Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Cost of Bad Grammar

We read this on the newswire today:

Bad grammar proves costly for Australian web designer
Deutsche Presse Agentur

Sydney- Lynne Truss had a surprise bestseller with Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a book that propagated the British author's zero-tolerance approach to punctuation. She wasn't prepared to put up with abominations like "CD's, Video's, DVD's and Book's" and argued that it was time we all joined a crusade against bad grammar and poor punctuation.

Truss would be proud of prominent Australian plastic surgeon Howard De Torres, who wasn't happy with the sloppy work of the woman he engaged to design a web site and went to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal to seek amends. He was awarded 4,278 Australian dollars (3,250 US dollars) against web designer Toni Fitzgerald.

What swung the case in favour of the cosmetic surgeon were infractions like a confusion between "scar" and "scare." The tribunal's Richard Phillips noted: "The copy is not, generally, particularly well-expressed, even where it is grammatically correct."

Our thoughts:

Some of the worst grammar in this bit comes from the tribunal itself. Note the sentence in bold-face, if you please. "Well expressed" does not need a hyphen because it comes after the word it modifies. It's well-expressed copy, or copy that is well expressed.

SPOGG also objects to the commas around generally. Commas require the reader to pause, and such pauses here make the sentence an unnecessarily slow read.

Finally, Web designers are not editors. As much as we despise petty lawsuits that could have been avoided with polite e-mail, it's nice to see real value attached to clean, correct and compelling copy.

This inexpensive book would have saved the Web designer a lot of money:

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