Part of my job is running the Bremner Editing Center at the University of Kansas, where journalism students can get one-on-one help editing their work. It’s always best to have a second set of eyes on anything you write for publication (or a grade), to catch awkward or unclear passages as well as typos, skipped or duplicated words, and tricky homophones. It’s hard to see mistakes in your own work, since you already know what you meant to say, even if it’s not what you actually wrote.
However, sometimes getting an editor is just not possible – nobody ever writes anything the day it’s due, right? So if you’re in a pinch, here are a few things you can do to try to catch your own mistakes:
One semester when I was teaching a media-writing course, I handed a quiz back and one of the students blurted out, with a mix of exasperation and fear, “I didn’t know grammar counted.” I replied, of course it counts, because if you are going to write for a living, your writing needs to look professional.
Since then, I’ve encountered articles and studies that emphasize the importance of clear, clean writing in the professional world – and provide valuable advice to students (or anyone who writes).
Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Dec. 31, 2011.
I’ve been taking pictures all year of errors I’ve spotted “in the wild” — on signs, in stores and other places out and about. Most were the “grocer’s apostrophe” — using an apostrophe to make a plural. But there were a few other types, and a couple of two-fers to boot. Enjoy.
Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Oct. 18, 2011.
(Revised from a guest post originally written for Voxy.com that also appeared on Ragan.com)
Writers and editors have a lot to juggle in making prose presentable: big-picture items like accuracy, clarity, flow and structure, as well as details like grammar, spelling, punctuation and word choice. Details matter: one wrong word — even one wrong letter — can change the meaning of a sentence, or make it confusing. This is why editors especially need a keen eye for detail (plus a sense for smooth writing, and that little bell in your head that goes off when something seems not quite right).
One of the regular features Grammar Monkeys does on Twitter is “When spell-check won’t help”: sentences that have a wrong word that’s still a word. It’s not flagged by spell-check, but it’s a mistake that can throw the whole sentence off — or make it unintentionally funny. We find a lot of these in copy, and now people tweet them to us as well (thanks to @grammarsnark, @madbeyond, @EATutor and @bergly for some of the examples below).
Originally published on Grammar Monkeys on Sept. 27, 2010.
Typo hunters Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson stopped in Wichita on Monday night on their book tour for “The Great Typo Hunt.” The book chronicles their cross-country odyssey of correction a couple of years ago, which included several hundred typos spotted, a few hundred typos fixed, and one federal court case. Before their lively reading to a packed house at Watermark Books — including a quiz that determined who the “Grammar Hawks” and the “Grammar Hippies” are, and a list of the five worst typo-caused disasters in history — they had time for a little chat.
The pair said they haven’t been actively hunting typos as much on the book tour because they’re focusing more on touting the importance of proofreading — heading typos off at the pass, as it were. That, however, doesn’t mean they didn’t find any here in Wichita. (Billboard on Kellogg that says “Lets” instead of “Let’s,” this means you.) Continue reading Typo hunters in Wichita→
Originally published on Grammar Monkeys on Aug. 8, 2010.
We see typos every day — on signs, on the Web, on shirts, in books. Most of us shake our heads and move on, or snap a picture to post online. But as Benjamin Herson, one of the co-authors of the new book “The Great Typo Hunt,” observes, “a typo that everyone walks past and no one ever corrects signifies a much deeper communication breakdown.”
Herson traveled the country with his buddy Jeff Deck in 2008 spotting and attempting to fix all manner of typos, using Sharpies and “elixir of correction” and chalk and markers, even climbing ladders to rearrange letters. Their book chronicles this adventure — quixotic though it might have been — including the federal case that got made out of one of their fixes. It’s a fun and interesting book, with insights into language and culture that go way beyond misplaced apostrophes. An example: One worker was particularly steadfast in her refusal to let them fix an error, telling the pair, “I would rather have a sign spelled incorrectly than a tacky-looking sign.”