Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm no mathematician, but...

In this passage from the November 14th issue of a very well-known American news magazine, 82 is, apparently, greater than 86.

I'm not certain whether this is an error of the writer (possibly distracted while writing?) or of the typesetter/designer, but either way, a good copy edit should have surfaced the error before it was published.

When you're editing, you need to check your text in a few different ways:

1) Is the content factual?
2) Are all the words spelled correctly, numbers presented accurately, etc.?
3) Is the grammar correct?

Errors can creep in at any stage of the process

I was shocked the first time I received a "final proof" of an annual report from a designer only to discover new errors had surfaced in the text. They were minor changes - in fact, they were instances in which the designer had decided to "help" my client by "improving" the sentences (note the use of sarcastic quotation marks - see last week's post on this blog).

We caught them all and changed them back before it went to print - but only because I was proofreading the whole text one more time (as opposed to simply confirming our last round of changes had been made accurately).

Once the document is published, it's published. You can sometimes withdraw it to correct an error - but often, you can't. My advice: always give a text one full, final proofread before signing off.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


A contributor sent in this photo, suspicious of what was on the menu in this restaurant. Is it, in fact, serving ribs? If not, what is it serving to customers who order ribs?

Though you'll often see them used this way (The Blog of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks is devoted to this error), quotation marks are not intended to provide emphasis -- and using them for emphasis can lead to embarrassing miscommunication.

Why? Because quotation marks are also used to indicate sarcasm -- much like "air quotes" do in verbal communication.

In the photo above, the restaurateur intends to communicate that s/he serves the best ribs in town -- but his/her quotation marks suggest s/he's serving something other than ribs.

In the same way, we have to wonder:

Is this Director really acting?

And what really happens to you if you bring a re-usable mug for your coffee?

If you want your readers to take your message at face value, don't use quotation marks for emphasis.

Use typography.