Saturday, September 30, 2006

We Don't Know What's Sadder...

What makes us cry harder? The fact that the author of this advertisement has confused your and you're? Or the fact that this is an ad for a laminator, and said spelling error will now last much, much longer?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sticking it to The Man

When The Man raises your rent, you can raise a fuss. Or, you can SPOGG him.

This letter from a certain anonymous SPOGG member in Colorado made our day. She corrects The Man's grammar, even though English is not her first language. Click the photo to enlarge it, and be inspired.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bad 'Grammer' Speaks for Itself

SPOGG scout Jeff E. sent us this sign, and we took the time today to leave voicemail with Excel Management, Inc. about their problematic spelling.

Hello. We represent the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, and we have some concerns about your sign. Grammar isn't spelled with an E. It has an A. It's grammar: G-R-A-M-M-A-R. Again, we are the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, and we are here to help you. Please contact us if you have any questions."

Just for kicks and grins, we think we'll call back this afternoon.

Bad 'Grammer' Speaks for Itself

SPOGG scout Jeff E. sent us this sign, and we took the time today to leave voicemail.

Hello. We represent the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, and we have some concerns about the spelling on your sign. It's G-R-A-M-M-A-R. Again, we are the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, and we are here to help you. Please contact us if you have any questions."

Just for kicks and grins, we think we'll call back this afternoon.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

New Edition Is a Band

A new addition is what Britney Spears added to her family. Unfortunately, points out SPOGG scout Ashleigh W., this is not how US magazine spelled it:
The couple have spent the last month preparing for the new edition to their family. They recently finished painting the new nursery in neutral hues fit for a boy or a girl.

Thank you, Ashleigh, for doing your part to make tabloids safe to read again.

We'd also quibble with the plural verb used with couple. Though British English makes couple, team and other words plural, SPOGG looks upon them as singular words that take a singular verb. In other words "The couple has spent the last month preparing...."

Got Grammar?

SPOGG member Anne M. has a question:

There is an ad on television in which one of the business leaders in a conference says, "We've got to have . . ., which sounds awful. Shouldn't it be something like "We have to have . . . ?" What are rules for got or have?

Some people really, truly, madly, deeply hate the word "got" in all its forms. This includes "Got milk," "You've got mail," and Anne's aforementioned ad.

SPOGG believes there is some use for it. For example, SPOGG doesn't love the construction "we have to have." Word repetitions can sometimes be confusing. Does "have to have" mean "we must have"? Or does it mean "have for the sake of having"? Good sentences don't need to be deciphered.

Also, "got" has a nice punch to it. It's a short word, with a short vowel sound and two hard consonants. The very sound of it adds to the urgency expressed by "we've got to get out of here," a sentence once uttered by a fellow member of our high school cross-country team after he stepped on a beehive. At the time, and even now, SPOGG did not question his use of the word.

The Encarta dictionary has some good advice on the topic:
Get is an overworked verb. It is better to use a more specific term in formal writing whenever you can. The past participles got and gotten convey slightly different ideas. They have gotten an apartment in Boston means they have recently taken the apartment, whereas They have got an apartment in Boston simply indicates that they have it. (There are those who would argue, with reason, that in a sentence like this one got is redundant, and that have alone would do the job.) In informal usage, have got can also be followed by an infinitive to denote obligation (I've got to go to the party means "I must"), whereas have gotten with an infinitive denotes opportunity (I've gotten to go to the party means "I've been given the chance to attend").
The key things to note here are the "formal writing" context, and the redundancy of certain uses. If you should have occasion to write formally, by all means, plump up your writing with fancier words. If you don't need to say "got" to make your sentence clear, don't say it. This goes for other words, too.

Otherwise, and in informal contexts — which describe most of the ones we experience, unless we're politicians, popes, or petifoggers — we can get away with got.

Grammar Ain't Rocket Science

SPOGG scout Sarah M. has proof. She found this goof in an MSNBC story:
"Located within the constellation Pisces, the newly spotted object is called HD 3651 B. It is 50 times the mass of Jupiter and thus considered a T brown dwarf — the coolest of the two brown-dwarf categories. This slow smoldering releases infrared light, which was detected by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope."
Says Sarah, "People who can discuss the physics of the universe should know that, if only two things are being compared, as in this case, superlatives are right out. 'Cooler' is the correct word to use."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Man Bites Panda in the What?

You know, if we were biting a panda, we'd go for his a$.

If we were writing that headline, however, we would have said, "Beijing zoo panda bites man, man retaliates." But that's just us. We're sticklers for clarity (and before you write to correct our punctuation, headlines don't have semicolons).

We love that they identified the masticating man as a "drunken migrant worker." Would they have done that if he were a "drunken televangelist" or "soused physician"? We doubt it. Poor migrant workers. They don't get a break anywhere. Not even at the zoo.

Thanks to SPOGG scout G. Whipple for this one.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Useless But Fun

Make your own catalog card here.

When Quotation Marks Attack

Not only do we appreciate good grammar, we also appreciate how it feels to have, on occasion, a good hair day. So, we recently purchased a beauty product.

The IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS that came with the product, however, gave us small seizures. This happens every time quotation marks appear where they are not needed.

And we quote:
To reduce the risk of death by electric shock:
  1. Always "unplug it" immediately after using.
  2. Do not use while bathing.
  3. If an appliance falls into water, "unplug it" immediately. Do not reach into
    the water.
We have only one thing to say about these quotation marks. "Unplug them."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Fox Sports: A Bunch of 'Loosers'

We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw this text flash on the bottom of the screen:

It's losing streak, Fox. And when it comes to spelling, you're on one. Thanks to Mr. SPOGG for taking the picture while we dusted the piano. (Yes, we love football that much.)

Friday, September 15, 2006


If you built a Web site advertising your writing skills, would you have a section called "Editors Praise"?

We know we wouldn't.

If we were quoting the praise of one editor, we'd call it editor's praise. If we were quoting many editors, we'd call it editors' praise.

Get thee to a proofreader, stat!

Demi's Dummy?

Here's proof that the universe has a sense of fair play.

Ashton Kutcher may have Milk-Dud eyes and the hips of a Greek god, but he can't spell. Next time you're envious of his career, his lustrous hairline, or his lusty relationship with Demi Moore, tell yourself this: "At least I know how to spell 'predator.'" What's more, you probably also know how the shift key works on your computer.

From his MySpace (We have put errors in bold type):
boys dream: today I fullfilled a life-long dream. I got the chance to say “are you ready for some football” for the monday night game (NO vs atl.) it was unbelievable.

btw. there’s a thing on dateline about internet preditors that is just creeping me the hell out. I don’t know what we can do to stop this but something has to be done. PLEASE don’t engage and meet strangers you meet on the internet. AND DON’T GIVE AWAY YOUR INFO TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW.

posers: just so you all know this is the only sight I’m involved with. I don’t want anyone to get scammed by some other sucker that preys on peoples generosity. I have compassion for there loneliness but don’t want people to be fooled where there is charity involved. Just did a mad tour of talk shows. I have fun on them but they are tough. Had a blast with Conan. He’s such a good guy. if you’ve never seen his show, give it a crack. He’s really funny. we had a funny exchange about “man package” and closet beverages. He rocks.

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:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Apostrophe Catastrophes at The New York Times

There's just no reason for that apostrophe. It's time we sent a stern letter to The New York Times on behalf of the nearly 2,000 members of SPOGG. (That's right; we're growing like crazy. Fight the grammatical fight!)

Fantasy Football

Maybe we're just bitter that our Fantasy Football team (the Shaved Hasselhoffs) lost in the last minute of play.

But for SPOGG, the real fantasy of football is professional sports coverage that is 1) intelligible; and 2) grammatical.

The circled portion on the screenshot below is neither. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Teach Your Children Well

Teach your children well, and while you're at it, teach them when to use good. (Hint: Use well when you're talking about your health, and good to describe your general state of being.)

We saw this article about teaching kids grammar — even making a game of it — and we liked it!

Teach Your Child Grammar Early

Still, this is probably time to confess we let our kids watch Schoolhouse Rock. It's TV, but it's so much more.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

It's International Literacy Day

This just in from the word-nerd wires: Sept. 8 is International Literacy Day.

A disturbing fact:

- 800 million people aged over 15 are illiterate and two-thirds of them are women (who often aren't permitted to attend school)

And then this bit on 14 commonly misspelled words in the UK, which is a charming reminder of differences in British and American English:

  • Accessory

  • Blond/blonde

  • February

  • Occasion

  • Chauvinism (Americans stopped saying this in the 1970s, when neckties with pigs were in fashion)

  • Alright (spelled all right in the U.S.)

  • Its (possessive)/it's (it is)

  • Recommend

  • Email (hyphenated in American newspapers)

  • Webpage (two words in American newspapers)

  • Wednesday

  • Necessary

  • Receive

  • Mind your Ps and Qs (do they really say this?)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

P.S. And What Kind of Kid Wears Knickers?

SPOGG was in the market for a sign to protect our youngsters from passing minivans.

We love our children, however, and could not insult them with the following sign, no matter how long our oldest took to learn to tie her shoes:

Forget Inspiration and Perspiration

Genius is no longer 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. At least when measured by the SAT, genius is 75 percent grammar (and 25 percent No. 2 pencil, we suppose).

From The New York Times:

Perfect’s New Profile, Warts and All


WHEN it comes to the SAT, perfect is now a whole lot harder. But take heart if you favor cursive over printing, the third person over the first, and more over less. You may have an edge.

More than 1,000 students got a perfect 1600 last year, when the college-admissions test consisted of the time-honored two 800-point sections, verbal and math.
But now that the test has been revamped and expanded to nearly four hours, with a new writing section that includes an essay, the average scores have dropped by seven points — and only 238 students received the new perfect score of 2400.
Technically, even perfect isn’t necessarily perfect. Students can get the top score even if they miss a few questions.

“We actually don’t know how many got a perfect perfect,” said Caren Scoropanos, a spokeswoman for the College Board.

What the College Board does know is that the top scorers comprised 131 boys and 107 girls, or just 0.017 percent of the almost 1.5 million college-bound seniors who took the test.

It seems to be the writing test that has made the number of perfects plummet. While the math and reading sections each had more than 8,000 top scores, only 4,102 students were rated perfect on the writing test, the only part of the exam where girls outscored boys.

Most of the writing test — and three-quarters of the writing score — consists of multiple-choice questions on grammar and usage. But most of the anxiety among high school students centers on the 25-minute essay, graded on a scale of one to six by at least two readers, who spend about three minutes on each essay. Their two scores are added. And, the College Board said, the reason so few students won top marks on the writing section is that so few — less than one percent — got sixes from both readers, for that perfect 12.

So what book does SPOGG recommend all high school juniors read? The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White. Not only does it succinctly cover usage basics, its writing advice is sure to boost the scores of any student writer.