Category Archives: Journalism

Welcome, MSNBC readers!

I was wondering why my blog was going crazy with visits today!

If you haven’t yet heard, I’ve been featured in another piece — “Fastidious Spelling Snobs Pushed Over the Edge” by Diane Mapes on MSNBC.com.

It’s a great feature.  Nice work, Diane!

Welcome, readers.  Enjoy the blog — and if you have any submissions of grammar or spelling errors in your community, feel free to email me at kate.mcculley [at] gmail.com.

If you’re a news organization and would like to contact me for an interview — I’ve done educational grammar consulting and I’ve been featured as the resident grammarian on a few NPR segments — feel free to email me as well.

Thanks for visiting!

They just make it too easy.

I’ll let this picture from People.com speak for itself:

I love it.

Racist Typo

I was reading the Metro on the train this morning when I came across a travel feature on Mystic, Connecticut.  I briefly scanned it — and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Talking about a bar in town, this is how the piece begins:

The bar is rapidly filling up, and soon the air is thick with chatter and the chink of ice on glass.

I knew something wasn’t right.  I had seen that word before, and I was pretty sure it was a racist term.  After double-checking with a few coworkers and Urban Dictionary, I confirmed it.  It is a racist term for a Chinese person or a person of Asian descent.

How could this appear in the paper?!

Clearly, the writer, Linda Laban, was searching for an onomatopoeia of some kind.  Either she originally put in the word clink and an editor changed it, or she thought that the word chink had a good sound to it.  And I in no way think that she or the editors are racist. It looks like an accidental typo.

That being said, where was the editor to find this horrible error and remove it?

We all know that Metro is no stranger to errors — the paper is usually peppered with them.

Even today, there was a great blurb on the front page:

It is predicted that 56 billion people worldwide will be hypertensive by 2025.

At least I can laugh at that one.

Unnecessary Commas

I hate unnecessary commas.  It seems like they’re used all the time, often after a name.  Take this example that I just read on People.com:

For years, Christie Brinkley has thrown a big bash for daughter Sailor’s, summertime birthday – and this year was no different, even with her legal showdown with soon-to-be ex-hubby Peter Cook looming next week.

Yech.

Just take it out.  It never should have been there.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  I’m going to look for more…

We can only break the glass ceiling so much….

I found this on Facebook and it’s too good not to share here:

I’m done.


That’s it. I no longer trust the National Enquirer.

Taser — capitalize it!

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida student was Tasered and arrested Monday when he attempted to speak at a forum with U.S. Sen. John Kerry during a question and answer session, university officials said….

….While as many as four police officers tried to remove Meyer from the forum, he yelled for help and asked “What did I do?” Minutes after Meyer started speaking, he was Tasered.

Source

Until tonight, I did not know that it was necessary to capitalize the word Taser.

(For the record, I only went on Fox News because it’s the only news outlet reporting that Britney is going to lose custody of her kids tomorrow.)

There are so many words that we say all the time and often don’t realize need to be capitalized — like Band-Aids, for example. In fact, there was recently a lawsuit over the use of the term “Flexi-Wings” on feminine products. It turns out it’s trademarked, like many other seemingly innocuous phrases (including GRAMMAR VANDAL).

It turns out that Taser is not merely a type of weapon, as I believed, but a specific trademarked weapon that must be capitalized at all times. I can understand that for a noun, but when it’s being used as a verb, it just looks strange!

As for the content of the story itself, I’m shocked that it had to come to Tasering an unarmed person, and I have the feeling that the whole story isn’t being reported. (It never said that he attacked any of the officers or did anything more than refusing to stop speaking, though it did say he was charged with resisting arrest.) Why couldn’t they have just cuffed him or even slammed him to the ground?

Still evolving!

This reminds me of the episode of Pinky and the Brain when Brain goes on Jeopardy and they keep calling him Brian.

If you begin the article, you’ll realize that the headline, in fact, should read, “Human brain still evolving, scientists say.” There were several scientists in the study!

VMA Errors

The VMAs (not the VMA’s) just took place, and already, there are several news stories full of errors about the awards show.

From cnn.com:


To that end, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, Kanye West, Fall Out Boy and the Foo Fighters were each hosting four separate suite parties, where much of the show’s performances would be held.

The Grammar Vandal says that there were many. Many.


That might have been the purpose — to whet the audiences appetite for repeat viewings by promising glimpses of what they missed during the traditional broadcast.

The audience’s appetite. Please use that wonderful apostrophe.

From people.com:

“Was that incredible? Britney Spears, everyone,” Silverman said. “Wow. She is amazing. She is 25-years-old and she’s already accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in her life. It’s mind blowing.”

At 25 years old, Britney is a 25-year-old. Sarah Silverman’s mind was blown by the mind-blowing accomplishments of Britney Spears.

Come on. I know that the awards show JUST happened, and it was live TV, but come ON! Accuracy isn’t that difficult!

I don’t like this tense.

When reading news articles and other sources of Web journalism, the tense is nearly always the past. The past makes sense because the stories describe events that have already taken place.

I hopped over to People.com after a night at Johnny D’s to grab the last news of the night, and I came across the following story. It describes Usher’s appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Here is a clip:

Dad-to-Be Usher: ‘I Want a Boy’

“Last time you were here, you were single,” DeGeneres also tells him. “You said you wanted a lady that you could take from the Waffle House to the White House. You found her.”

“I did. I found someone that I’m very, very happy to call my wife,” he tells her. “Tameka Raymond. She’s beautiful.”

Only DeGeneres also wants to know why she wasn’t invited to the wedding, which was originally scheduled for July 28 in the Hamptons but ended up taking place in a civil ceremony in Atlanta.

One thing that complicates the issue is that this show already taped, but it’s set to broadcast this Tuesday. The conversation already happened, obviously, but it hasn’t shown on TV. In a strange way, it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist yet.

I particularly find the third paragraph awkward-sounding. The tenses are all over the place.

I’m trying to imagine why this seems so familiar, and I think I recognize the usage of the present tense from reviews of children’s books and movies. “Mary Anne realizes that it’s true — she, in fact, misses Logan and wants him back.” “Kristy wants to start a softball team, but a little boy named Jackie Rodowsky is completely accident-prone!”

But, now that I think about it, why would that be restricted to children’s works? It shouldn’t be. All reviews are in the present tense.

I’m thinking more, and after reading through the story again, I think it’s more a stylistic issue than anything else. The writer, describing what each person says, seems to do something that is extraneous. We don’t need to be told every line in advance. Doing so makes it seem like we don’t understand it, which is paradoxical, because as celebrity gossip fans, we want to hear every line!

I’m having a hard time explaining this, and I wish I could do it better.

What do you think? Does using the present tense and describing each line each person says make it sound juvenile?

In other news, while having pizza at Mike’s in Davis Square tonight, I noticed a grammatical error on the cocktail menu.

“Do you have a pen?” I asked my sister.

She stared at me coldly. “DON’T.”

I am no longer permitted to vandalize grammar in front of her because it embarrasses her.

Clarification on "In Tow"

I saw this story a few weeks ago on People.com, then forgot about it, thought it was on TMZ.com, searched relentlessly and finally found it.

Readers may disagree on this one.

From Nicole Richie and Joel Madden: Engaged?


The pair, along with entourage in tow, popped into Nathans of Georgetown restaurant for a late lunch before making their way to the upscale Georgetown baby boutique Dawn Price Baby.

First of all, if you look back to Grammar Errors in Our Nation’s Capital, you will see my picture of the name plate at Nathans in Georgetown, chastising its pointless lack of an apostrophe. (Seriously, does the restaurant gain anything from not including the apostrophe? Barneys New York, take note!)

However, after seeing this story, I realized that I had a problem with the writer, Arnesa A. Howell, and her usage of the phrase along with entourage in tow.

Ideally, I would have used entourage in tow.

Easily, one also could have used along with their entourage.

But when one uses along with entourage in tow, it’s perfectly redundant. It’s unnecessary.

It hurts my head.

Crocs and Sideshow Bob

I have made my feelings regarding crocs quite clear in Kate’s Adventures. In fact, they relate to two amusing stories. Check out this entry first, then this one. You will have a very clear idea of how I feel about these abominable, hideous shoes.

Therefore, I was quite delighted to see a feature in Metro condemning them and recommending shoes that offer just as much comfort, but are much more attractive. I was not, however, delighted to see the grammar in the headline:

Die crocs die.

It should be Die, crocs, die. The statements are directed at the crocs, so they should be separated by commas.

This reminded me of Sideshow Bob’s tattoo on The Simpsons. His tattoo reads, “Die, Bart, Die,” and even though I haven’t seen that episode in years, I could have sworn that the commas were included in the tattoo.

I did a Google Image search, and this is the best image of him with the tattoo showing that I could find:

It doesn’t look like any commas are used, but there may be a period at the end. Technically, that period isn’t even necessary.

Interestingly, I remember in that episode that he tells the parole committee that the tattoo reads, “Die Bart, Die,” in German. He pronounces it with the commas as I placed them just now. Perhaps that means that there were never any commas, which allowed him to pronounce the sentence the way he did.