Archive for January, 2012

Hall of Shame: Missing prepositions

Today’s Hall of Shame is brought to you by another online newspaper headline.

Rare tumor robs young woman’s voice

My first thought was wondering how the young woman’s voice was robbed? Was it at gunpoint? Maybe it was robbed of a register of vocal range.

No – what really happened was that a tumor caused surgeons to remove the young woman’s larynx. Her voice was not robbed. Instead she was robbed OF her voice. The author of the headline should have used a preposition (“of”) to show the correct relationship between “young woman” and “voice”.

Hall of Shame: Check your modifiers

Today’s “Hall of Shame” headline is a variation of a mistake that I have been enduring for years and every time I see it or hear it, I cringe.

Amanda Knox’s former Italian boyfriend engaged?

We’ll ignore the fact that it’s rather silly to pose this as a question to readers and the fact the presentation smacks of tabloidism. (It’s actually from an online news site, by the way.)

When many people read this sentence, I’m sure they understand that this refers to Italian citizen Rafaelle Sollecito who was the boyfriend of Amanda Knox at the time of her arrest for murder. They are no longer boyfriend/girlfriend, so he’s now her former boyfriend.

But if you look at the quote carefully, that’s not what it actually says.

Adjectives modify the noun closest to them, as a rule This quote instead says that Rafaelle is a formerly Italian but he is still Amanda Knox’s boyfriend. Unless Rafaelle was expelled from Italy and his citizenship revoked, this headline is an error. And it’s an error that seems to run like wildfire through the press for some reason I have yet to figure out. Laziness? Reliance on a single press service and accepting their errors?

This should actually read:

Amanda Knox’s Italian former boyfriend engaged?

Check your modifiers to make sure they are in the correct place.

Bad editing is not “handcrafting”

I happened to see this statement attached to a bit of promo from a self-published author this week. The quote was included in an announcement that the author’s newest book was now available on Smashwords and it was so absolutely bizarre to see, I had to reread it several times to see if the author had, indeed, said what I thought I read.

The statement was:

Oh sure, there’s bound to be something we missed in the editing process but flaws are what sets handmade art apart from the manufactured items, right? Perfection is so overrated.



First, I disagree with the implication that well-edited works are “manufactured items”. That’s a borderline offensive statement to authors who work very hard to make their work as error-free as possible. If an author hires me as an editor to help perfect their work, is their work somehow diminished by this? They are not artists any longer? The work they toiled over, sweated over and invested in is somehow lessened by careful editing?

Second, this sort of statement, to me, says the author is taking such a casual attitude toward the work that I shouldn’t bother to buy it. It’s not taken professionally. The author is making excuses instead of trying to ensure the work is as error-free as possible. Excuses are being made, in advance, for why there are errors and trying to make it somehow cute. Maybe the author is saying that we, as readers, shouldn’t expect work to be well-edited because it should be “art”.

My issues with this are independent of whether the author is self-published or not, but most publishers do make at least a cursory attempt at editing a manuscript before they publish it. This kind of statement can be part of what gives self-published works a bad rap, though.

In this case, the author’s own words and excuses have caused this author to be on my personal Never Buy list and I don’t consider this statement one that would be made by someone who wants to be taken at all seriously.

Thanks for the warning.