Saturday, June 25, 2011

Righting Eras Eye Halve Scene

Now that I've decided to be a professional writer when I grow up, I'm more terrified than ever of publishing stupid mistakes of spelling, grammar and syntax (whatever that is).  I proofread my blog posts so often that I almost hate them by the time I click the "publish" button.  I dread the day when someone I don't know posts a comment about one of my errors.

Why should that be?  We're all human, anyone can make a mistake or overlook an error.  Why am I so sensitive to the idea of having my writing critiqued or corrected?

Well, it's because no one laughs louder, longer or harder than I do at the spelling and writing errors of others.  I'm brutal - just ask any friend who has sent me a message on their IPhone, only to have their "auto-correct" function override their own writing skill and good sense.  I love to exploit the errors of others.   But it seems that I'm opening myself up to the same treatment from total strangers by trying to write for a living.  There's a good chance that The Golden Rule is about to kick in for me  That could be disastrous for my self-confidence.

But, I'm going to have to get thick-skinned and just get on with writing, knowing that I'll probably get caught making a few mistakes.  I just hope they aren't as pathetic as this one:

From a street in Kalamazoo, MI

As sad as that very public typo is, this next one, advertising a spelling contest, truly cracks me up:

It seems that the job of putting announcements on a large, lighted sign in front of a school would be assigned to someone who is known for attention to detail, as well as spelling accuracy.  Maybe that Sand Creek employee was on vacation that week in January.

Speaking of attention to detail, one website where I was trolling for funny errors had these sentences taken from actual resumes:

13. “I am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details.”

19. “Strong Work Ethic, Attention to Detail, Team Player,  Attention to Detail

I don't know about you, but if I was preparing a document aimed at promoting my accuracy, I might let someone else look it over for these kind of minor errors. (If you like these, go here for more of the same.)

It's easy to search out the errors of strangers.  But some of the mistakes I've seen have been so memorable, they have stayed with me for decades. In 5th grade, I tattled on a girl who shoved another girl down in the bathroom.  I told on the bully, even though I knew she might shove me too, or flush my lunch or beat me up on the playground.  But you know how she exacted her revenge?  She wrote me a note.  I didn't save it, but I remember the text like it was yesterday:


You are a ball-faced lyar.

I was scared, but that sad note gave me a mental picture that took the edge off my fear:

I feel sure that her limited understanding of slang phrases and her poor spelling skills weren't major contributing factors when she went to juvie the same year rest of us started high school.  If she's still around, I hope she gets to spot one of my mistakes.

In the late 1980s, I worked in sales for a business in Mobile, AL.  I once solicited secretarial help (as we innocently called it back then) and was appalled at the spelling errors on the resumes and applications I reviewed.  Of course, back then the average job-seeker didn't have access to a word processor - an IBM Selectric with the backspace/erase key was state-of-the-art in offices at that time.  Typing mistakes were very time-consuming and troublesome to correct, especially if not found until you'd pulled the paper out of the carriage.  Still, I was critical of mistakes and wouldn't even call an applicant if I caught any errors in spelling or grammar.  One resume was very memorable; there were too many errors to recall, but I've never forgotten the applicant's sign-off on her cover letter:

Last but not list, I am a not afraid of hand work.

Sinserally and truly,

Betty A. Applicant (not her real name).

I realize that if I wanted to write a book or column about notable misspellings or poor English usage, I'm about 20 years too late for the mass market.  Google the term "spelling errors" and you may spend the next hour choking on your Cheetos and snorting beer through your nostrils.  There is no shortage of compilations of hilarious and unfortunate spelling mistakes.  Besides, sometimes it's not the spelling that's the problem, it's the word choice or missing punctuation that turns an innocent comment into a funny or misunderstood one.  One need only peruse Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss to get hours of entertainment and a light dose of education about proper sentence structure and punctuation (click here to find it on

So I probably won't attempt to write a compilation of the world's funniest misspellings, since that has been done many times over.  Maybe one day I'll locate my missing list of repetitive redundancies that I started in the 1980s and added to religiously for years, before I lost it. Until I find it, here is an example:

“Along with your exciting guided tour of “Condominiums of Dead Possum Hollow, Phase III”  you are guaranteed at least one extra bonus free surprise gift!”

Wow, when a gift is not only free, but is also an extra bonus, you know it will be good, once it's no longer a surprise.

I'd also love to compile some of the all-time worst phrases from radio and TV ads of my youth, such as:

Save up to 50%, or more!

Get your Venn diagrams ready: as you all remember, the set that includes "up to" a number and "more" than that number is empty!  You cannot have it both ways!  If you get to save 50% on something, like a $5 shirt, you save half the cost, right?  That's $2.50.  If you save in excess of $2.50, then you exceed the "up to" part of the statement.  Here is what I mean:

Where A = "up to 50%" and B = "more than 50%," you cannot use the conjunction "and" and be accurate.  Set AB is an empty set!  You cannot have it both ways!  Did I already say that?

 Okay, I'm not only ranting, but I'm getting way off topic.  This rant is about writing, not math.  But I'll bet you are silently saying to yourself, "Thanks, Michele, for the lesson on set theory - I'd almost forgotten how fun that is."  You are very welcome.  

One last spelling mistake, then it's time to start the painful task of proofreading my own writing.

You may have seen this excerpt from a thank you note that circulated a few years ago:

 ‘Dear Sir. Thank you for your kind hospitality at Wimbledon last week. My friend and I had such a fantastic time and it was great to be able to enjoy the day knowing that we could have a little peace and quite if things got a little too hectic.'

You or I could probably recover from such a small error, but when it's made by the future Duchess of Cambridge (nee Kate Middleton), it's front page news.

Last but not least, I'll never know who to ridicule (or thank) for the punctuation-less sign I saw at a local restaurant, which inspired me to compose this rambling installment:



  1. LOL several times. Nice one. Bill

  2. Hey, you forgot a period at the end of the sentence at the beginning about, "The Golden Rule". Just putting that out there.

  3. Hey, we need a good proof reader. Are you available? Pay is pore.
    Magnolia Mansions Press per Aunt Margaret

  4. As usual Michelle you have me sitting here with laughter tears in my eyes.
    I'm on vacation in Florida at the moment, with serious jet lag (getting up at 3.30am). I noticed you had a new blog and had to read it. A good one again. Always looking forward to the next one.

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