Ellen Cline, writer
Creative communication that markets, informs, and entertains

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Word Woes—homonym horrors III

Author: ; Published: Apr 18, 2011; Category: Editing and Proofing; Tags: , , , ; No Comments

Glodis Will Reign in Political Spending

Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don’t. 

Although they’re always out there, lurking, periods of time go by where I just don’t notice too many juicy homonym horrors. Then again, sometimes they just seem to be everywhere I look. It’s been a slow period, but here are several I collected in recent months.

Last week I saw one in an invitation to a winery event that sounded really great, even if the food descriptions had gone a bit awry

  • This week…will prepare some special hors d’oeuvres in addition to our normal fair. Chef…will serve wild mushroom bites with a red wine sauce, wanton cups filled with mandarin chicken salad and mini onion tartlets with goat cheese. Truly tasty!

I’m sure it all is truly tasty, but when we’re talking about food it’s generally fare, not fair, unless you’re talking about fair trade. As for those wanton cups, just tell them to stop that inappropriate behavior. I’m guessing they meant wonton cups, as in something made from a wonton wrapper.

In March I was reading a really fun and fascinating book, J. Maarten Troost’s “The Sex Lives of Cannibals.” I had barely begun when I came upon this:

  • Enwetak was being canvassed as a sight for testing the hydrogen bomb and the drilling indicated that the atoll was suitable for obliteration.

The author explains in the book how some of these atolls are really difficult to spot from the sea until you’re practically right on them, but in this case I think he meant site, as in place or location, not sight, as in able to see something.

In the February issue of Consumer Reports, Goofs, glitches, gotchas section,
someone sent in a Political ad saying:

  • Guy Glodis Will Reign in Wasteful Political Spending.

Of course they meant “rein in” not reign in.  I don’t think they wanted to say that their candidate was the king of political spending. But you have to visualize reining in a horse and know what reins are to pick the right word. 

Glodis lost the race.  The power of words?

Look again—proofreading

Author: ; Published: Nov 10, 2010; Category: Business Writing, Editing and Proofing; Tags: , , ; No Comments

look again

Reading a lot can turn you into a tough audience, a real critic. I notice things and am appalled. Maybe most people don’t notice.

I’ve written emails to book publishers, small business owners and large company webmasters pointing out typos. Usually they’re appreciative. 

Are the typos in their ad for an editor part of the testing process? Did they really mean to misspell the name of their product?

This doesn’t mean that I don’t need my own proofreader or editor. We all do. I might be better than most at catching things, but let’s face it—if you’ve been working on a piece and seen it over and over as it’s been written and edited, sometimes you just can’t see it anymore. So having others proofread can be invaluable.

Fresh eyes can see a lot more than ones that have already read something 20 times. And don’t forget to get someone to double-check all the important details like phone numbers, email addresses and the spelling of the CEO’s name.

There are all the usual tricks such as taking a break before reading the piece again, reading it backwards, reading it aloud.

If someone has added a tiny change, even one word, beware. Cutting and pasting in even small edits can create new errors. Double “the” anyone? One changed word can lead to sentences that no longer make sense. So don’t slack off before you get to the final version.

Editing online text can be more forgiving. At least you can make changes easily, unlike after you’ve printed 10,000 paper copies of something. But still, typos online look unprofessional.

So use your word processor’s spellchecker, even if it’s not perfect. And use your eyes and whoever else’s eyes you can borrow to take a gander. Review what you’ve written. You may never achieve perfection, but you almost certainly can do better than people who never proofread do.

Tools that Work–Acrobat

Author: ; Published: Apr 16, 2010; Category: Communications Tools; Tags: , , , , ; No Comments

the monkey wrench, like acrobat, is a tool that works

When I first heard about and saw Adobe Acrobat in action, it was love at first sight. For me, it solved a huge problem: how to show clients how their project would look and get their feedback.

In the bad old days, you had to show people a mockup—on paper, in person. Then people would mark things up—in writing you couldn’t read.

It was even worse when they faxed their scribbles to you. The colorful layout fought with the handwriting and all looked like mush in the B&W fax. The markups made no sense, which meant lots of rounds of revisions. So inefficient, so annoying. And since time is money, all those little changes added up to more costs for the client.

Acrobat .pdf (portable document format) files were groundbreaking. I could show people how their brochure, website or ad would look in color, quickly, and have them annotate right on the electronic document. Or even if I made the computer annotations for them, I could organize all their comments for the designers in one place. No more multiple printouts, each with their own set of conflicting notes on them.

The fact that you could type edits into little comment bubbles right on the pdf, pointing out exactly where the edit went was great. Even better, from my point of view, was that I could type the edits and the designer could copy and paste the new text right into place. No rekeying.

Maybe I was just dealing with designers who were not the greatest at typing and proofreading, but wow, that just saved so much time. When anyone rekeys info, there are more chances for errors. When a person who just sees type as a pattern and not as words that need to be spelled properly keys things in, you’re headed for trouble.

And then there were .pdfs as downloadable files on websites. People could download a client’s brochure without being at a tradeshow or sales meeting to hand it to them, or without having to mail it. It was amazing. The biggest challenge in the early days was tutoring all the clients on how to use the program.

Today, many years later, I’m still using Acrobat files. There are so many features, I don’t even use them all. Adobe Acrobat .pdf files have become so common, ubiquitous even; I don’t have to explain them to anyone anymore. I’m just happy Acrobat is still around, and keeps improving.