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Discussion > Hoo wood of nown…

The number of typographical howlers does seem to be growing – the Bish himself has set this ball rolling, with his tweet: “Wish I had a penny for every person who doesn't know the difference between "pour over" and "pore over"…

Others abound: “towing the line” and “would of” being two common ones. Along with these, there are the punctuation blunders, with either not enough or too many, often randomly-scattered, commas, or spaces before – often made worse by no space after (“Here ,it can be seen.What is, the point ?”)

Call me a wittering old biddy of you will, but it was ingrained into me that spelling, grammar and punctuation were necessary to ensure that your message was transmitted without the need for interpretation, and to minimise any reading effort – “readability” is the idiom, nowadays. You only have to read Ian M. Banks’ “Feersum Enjins” to see that point (and, no, I am not sure if that (mis)spelling is correct) about ease of reading; the misspelling was deliberate and was for good reasons, but it is a good book, if hard to read.

Anyhoo… add any that you may have noticed, yourself, and don’t let me be the only one to go off on a rant.

Aug 23, 2015 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Call me a wittering old biddy of you will ...

Muphry's law strikes again.

Aug 23, 2015 at 8:15 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Muphry's law strikes again.

Pots and kettles, anyone? BTW how do you do the underlining thingie?

Aug 23, 2015 at 9:17 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Noone for no one.

Believes for evidence.

Climate change for global warming.


Aug 23, 2015 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

RR - try googling "Muphry's law".

To underline - I don't know if there is a 'proper' way to do it, but «abbr title=""» works (replace the "«" brackets with "<").

Somewhere on BH recently I saw that someone had done it "by didn't of hard work".

Aug 23, 2015 at 9:48 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

"Yonder pedant, who is he ...?"

Join the club.

I fear some things have gone too far. 'Flout'/'flaunt' is my personal hate. 'Disinterested'/'uninterested' is another which is forgiveable but a shame because it has deprived the English language of a good word to describe "not having any personal interest in the outcome". Fifteen syllables where five would have done!
How did we get 'that' for 'than' on a qwerty keyboard? Brain fade is the only possible excuse.
A lot of the others result from people not reading. Nobody really reads any more. They listen but not properly so you end up with "towing the line" because no-one any longer understands the derivation of the expression. There are numerous similar examples (none of which, of course, come to mind just now when I want them).

Aug 23, 2015 at 9:59 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I'm staying right out of this topic, except to repeat something Humphrey Littleton said. He was being interviewed and the guy said 'I hear that you're something of an orthinologist.' He didn't think of the perfect comeback for the verbal trip until he was in the car going home. 'Not so much an orthinologist, more of a word botcher.'

Aug 23, 2015 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

"How did we get 'that' for 'than' on a qwerty keyboard?"
I think a lot of apparent mistakes are due to predictive text functions where people aren't reading what comes up on the screen. I know it caught me out a lot when I first encountered the problem in a word processor. It still does, but I often spell check my comments. That, in itself, will not eliminate such spelling mistakes, but reading the comment in a different font seems to make them more visible to me.

I think spelling still makes a big difference to most readers. I will usually stop reading a comment after a third serious spelling mistake. But I confess to liking my commas.

Aug 24, 2015 at 12:29 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Martin A (9:48 PM): yes – it was that one that sparked my fire, so to speak, for this discussion. The Bish, himself, added the kindling, then Geronimo managed to fan it with his slip-up, and you provided the accelerant. Who can we toast, now?

Oh, and you’ve done it again: when I googled “Muphry’s Law”, it was corrected to “Murphy’s Law”. Anyway, you were saying…?

Yes, MJ, I suspect part of the problem is that many no longer read – actually read rather than just skim over – what is written. That is evident when you see many of the ripostes that can be offered for cogent argument – you can see the person has NOT read what was written, but skimmed over, and applied their own prejudices about the writer to fill in any gaps. As for examples – yes, they can be frustratingly elusive, when you want them; add your/you're, their/there/they're, affect/effect and enquiry/inquiry to the list.

Michael Hart: yes, commas are good. Commas can give time to pause for breath, or they can allow the sentence to wander a little in its subject matter, or even, as one often likes to, add a little something that the sentence can do without, but might be richer for. It is their misuse which I find annoying, when one, is added, as if without thought other than to make up your quota as you are pretty sure you should be using commas in sentences somewhere so quickly bung in a few as you think of what else to write, and, merely ,interrupts the flow. Over-use or under-use of commas should be avoided, even if its use may be technically correct – as in your last sentence, when one should have followed the “But” – but, then again, technically, you should not start a sentence with a conjunction.

ssat: you're trying to be funny, aren't you? This is serious business! Anyway, be thankful that "climate weirding" never took off.

Aug 24, 2015 at 6:42 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

My better half is my personal Liz Truss and has a hatred for retail signs saying things like

New seasons Apple's

Having had the difference beaten into me with the tawse the one that makes me shudder is the confusion between

There, Their and They're

But as I said on Martin A's record breaker I try to assume that it is a mistake or lack of the tawse causing the problem not something done to wind me up and try to read what was intended.

The other issue is people writing in the local vernacular, having lived in various parts of the UK there are definite non-grammatically correct phrases used in particular parts of the country. For instance in Perthshire you used to, maybe still do, hear the phrase "I seen him yesterday" or variations of it. Now is that dialect or bad English?

Aug 24, 2015 at 7:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

1860's, 1970's, 2014's etc, when it's actually meant to be a plural not a possessive.

Aug 24, 2015 at 7:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Another Scottish dialect one which fidgets me is "The fence is needing painted"

Aug 24, 2015 at 7:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

SandyS: local vernacular can grate a bit – where I live, people still work 9 while 5, despite my repeated corrections.

Another is perhaps cultural – many immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean seem unable to say “ask”, instead saying “aks”. Could it be that their native language does not have the phoneme “sk”, thus they are unaware of its existence, and either hear “aks” from others, or have an inability to construct the “sk” verbally and can only deliver “aks”? It is unlikely to be genetic, as their offspring seem to have no problem, unless they make a conscious effort to maintain their “culture”; it can be amusing when someone trying to impress you with their “Roots” patois slips into broad Lancashire. There are many interesting conundrums in language.

Aug 24, 2015 at 8:10 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Messenger: ah, yes – the apostrophe; I remain an unofficial member of Keith Waterhouse’s entirely casual AAAA (Association for the Abolition of the Aberrant Apostrophe). It’s another useful adjunct that is often misused, either misplaced or not bothered with, altogether – with many claiming that it is not necessary, at all, which only goes to show their appalling ignorance, in my opinion. I do like to confuse the eponymous grocer by asking, “Onion’s what?” The conversation generally goes downhill, after that.

Aug 24, 2015 at 8:29 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

The Plague and the Black Death were not actually the same things
Radical Rodent, Unthreaded
I don't think so, RR. "Not the same thing", surely! They were not the same thing; they were different things.

Aug 24, 2015 at 11:58 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Hoist by my own petard, eh?

Aug 24, 2015 at 12:39 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Sumfink like that!

Aug 24, 2015 at 12:54 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

From the Telegraph article about the Met office losing the contract with the BBC:

"Although a statement from the corporation suggested that he Met Office bid had not been the best value for money,..."

"From this autumn its new supercomputer will allow more accurate updates that ever before, ..."

"In June former BBC weatherman Michael Fish said there was ongoing tensions between..."

Aug 24, 2015 at 1:18 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

1860's, 1970's, 2014's etc, when it's actually meant to be a plural not a possessive.
Aug 24, 2015 at 7:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Not sure about that Messenger. I think there are some who think that the benefit in increaded clarity and readability justifies using the apostrophe to indicate plurals in the case of abbreviations, acronyms and so on:
I found this

There are one or two cases in which it is acceptable to use an apostrophe to form a plural, purely for the sake of clarity:
you can use an apostrophe to show the plurals of single letters:
I've dotted the i's and crossed the t's.
Find all the p's in appear.
you can use an apostrophe to show the plurals of single numbers:
Find all the number 7’s.
These are the only cases in which it is generally considered acceptable to use an apostrophe to form plurals

I think there are other authorities who have no problem with using apostrophes to indicate plurals of years or acronyms.

Personally, I'll use apostrophes if I think it improves readability, irrespective of what the 'rules' may say.

Except when writing specifically for RR - distracting the reader by using a useage you know will distract them is itself not good style:

Aug 24, 2015 at 1:25 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A
It's a rule written in stone - except for the exceptions? There's nothing like an exception which makes things more confusing than applying the rule.

Aug 24, 2015 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Yes, SandyS, the rules of English… “’i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’” Now, that is weird.

Aug 24, 2015 at 2:30 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

I'd give up on this if I were you. All we're doing now is finding other people's typos or spelling mistakes.
Martin A — "usage", not "useage". See what I mean. Normally I wouldn't have bothered ....

Aug 24, 2015 at 6:53 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Radical Rodent
According to QI, so it must be right, the i/e rule is incorrect if you search all words with either ie or ei

Aug 24, 2015 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

My spelling is heroically poor. I will sit as quietly as possible and seek to not draw attention to myself.
By the way, and of the BH community living in Ireland?
The lovely Mrs. Hunter and I are taking a week's vacation to Ireland next week.
We are making a self-guided trip and would love to meet fellow BH community members for an adult beverage or two at a pub if agreeable.

Aug 24, 2015 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Most of my "beefs" have been covered by others. But there is at least one word that always rubs me the wrong way when I see it: "impacted". I can't recall others at the moment, but I do know that there are other nouns out there that have been magically transformed into verbs, and I dislike 'em all!

@hunter, I can't recall, off-hand, if there are any members of this Congregation who reside in Ireland. But my mother was born in Dublin; so the Emerald Isle is one I've always wanted to visit ... So I suppose this makes me somewhat <gasp> green ... but in a good way;-)

That aside, while he may not be an active or vocal member of BH, I believe he lurks, from time to time; so you might want to get in touch with Ronan Connolly. He and his family do live somewhere in Ireland, and they have an excellent blog. He can be reached via Global Warming Solved

Bon voyage ... and I hope that you and Mrs. H. have a safe journey and a wonderful time!

Aug 25, 2015 at 10:40 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov