terrible typos. The problems aren’t confined to Yahoo! Shine — it just seems that the site has more than its share of missteps and mishaps.

This mismatch of subject and verb might charitably be called a typo:

Maybe these are typos, too. A hyphen here and there would help clarify the writer’s meaning. And the elimination of an apostrophe would turn the contraction it’s (which means it is or it has) into the possessive pronoun:

And perhaps this is also the result of just pressing the wrong keys, or neglecting to press the Shift key::

If you mean the adjective that’s synonymous with “of excellent quality,” then the word is crackerjack. If you’re writing about the caramel popcorn treat with the surprise in every box, then that would be Cracker Jack, a trademark with two capital letters.

Here’s another pesky little typo masquerading as a grammatical error:

The subject of the sentence is messages and the verb should be seem. When the subject and verb are separated a phrase or two, it might be harder to keep them in sync. Harder, but not impossible.

A crackerjack editor would know that Nielson is misspelled and reality viewers doesn’t need a hyphen:

Finally, there’s this seldom-seen (at least by me) pileup of punctuation:

If a quotation ends in question mark, don’t include a comma, too.

That’s it! I’m off to the local Star Market to pick me up some Cracker Jacks.

Steve Jobs deserves better

When a well-known person passes away, the Web is awash with tributes. In a departure, the senior feature editor for Yahoo! Shine has written something of a tribute to the women in Steve Jobs’ life. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a grab bag of errors that’s more insulting than inspiring.

Mr. Jobs has been described as a private person and a brilliant egoist. Who knew that his wife Laurene shared those traits?

We all know that the writer made a mistake by placing that phrase before Laurene. But what can you expect from a writer who doesn’t know that Buddhist is a proper noun and the compound modifier billion-dollar needs a hyphen?

Mr. Jobs’ birth mother was a graduate student:

He was an 11-year-old:

Maybe this writer should just forget trying to use punctuation. She should just stick to using letters, numbers, and the Space bar, because she has no clue where to stick those little commas and apostrophes. And maybe she just ought to stick with writing in the present tense, because the past tense of some verbs (like forbid) alludes her (it’s forbade):

How many children did Mr. Jobs’ birth parents have? At least three, if you can believe this writer. There was Steve, his sister, and another sister:

(The fact is, his birth parents had another child, a daughter.) It looks like Piper is starting to take my advice and omit punctuation. She’s dropped a comma and the quotation marks around the book title. Good start!

Oops. She’s fallen back on her old ways and included an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong:

and a comma where it has no business being:

There’s more problems with her use of the Shift key when it comes to Zen Buddhist and Stanford business school. (Only the full name of the school, Stanford Graduate School of Business should be capitalized.) Readers can’t overlook the mismatch of program and foster (which should be fosters):

It’s meant to be some sort of tribute to the women in Steve Jobs’ life, but it’s really a tribute to carelessness and grammatical ignorance.

Some bona fide errors

There are two bona fide errors in this opening paragraph from Yahoo! Shine: A silly comma separating a subject and verb and a smooshed-together bona fide:

I’m pretty sure there’s a mistake here, too, like maybe this should be 6-foot tiered cake or 6-foot tall cake:

No question about it, there are two goofs here: The screwed-up Giuliana Rancic and “Sk8er Boi,” which needs a couple of capital letters and some quotation marks:

There’s a missing word here, but fear not; the writer made up for it by inserting an unnecessary word:

This is an absurd typo, I think. And some sort of attempt at a sentence, though all I can figure out is that the comma is wrong. And, of course, one more misspelled name: That should be Star Jones.

Step away from the keyboard and no one gets hurt

If she won’t go peacefully, someone needs to forcibly remove this writer from her position as senior features editor for Yahoo! Shine. At the very least, her access to a keyboard should be restricted so that she writes nothing more complicated than a grocery list.

This woman’s literary sins are enumerable. For a small sample, consider her inability to use punctuation (dropping apostrophes in random places), committing grammatical errors, and misspelling Ladies’ Home Journal:

In the same article she displays an abysmal ignorance of common English expressions like sister-in-law:

She makes stupid typos:

and ridiculous misspellings of alcohol and marijuana. I don’t even want to think about how one woman’s husband could also be someone’s sister. Perhaps the writer is still learning English and hasn’t mastered the difference between a sister and a brother. She certainly hasn’t mastered the use of the Shift key, using it arbitrarily to capitalize common nouns like  documentary:

Punctuation continues to be a challenge for this writer:

There were three daughters; to misplace the apostrophe, implying there was only one, is an insult to the daughters’ memory.

I think I speak for others when I urge this writer to get help. An editor. A proofreader. An English tutor. Better still, step away from the keyboard.

Let me say my piece

Let me say my piece about the writing that’s produced by Piper Weiss, the senior features editor for Yahoo! Shine: It is not good. She’s obviously still learning English, so perhaps I’m too hard on her. Like, maybe I shouldn’t expect a professional writer/editor to know the difference between peace and piece. Or the difference between a and the. Or the need for providing all the words in a sentence:

There’s just a missing word here:

and missing hyphen there:

and a totally bizarre bit of punctuation between the subject and verb:

It’s not that bad, really. This same writer/editor has done much, much worse.

What’s the lesson here?

What’s the lesson from this article on Yahoo! Shine? That you can sport the title of “senior features editor” with only a passing acquaintance with grammar, spelling, and punctuation? That you can get paid to write even if you have the vocabulary of a 12-year-old coupled with a complete disregard for accuracy?

So, in this article, the editor omits a word and uses a word that has no actual meaning in this context:

Do you think she meant “one that compromises their health”? Yeah, I can see how you could confuse negotiate with compromise.

No, this is an actual lie:

According to the Houston Chronicle, the teacher was the second fired in SIX weeks. But the ability to accurately reproduce information isn’t a requirement for writing at Yahoo!.

You’d think that ignorance of basic English expressions and the inability to match a subject and verb would be grounds for dismissal, but that’s not the case:

Again, the writer proves that she hasn’t mastered a simple Cut and Paste. This should be “with twist ties”:

Omitting a comma and a word here? Not a problem.

Adding several incorrect commas, failing to capitalize Special Olympics, including an unnecessary hyphen? It’s okie-dokie at Yahoo!.

Misspelling disciplining? It’s just one more error that Yahoo! overlooks.

What’s the lesson? If you have a problem with writing, can’t figure out how to use a spell-checker, and are unconcerned with accuracy in your writing, you too could work for Yahoo!.

Too stupid to explain

Some mistakes defy explanation. That’s the case with the goofs the senior features editor for Yahoo! Shine makes here:

Assuming that fall is a proper noun is a common mistake (at least among Yahoo! staffers). But the other errors? I have no idea how anyone with an IQ above room temperature would make those. What is a possible explanation for putting an apostrophe in Lorne Michaels. It’s really moronic. A comma after sitcom? Stupid. And the final error in this paragraph? Idiotic.

That’s it. The only explanation I can come up with: The writing is stupid, moronic, idiotic.

Writing about social eels

There are few jobs in the world where you can make egregious errors every day — in front of potentially millions of people — without consequences. Such is the job of editor for Yahoo! Shine.

Is this the job for you? It could be if you’re illiterate and proud of it! If you didn’t notice the grammatical gaffe here, you might just be a Shine editor:

If you think punctuation can be put anywhere in a sentence, you might be a Shine editor. If you don’t know the difference between social eels and social customs, this is the job for you!

And and if this looks okie-dokie to you, you might be a Shine editor:

Writing for Shine has gotten to be a sweet gig. No adult supervision. No standards. No need to write in English. Sign me up!

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