Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Here are some tips to avoid those typo gremlins

Nobody in the Trump administration asked me for help, but I am offering it anyway.

First of all, a bit of history about typographical errors. They have been with us since the advent of the printing press. And spelling errors, well, they have been with us since humankind began sketching out a language on mud tablets or papyrus or cave walls, whatever was handy.

Humans are fallible. When  you combine that with high visibility, it's an invitation for trouble. I know this from almost 40 years as a writer and editor.

#45's first poster featured either a spelling error or a typo. SCSOE Betsy DeVos's office misspelled African-American activist's W.E.B. Dubois's name on a press release for Black History Month and compounded the problem by apologizing with the wrong form of apology.

We know that these people have the advantage of higher education. In other words, they're not uneducated. Gross negligence is another problem. Impulsivity, maybe, as we know that POTUS is impulsive on Twitter at 5 a.m.

I offer some tips on avoiding these little gremlins in your written documents, whether they appear only on social media or on thousands of posters, one of which will end up in the National Archives. The term "gremlins" is a good description for these little devils. It comes from British pilots in the 1920s, who needed something (rather than somone) to blame for the failings of their rickety aircraft. It really caught on during WWII, when pilots in the Battle of Britain referred to gremlins as the thing that gummed up the throttle, caused fuel leaks and generally ran amok over the whole works. Gremlins persist, which may be the cause of constant dysfunction at the Trump White House.

 One more thing. Do not treat Spell Check as the last word on your document. Apology, apologies and apologize(s) are all correct. Too and to are both words. Their use depends on context. Can you say context?

Some recent examples:

1. Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor, wasn't too careful when he talked to two (or maybe two-and-twenty) Russian sources about U.S. national secrets.

You can see how to, too and two are used. Two-and-twenty is antiquated, best relegated to nursery rhyme and blogs. Besides, it could have been two million for all we will ever know.

2. Betsy DeVos offered no apology for giving money to all of the Republicans who voted for her nomination as Secretary of Education. She does apologize that it wasn't more, but that will be taken care of shortly.

Apology is a noun and is used here correctly. Apologize is a verb and it is also used correctly here. One of these days, all of these hacks will apologize to the American people but we won't hold our breath.

3. White House spokesman Stephen Miller msaid out loud that we shouldn't dare question POTUS's decision, whether it by on national security or Ivanka's clothing line. We can only conclude that he speaks with great precision, but obviously is batshit crazy.

That's all for today, language nerds. Your humble narrator signs off until I am needed again, which will be soon.

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