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When I am Copyeditor General ...: February 2008


Financial companies will not tax my patience

As Ben "C-Note" Franklin once said, "In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes."

Which means both are healthily competitive industries. Which means companies have to try a little harder to stand out. Which means, therefore, that they should be veeerrry careful to avoid appearing shoddy and unprofessional.

(You can tell I'm going somewhere with this, can'tcha?)

This is especially true in the case of financial service companies (see, that's where the taxes part comes in), whose credibility lies their mastery of detail.


Exhibit A comes courtesy of the lovely Ashley, whose heightened awareness of grammatical faux pas has earned her the title of Deputy of the Week:

To confirm its correct what, exactly, H&R Block?

Over at A&E Financial Services, there's a two-fer: an errant apostrophe and confusion over whether the company is a singular or plural entity:

Not just an accountant; not a proofreader either.

But at least we should be grateful that someone there knows how to spell accountant, unlike the chaps at Matthews Hanton:

The prize, though, goes to Keith M. Earl, Certified Public Accountant:

Oh, I'm sorry; did I say "Certified Public Accountant"? My mistake.

Copyeditor General's ruling:When your business is built on attention to detail, your expertise in that area should shine through in everything you do. But if you can't be bothered to spellcheck your site, what are the chances you double-check your balance sheets?

News outlets will follow the lead of coffee chains

Perhaps Starbucks's confusion concerning "less" and "fewer" is forgivable; its people should rightly be more concerned with prompt delivery of my soy latte with sugar-free vanilla than with grammatical niceties.

However, I cannot extend the same benevolence to the Associated Press. While reading this:

I found this:

Oh dear me, Mark Jewell! Dear me again, AP editorial staff! You can spell bacteriophage but you can't follow your own rules?

Copyeditor General's ruling: The AP Stylebook's ruling:
fewer, less
In general, use fewer for individual items, less for bulk or quantity.


Coffee chains will make fewer mistakes

There are two reasons I rarely use a napkin when I go to Starbucks: first, it's an unnecessary waste of paper; second, this:

I don't know whether it's supposed to be a promise, a threat, or an admonishment. Either way, it annoys me every time.

Copyeditor General's ruling: Too much coffee can make one irritable. So can too many grammatical errors. I suggest Starbucks work on making fewer mistakes before they start thinking about fewer napkins.

Ninjas will have totally sweet editing skills

When I want to rant make constructive criticism on a topic that covers both food and words, I have a dilemma: do I get snarky outline my concerns here or on LimeyG Bends Yer Lughole, my other, more foodular blog?

This week, I wrote about bad restaurant website design on LimeyG. But I also found a site so loaded with typos, it was more suited to sharing here.

Maybe it's not fair to call out Ninja New York for grammatical incorrectness: the management team is Japanese, so can be forgiven for lack of fluency in English. But should that really be an excuse? Were there no proofreaders, no professional writers, no marketing-department members to suggest an edit here or there?

Copyeditor General's ruling: Ninja, I love you. Your creative food, your cozy caves, even the Magicain who asks my table. But please ask someone to take a look at the site before you make any updates. Oh, and please don't come after me with one of those big swords. Domo arigato gozaimasu.


All my exes will live in fear of typos

Q: What's more annoying than apostrophe misuse?
A: Selective apostrophe misuse.

These cutely titled address books sit in a gift store in Davis Square:

Who does this? Who understands what a plural noun looks like, recognizes that there's no apostrophe--and then decides there must be an exception to the rule?

Copyeditor General's ruling: The correct spelling is exes, as in "I count among my exes many misguided souls who don't own dictionaries."


God will be in the details

Spotted on College Ave this week:

Is it possible to age in any other direction? Or is this congregation keeping something from the rest of us?

Copyeditor General's ruling: Just because you have extra letters, it doesn't mean you have to use them.
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