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Monday, August 24, 2009

Crossword Editor not Proofreading Well Enough

I've been working and recommending crossword puzzles for a long time. They are a great way to keep your mind sharp, increase your vocabulary, work with ideas, and fine tune your grammar skills.

Until recently, I have rarely seen a spelling error or a grammar glitch related to a crossword puzzle clue or answer.

This week, however, the USA Today Crossword contained a spelling error one day and a grammar glitch the next. That really surprised me because I had come to think that crossword puzzle editors must be the best proofreaders in the world.

The spelling error--and I might note that it was one a spelling checker would have caught--was in Clue #48 Down. It read "Sherrif's assistance." Hm-mm, I thought. Maybe a "sherrif" is some exotic person I've just never heard of. And then I even considered that maybe the puzzle was asking about Omar Sharif. But, as I worked the puzzle, I could clearly see that the answer was turning out to be "posse." I even checked my dictionary to be sure I hadn't suddenly forgotten how to spell "sheriff."

I chalked this up to the "Everyone is entitled to a goof once in a while" category until I settled in the very next evening to work the USA Today crossword puzzle. This time, I only got as far as Clue #9 Down, which was "Car lot figure." After getting a couple of Across letters, I concluded that the answer was "salesman," which is singular like "figure" in the clue. (You need to know at this point that I often tell my husband, who loves crossword puzzles, and my workshop participants that the grammar in crossword puzzles is always impeccable.)

Unfortunately, that worked only until I tried to fill in the answer for Clue #34 Across, which was "Goalies' specialities." The answer here had to be "saves," and the "e" in "saves" meant that the answer for #9 Down was working only as "salesmen," which is plural. Clue #9 Down should have read "Car lot figures."

You might read this and think that I'm being picky, but then again, crossword puzzle people are people who are interested in words and using them correctly. I think USA Today should expect its crossword puzzle editor to be more careful.
Please send me an e-mail if you come across any other careless crossword puzzle editors. I'm hoping this is a one-time phenomenon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Be careful not to tangle up your prepositional phrases!

If you create a sentence that contains several prepositional phrases, it is important to arrange them in a clear and logical order. If you don't, the reader will end up wondering what goes with what.

Here is a good example from a recent article in a Birmingham newspaper:

Jimmerson, the film's writer and director, has interviewed immigrants, academics, politicians and others for her documentary at the U. S.-Mexico border and across Alabama.

I've highlighted the prepositional phrases in this sentence in different colors so you can spot them easily. The problem is that the focus of the sentence is supposed to be on WHERE the interviews took place, NOT on where the documentary was filmed. By inserting "for her documentary" between the interviewees and their locations, the reporter has thoroughly confused the sentence.

It would be much clearer written as follows:

For her documentary, film writer and director Jimmerson has interviewed immigrants, academics, politicans and others at the U. S.-Mexico border and across Alabama.

Another solution would be to drop the phrase "for her documentary" completely from this sentence because the reporter makes it clear in the previous sentence (The 58-year-old spoke over coffee in Birmingham, where she came recently to tape the last interview for her documentary.") that the interviews are for her documentary.

Happy Prepositional Phrase Placing, Everyone!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Job Hunting? Use Grammar Knowledge to Spot Internet Scams

The New York Times News Service reported this week that criminals are setting up "increasingly sophisticated traps" to catch those surfing for job opportunities on the Web. Although your Spam filter offers some protection, many of these creeps are still getting through.

The article suggests that one good way to protect yourself is to notice which of these offbeat ads use poor grammar and bad spelling. Also watch out for e-mails from addresses that don't match that of the company they are supposed to represent.


Good luck with your job search--on reputable sites from reputable companies!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Whoooo? or Whooom?

We have all struggled with when to use WHO and when to use WHOM. Even if I know that WHO is the subject form and WHOM is the object form, I still have to analyze the sentence to figure out which one to use.

The wedding article person at my local newspaper forgot to run an analysis before posting her wedding article last week. In talking about how the couple met, she wrote:

After dinner, they saw "The Chronicles of Narnia" with Chad's twin brother and his girlfriend, whom today is his wife.

Whoops! She should have used the subject form in this sentence because WHO is the subject of the second clause.

The sentence should read as follows:

After dinner, they saw "The Chronicles of Narnia" with Chad's twin brother and his girlfriend, who is now his wife.

Better, don't you think?