Posted tagged ‘Scott Pelley’

Public grammar and spelling don’ts from public players

August 4, 2016

DSC001221-2I’m not going to pick on Larry King. Not even going to pick on Scott Pelley (this time). And certainly not going to pick on everyday people who mess up grammar in everyday use.

In these occasional call-outs of bad syntax, spelling, and other offenses against the English language, I’ve smacked the typing hands or shut the pieholes of magazine editors, broadcasters, company PR departments, ad writers, politicians, nonprofit communications pros, news reporters, and more. All either know the language or have people who know the language—and all have a platform to inflict their errors on a wider public.

Regular people who mess up through ignorance, sloppiness, or laziness: Clear communication is important. Please learn from others’ mistakes. Here are some just since the holidays ….

The website tag on a Post story about Mount St. Mary’s University: “The small Catholic college in southern Maryland became embroiled in crisis this year when its previous president suggested that students struggling academically should be culled.” Nice try, Post website writer. How about “a small Catholic college in Maryland, just south of Pennsylvania.” Like seven miles south. Unless you mean St. Mary’s College of Maryland—which you don’t, because that’s a whole nuther institution. (Numerous comments chastised the paper for correcting the mistake without noting that it had done so.)

Tsk to the editors of Reader’s Digest, several of whom failed to fix this Barack Obama quote on its way into print: “But just in case there’s any lingering questions, tonight I’m prepared to go a step further.” That should be “there’re” or “there are.” The sentence was spoken, not written, and even if Reader’s Digest got the quote from a transcript, the editors (including the author) should have caught the mistake.

Write headlines in haste, repent at leisure. The editor of this Washington Post article should consider the word “him”: “McConnell focused on the ideas that unite he and Trump, and that separate he and Hillary Clinton.” (That comma doesn’t belong there, either.) And writer Jennifer Rubin should consider the word “her”: From an op-ed in the Washington Post, “In a general election, the Clintons will encounter voters who don’t really recall either she or Bill in their pre-President Obama days.”

If you still need help lowering your blood sugar, this is Jardiance.
If … you’re talking to your doctor about a biologic, this is Humira.
(The Northern Virginia hospital chain Inova had a similar line in a recent radio ad.)
These are logic failures. They imply an if-then relationship, but actually, the second phrase is true regardless of the first phrase. “This is Jardiance”—a newish medicine—whether you need help lowering your blood sugar or not. The marketing campaign is a clever way of suggesting that Jardiance will do well at lowering your blood sugar when in fact the sentence says no such thing; it simply introduces the product and lets you draw your own conclusion. (By the way, Humira, a biologic what?)

New York Post headline: “Hillary Using Bill to Shakedown High-Profile Donors.” Gimme space! A noun is not a verb.

“I am standing with the 31 Governors that are working to keep our nation safe,” tweeted then-presidential candidate Ben Carson. Last I heard, governors (lowercase) are people, too. So they take who, not that. 

“Tastes so good, you won’t believe it has 50 percent less calories.” Argh, Trop 50, you’ve already made an abomination of orange juice; now you’re butchering the English language. “Fewer,” please!

Washington Post headline: “Legendary Photographer Ansel Adams Visited a Japanese Internment Camp in 1943, Here’s What He Saw.” A run-on sentence in a headline is another example to back up the assertion that the Post has lost (most of) its copyeditors and general grammatical knowledge.

And saving the worst for last: “U.S. News and World Reports has recognized the Naval Academy …. Upon graduation, midshipmen earn bachelor of Science degree in a choice of 25 different subject majors and go on to serve at least five years of exciting and rewarding services as commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marin Corps.” Bad, bad “United States Public Affairs Office”—and shouldn’t that be “United States Naval Academy Public Affairs Office”? This news release has to be seen to believed, especially because the highlighted sentences should be boilerplate.

Copyright 2016 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

More public grammar and spelling don’ts

November 17, 2015

Ignorance, sloppiness, autocorrect (a bane if I ever saw one) … there are many reasons for poor grammar and usage. But there are few excuses.

No one writes the way they talk—see what I did there?—and few of us even write the way we’re “supposed to” in everyday writing. That is, in emails to friends and sticky notes to coworkers, who much cares how U write as long as yr understood? Emails to your boss or the board, on the other hand, call for a higher standard.

Companies, government agencies, and nonprofits are also held to a higher standard. Any entity in business with or service to the public should respect itself and its audience enough to use proper English. If you don’t know enough to make a noun and a verb agree—and know that it matters that they do—find someone who does.

As always, I’m not going to pound on regular folks who mess with the language. Those “entities” that know better or should, though, deserve what they get. Some examples:

In direct mail from a nondenominational Maryland church, “The decisions we make can transform our lives, the lives of our families and impact our future.” As Sesame Street says, “Which one of these things does not belong?” Parallel usage, please. Though fighting “impact” as a verb may require the Almighty.

From a Washington Gas marketing flier: “Cross bores can lay dormant for months or even years, their exact locations unknown.” Cross bores may lie low—that’s an example of an idiom—but they lie dormant. And that’s no lie.

A radio ad for a timeshare-rescue company says, “How’d you like to be the person that dumped that timeshare?” Another says, “You deserve a dentist that can restore a full arch of teeth in a single visit.” If this dentist is a person and not a robot, he or she is a “who,” not a “that.”

There’s a lot of this going around: Referring to veterans, the New Mexico Department of Health website says, “We are proud to serve those that have served us.” And “Tonight we’ve learned more about the prison employee that investigators think helped the men escape ….”—With two previous mentions here, CBS’s Scott Pelley is going for the ungrammatical hall of fame.

From a Yahoo Music article: “The song lyrics warn about a wrath from God prompted by ‘the lack of raw humanity.’ ” I’ve heard of the wrath of God. Maybe this should say “a wreath”?

In an opinion column in the Washington Post: “the text of the Constitution, the legislative history, the legislative history of the civil rights statue that preceded it ….” Ooh, let’s see the civil-rights statue that preceded it. Pretty sure the Constitution came first, though.

The Hollywood Reporter, quoting Law & Order: SVU showrunner Warren Leight about an actor: “We’ve put his character through the ringer ….” No, you put his character through the wringer. My grandmother used a wringer. Being put through one would be very unpleasant. (See photo.)

From a Liberty Mutual magazine ad: “As an alumni of UVa, you could receive exclusive savings ….” Staff at the alumni association, whose logo is on the ad, should know that any graduate, alum, or former student is singular, not plural.

In the Washington Post Express, in a section on odd crimes: “After giving officers there a detailed description of the hat, police found it in a flowerbed and arrested him.” Police gave officers a description?

And in the Washington Post, those pesky vowels: “The decision does not effect the Ivanka Trump collection, which Macy’s also sells.” No. It doesn’t affect it, either, which is more to the point.

From a business coach’s newsletter on the subject of communication (irony alert): “If people don’t seem to be listening to you and reacting the way you desire, it is you, not them, that are the issue.” Oy! (Says Bill Walsh, Washington Post copyeditor: “ ‘They’ would be the quick fix, but I’d do more heavy lifting.”)

Another communicator who should know better is the writer/editor of FishbowlNY, which ran this sentence this summer: “The New York Daily News has received bids from John Catsimatidis and Jimmy Finkelstein, but neither appear to be the frontrunner.”

On a poster in Washington, DC’s, transit system: “A smart kid like you knows that eating and drinking in the system is against the law, right?” And a smart Metro knows that two subjects take a plural verb, right? (It didn’t mean only people who do these things in combination. Folks have been arrested for just the French-fries part.)

Okay, this is not strictly a grammatical error and seemed to be an off-the-cuff remark, nothing official. But it made me giggle while listening to WTOP radio: “Watch out for deer on the road in all this fog. I saw two of them driving in this morning.

Copyright 2015 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

More people (other than Larry King) who don’t make a lot of sense in public

January 27, 2015

Last year I called out people and institutions for messing up the language in ways big and small. Once again, I’m not elbowing ordinary folks for mistyping an email. Instead, they’re either public figures who should know better or institutions that have editors, PR experts, or other professionals to make sure they communicate properly. Or both.

You’re role models, and these errors are preventable, folks. Please, care enough to prevent them!

“It’s Regency Furniture’s 25th silver anniversary.” Really? The furniture company has been around since 1389? Listening to the radio in the car one January night, I responded, “You did not just say that!”

Advertisements for Ford vehicles have been using the tagline “Go Further.” I guess we can assume the company is talking metaphorically rather than literally about the vehicles’ ability to drive a long distance on whatever fuel they use. Because that would be “farther.” Wrote, “The new slogan, ‘Go Further,’ is intended in part as a warning against complacency after three years of profits, executives say.” Oh. Then maybe it’s not a grammatical mistake….

On January 6, the sports page of the Washington Post Express told us about this year’s “parody-filled” NBA conference. That it may be. Also parity-filled. But I like it the first way better.

Did you gift this to someone for the holidays? “ ‘The Art of French Gifting—La Vie est Belle’ Holiday Soirée Purchase with Purchase ($89 Value)” by Lancome. I love what the Atlantic said about this abuse of the English language: “Would you ever say ‘gifting’ out loud? Would you ever, without a sense of irony or shame, ask someone the question, ‘What can I gift you for your birthday?’ No, most likely, you would not. Not only because you are not (I am assuming) socially awkward, but also because, more to the point, you are not—or you would very much prefer not to be—a stooge of Madison Avenue.”

Scott Pelley, anchor, CBS Evening News: “There’s the First Lady in the First Lady’s box with several guests that have been invited.” No, no, Scott. A journalist of your experience should know that people and named animals are who; objects and unnamed animals are that. (This is the second time I’ve dinged Mr. Pelley for a grammatical bugaboo.)

NBC’s Anne Thompson, on the eve of January’s blizzard: “New York’s streets will most likely shut down by 11 p.m. tonight.” Not to single out NBC; Thompson’s hardly the only reporter to inflict this redundancy on us.

Penguin Press, which is touting a very political memoir by the very political David Axelrod, just put out a release with a whopping mistake in it. As Foreign Policy wrote, “Can you ‘C’ the typo?” “… I’m reaching out regarding BELIEVER: My Forty Years in Politics by David Axelrod, which we are proud to publish on February 10th (exactly 8 years after Senator Barak Obama stood on the steps of the Old Capitol Building in Springfield and announced he was running for president of the United States). … No other person, except perhaps for Barak Obama, knows exactly what it took to make that announcement possible ….”

I count seven errors (not just style quibbles such as hyphenation) in this story from WIOD Radio about an embarrassing government typo:
“Advertising Error Forces Miami-Dade County To Re-Approve 2015 Budget”
“Deja Vu for Miami-Dade County as commissioners are being forced to re-approve their 2015 budget.
“The Florida Department of Revenue says the county has to re-adopt it’s property tax-rate and budget again because of a numerical error that was detailed in a September newspaper advertisement about the tax rate.
“Residents’ rate won’t be changed as a result, and the notices sent out via mail were correct and do not have to be re-sent.
“But Commissioners are expected to hold it’s new hearing early next month. They have to hold another public hearing, re-issue the newspaper ad, and hold its vote.”

And now a promising note: “Report a Typo or Grammatical Error”
“FOX40 takes accuracy in our writing very seriously, but errors can sometimes slip through. If you notice a typo or grammatical error, please let us know.
“Using the form below, let us know which story you found the error in and we will promptly correct it.
“Thank you for reading”
Hey! Thank you, Fox40, the Fox affiliate station in Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto, California. I hope people take you up on this—or rather, don’t, if it indicates you’re doing a good job on this front.

Copyright 2015 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

Larry King and other people who don’t make a lot of sense in public

March 21, 2014

It’s a little too easy to come down on people who mess up the language in some kind of open forum—on Facebook, for instance, or on a radio call-in show. “Regular folks” should be off limits. But people who make their living in the public square, people who should know better and who are practiced at this sort of thing? That’s different. Especially those who have the benefit of editors and staff.

These are just some examples of poor role models, or occasional slip-ups by folks who should be role models, that I’ve come across lately. Some of their mistakes are grammatical, some are in spelling, some are in pronunciation, some are just sloppy typing, and some are probably ignorance uncaught by any editor. Some mistakes are no doubt made by low-level people who happen to speak (or write) for supposedly high-minded outlets. Come on, leaders: Just as with your stars, when someone in a low pay grade addresses the world for the whole, invest in a second set of eyes.

• Larry King, in launching his new television talk show last year, was widely quoted as saying, “I would rather ask questions to people in positions of power instead of speaking on their behalf.” The show’s advertising is still trumpeting that line.

In all this time the powers that be couldn’t film the man saying something more comprehensible? A few wording changes would fix the grammar; the connection between interviewing people and speaking for them is harder to explain.

• “Please reduce down to no more than two capsules a day.” It figures that an ad for Garcinia Plus, a weight-loss drug (to lose redundant pounds), would use redundant verbiage. Or is “reduce” a play on words?

• “Did you make a person last year? A little tiny person that’s really bad at eating?” Cute, Turbo Tax. But a person of any size is a “who,” not a “that.”

• “They say you are what you eat. Well, at Perdue, we say you are what you eat eats.

The public-radio show “A Way With Words” has a blog that took on the (deliberately) missing word. “Never mind the implication that you are a chicken. Glide right past that,” its moderator wrote. “Perdue needs better copy editors.”

CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley must have missed the school lesson in spelling and/or pronunciation of “Arctic,” because he says it this way every time he mentions climate change or winter weather: “A massive Artic air mass ….”

• “More on Yahoo: Six Degree That Make Your Résumé Look Good.” Oops. Fingers type faster than brain thinks? Or does brain not have a degree?

• From the Washington Post, February 28: “BREAKING NEWS Economy grew slower that thought in 4Q.” Ditto. A pretty common mistake that passes spell check, unfortunately.

• “Montgomery College will open at 11AM, Tuesday March 4th due to anticipated icy road conditions. … If your class can meet for at least half of it’s scheduled time … your class will meet when the College opens at 11 a.m.” Sigh.

• “The challenge of rearchitecting ….” I heard this in an ad for VMware one morning and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding.” The Midwest has fertilizer ads, and Washington has government contracting ads. Are they really much different?

Not having memorized the rest of the sentence, I Googled that phrase. VMware talks about “virtualizing Tier 1 applications” and “the work that we’re architecting for future generations to come.” (Redundancy again.) This is the sort of thing that people in the know translate without a thought but outsiders hear as gibberish.

Meanwhile, “rearchitecting” led to a bunch of hits, mostly from IT companies. One man’s blog says this: “We don’t need to rearchitect the Internet. We need to rearchitect society.” Someone should consider rearchitecting his vocabulary.

• And the best public mistake of all lately:

Fox News, While Reporting About a Spelling Bee, Misspells Spelling Bee

“By Scott Kleinberg Chicago Tribune social media editor
“10:07 a.m. CDT, March 11, 2014

“Fox News, your word is bee.

“Can you use it in a sentence?

“We can, but the network apparently can’t, using ‘spelling be’ in place of spelling bee in a caption at the bottom of the screen during an airing of the show Fox & Friends.” ….

Copyright 2014 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

To be or not to bee, that is the question.