Thursday, April 05, 2007

Its an aphliction

You know how a man can spot cleavage from a hundred yards away…in the fog…when he’s blind? That’s how I am with typos and bad punctuation. Unlike a man, however, I would never go to a bar called Typos and claim it has “really good wings,” so that analogy ends right here.

In my real life job, I have to deal with text on a constant basis. This has rendered my brain completely unable to pass by a misplaced apostrophe or an errant comma without making some sort of snide comment and wishing I could mark it up with red pen and send it back from wherever it came. Remember that nice, feel-good movie Akeelah and the Bee? Completely ruined for me because of one set of misplaced quotation marks. You know those home-made grave markers on the side of the highway? My sympathy was sapped when I saw “rest in peece.” The KFC near my house lost my business not because of the disgusting feather I found in my popcorn chicken but because of the sign out front that read “mash potatoes” and “warm biscuts.”

Things reached rock bottom a few years ago during a vacation to Mackinac Island in northern Michigan. A beautiful island with a wonderful history and a welcoming, kind population, it is also filled with a dozen candy shop owners hell bent on breaking me by spelling “caramel” in approximately 78 equally egregious ways. It got to the point where I had to walk down Main Street never looking left and never looking right for fear of spotting a sign for “Saturday’s Carmell Apple Fest” and having to gouge my own eyes out.

My problem is an ugly one over which I have little or no self-control. Worst of all, it makes me a hypocrite because God knows, I misspell things all the time. I’m better with punctuation, however, and think I could fairly categorize myself as AP Style’s bitch. To all the poor, long-suffering people, though, who have had to listen to me gently, and I hope politely, point out the difference between “it’s” and “its,” well, they probably just leave out that whole “AP Style” part. And you know what? I don’t care, as long as they spell it right.

12 comments:

Mickie Poe said...

A local eatery here in Philly recently advertized a "bowel of chili".

Anonymous said...

I attest that this story is true. But, I'm happy to report that I've lived through Liz's edits.

Liz said...

Mickie -- Could that be construed as foreshadow?

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, I too had the unfortunate proposition of proofreading pages and pages of slightly less than exciting financial reports. But with the added incentive of being paid at the rate of one beer per find...I soon became fairly proficient at spotting those little buggers. Now, I too, find them everywhere.
(although, I only found two in your post. I assume you put them there on purpose, just to flush out the extremists among your readers)

L-D's D

Liz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz said...

Dear L-D's D (if that is your real name) -- If you could please do a screen capture of the post, circle the offending errors in red ink and send it back to me, I'd appreciate it.

annie said...

i don't think it's technically wrong, but the structure of

To all the poor, long-suffering people, though, who have had to listen to me gently, and I hope politely, point out the difference between “it’s” and “its,” well, they probably just leave out that whole “AP Style” part.

is driving me batty.

I read a blog called the Language Log from time to time, and, being linguists, they're all over this Grammar Commie stuff. So much so, they occasionally post little bits of advice that say, "yes, we know it upsets you, but here are tips on how to be the bigger person and rise above it." Like here

Also, I'm personally a fan of whatever style the Brits use for punctuation. They always put the period or comma outside the quote marks, which makes sense because the sentence ends/shifts after the quoted element, not during it.

And to make this comment four-fold, the (little) linguist in me died and went to heaven when an episode of West Wing had a trivia/poker scene in which the president challenged his staff to name all 14 kinds of punctuation. :D

Liz said...

L-D's D: You totally got me. I owe you two beers, but will buy you six so you can share with L-D. Thanks for catching those. I told you I'm a hypocrite! :-)

Liz said...

Annie -- I was going for a bit of Henry James with that sentence. So many clauses, so little time. :-)

I'm a fan of British punctuation, too, but in my job, I have to stick to AP Style, which puts the punctuation inside the quotation marks. It makes me very nervous now to read British magazines because of all the "outside" punctuation.

And yes, that was a great West Wing moment! I loved it any time they paused for a bit of grammar discourse.

Annie said...

I love excessive clauses as much (or more) than the next guy, but it was more the root wording I found awkward.

To all the people, well, they probably just leave out that whole "AP" part.

If I was your editor, I would've changed "To" to "As for". I'm not sure I have a rule-leg to stand on.

Tampa Book Buzz said...

Ray gave me your URL. I love your blog!

My pet peeve is using an apostrophe to make a word plural. I see that so often, both in professional and personal writing. It drives me crazy! I've often wondered if I could get away with marking up public signs with a red pen?

Liz said...

Hi Tampa -- welcome to the Park Bench. Any friend of Ray's is a friend of mine, especially if they hate using apostrophes to make things plural. That drives me nuts, too! And I've often wished that same thing about red pens -- a girl can dream, right? :-)