Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Lovely Review of Things That Make Us [Sic]

This comes from the Freelance Writing Job Network's Grammar Guide, Dawn Allcot:

Have you ever read a book whose ideas resonated so strongly, you felt compelled to call up everyone you know and tell them about it? You want to throw up your fist and shout, “Yes! Yes! That’s exactly how it is!”

I often feel this way about novels (Atlas Shrugged is my latest infatuation), and sometimes about business and marketing books. (Seth Godin’s Purple Cow was the last one I read that had that effect.)

As much of a logophile as I am, rarely does a grammar book hit me in such a way. Until I read Things That Make Us [Sic] by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.

Not only does Brockenbrough know her grammar, she’s a master wordsmith. I found myself reading words I haven’t used in years, and learning a few new ones in the process. She never uses a big word when a smaller one will do, but has a knack for choosing exactly the right word at the right time. Her sentences are lyrical works of art, evoking emotion as they teach. Speaking of teaching — I learned more than a few interesting grammar rules I didn’t know before. (Hard to believe, right?)

Read the whole thing

I hope that makes you want to buy it--or at least check it out of your library. Amazon has just decided to stop carrying Macmillan titles (St. Martin's, the publisher, is owned by Macmillan). If you're able to, please buy it at a local, independent bookstore, as these places need all they help they can get. I will happily send you a signed bookplate. Just e-mail me at martha AT

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: School Edition

Is it too much to ask elementary school teachers to use apostrophes correctly? Are they channeling Kanye West's "Ima let you finish" speech? Can we ask any more rhetorical questions?

We can only hope the "I'm an apostrophe" sign is going up next week.

Thanks to Denis for the photo.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Because When You're Moving, You're Harder to Hit

Check out the last line of this warning sign photographed by Barry L.

They meant to write "stay away from the partition when it's moving" or something along those lines. It's another case of not-quite-right construction that results in giggles. "While" is a conjunction (and sometimes a noun) that means, essentially, "at the same time" (and a few other things).

The second part of the sentence needs a subject, or the "in motion" will refer back to the subject in the first part.

What's the fix? Always read out loud. The ear catches these things better than the eye. And, choose the simplest way to say something, rather than the most official sounding. "Students: Stay away from the partition when it's moving."

Tales from the Casting Ouch

Here are genuine Hollywood casting calls in all their warty glory, sent by our spy in Tinseltown.

No experience need it.
That's right. If you don't have any experience, you need it.

Needs Extras For Background Rolls
Cinnamon or jelly?

(You will be given) all new underware.
I don't even want to know.

Need spell check.

Can you do dance routings?
I always dance when I'm networking computers or arranging mail for delivery.

Role: Person who see's the light
See's Candies shops tend to have lights.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Now Hiring Proofreaders?

You know, for that kind of cheddar, you'd think they'd be willing to pay for a proofreader.

Thanks to Danielle K. for the photo.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

With Job Applications, Spelling Matters

It also matters with job postings. Would you work for this person?

On Craigslist:
Trying to find the unusuall type. No Experiance. Jus people with something
Something diffrent. A look, a limp, crippled, a speech oddity, a weird voice
anything diffrent. maling a fun Low budget DVD.
I will pay you ten dollars per hour for your time.
Please send contact info pix to

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Craig Conley Delights Again

Longtime readers know how much we love the work of Craig Conley, the author of ONE LETTER WORDS and many, many other amazing books. The above illustration is one he did depicting grammar and meaning as two sides to the same coin.

We love this image and the sentiment behind it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why newspapers need copy editors

Brian C. sent this along, noting the error in the lead, which says many people "staid" put during a storm. Perhaps they were staid, but in this case, they should have "stayed" put.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Depressions Not Known for Their Pitching

We're doing a bit of research for a writing project and came across this bit describing tours of subterranean Seattle:

Speidel graduated from the University of Washington in 1936, during the throws of the depression, with a degree in literature. Out of school, he landed a job as a reporter for The Seattle Times and also wrote a column for the defunct Seattle Star.

The right word is "throes."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Forty-Tooth Street

This sign feels like a cheap knockoff of the musical 42nd Street, doesn't it?

Thanks to Kelly P. for the photo.

Update: Not ungrammatical, just dirty. Thanks, Barry.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Actual Student Job Inquiry

Mrs. Johnson herself sent this our way:
mrs johnson,
my name is [REDACTED]. i contacted you a couple months ago about a summer job and you informed me about a summer counselor position. if you could please contact e on more information on this position i woulod really appreciate it.
thank you for your time, [REDACTED]
Sigh. Parents, when you teach your kids about first (and second) impressions, remind them that e-mail counts, too.

Insure, Ensure, Assure: Being Sure

Josh sent this note from his lender. It's hard to see, but they're asking him to "please check the payoff date to insure it is correct."

What they want to do here is ensure it's correct. "Insure" with an i is best used when you're talking about, say, an insurance policy. (And that's an easy way to remember it.) "Ensure" with an e is best used when you're making sure of something. To "assure" someone of something is to pledge, promise, or declare earnestly that something is the case. (And you're an "ass" if your assurance doesn't pan out.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This Week in Shameless Commerce

Danielle M. wrote to let us know a company has invented the sarcasm mark, and for a mere $1.99, you can let your readers know you're being sarcastic. Wow. That's the greatest idea in the history of the world. Genius. We love it. Sort of in the same way we love that last sip of soda from a warm can.

Here's a link to the news item about it.

To us, it looks like an ear or maybe a grossly malformed navel. What's it look like to you? Do tell. Sarcastically, if you can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We Don't Really Get It

Three journalists have contacted us so far asking for SPOGG's opinion on how we pronounce the year we're currently enjoying. Is it twenty-ten? Or two-thousand-ten?

Here's our stock answer:
It doesn't matter.

We said nineteen-eighty and no one thought twice about it, though we probably should have thought twice about the shoulder pads and auto-tinting glasses. So twenty-ten is just fine. We also said "The Year 2000" (insert ominous sound effects), so calling it two-thousand ten isn't going to confuse anyone. And that's really the point of thinking about language and what we call things. Is our meaning clear? Then huzzah!

Anyone who does get in a kerfluffle over this could probably use a hobby. Still, the debate is better than the one about whether 2000 or 2001 was the first year of the millennium.

And now, we'd like to toss the issue to the fray. Is there something we're missing? Why do people care about this? Is there some point of clarity, elegance, wit, and/or style that can be achieved by sticking with one over the other? Do tell.

*Note...Blogger isn't letting SPOGG post comments today, but we wanted to respond to the "kerfluffle" kerfuffle in the comments. The word appears both ways in various dictionaries. According to the OED, it was originally "kafuffle" and has appeared as "kuffufle." We like to think of it as the sound effect made by scuffling feet in a fight. The spelling depends on the shoes you're wearing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ah, January...Time To Be Confused About Dates

We don't know about you, but the checks we've written since the new year all say 200910. This isn't the only way to mess up a date, as Linnea D. has reminded us. She found this goof on a word-nerd blog:
“Originally, ‘blizzard’ involved no snow, wind chill, or wintry conditions at all. The Oxford English Dictionary records it as an early 18th century word for a sharp, violent blow, first found in 1829.”
Linnea writes: "Oops! The 18th century and the 1800s do not refer to the same era, Mark! He should have written 'an early 19th century word,' as the OED actually states."

True enough. It's an easy mistake to make. We hereby resolve to be more careful.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The World's Worst Cold Remedy

We think the author of this sentence is using a special keyboard, where the "w" and "c" are right next to each other. Otherwise, there's no explaining typing "crap" instead of "wrap"--unless, of course, he hates old people and really does think they should keep warm inside a nest of their own poop.

Friday, January 08, 2010

I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar

We've long been fans of this Facebook group, started by the delightful Sharon Eliza Nichols. Now, there's a book that collects all the hilarity of the bad grammar on signs, notes, and even baby bibs.

It's called--of course--I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar. Do check it out, and report back to us with your favorite error. We really like the one that says NO ACOHOL BEYOND THIS POINT. To us, it sounds like one drink too many, already.

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Chuck E. Jeez

Close, but no cigar. This should simply be "get closer." Let that be a lesson to us all. Chuck E. Cheese, where this photo was taken, is a hazard to your grammar.

Thanks to Ashleigh W. for the photo.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Things That Make Us [Sic]: A Review

From a recent review of our book:

If you’re looking for a down and dirty grammar guide to help you remember when to use “lie” vs. “lay” and “affect” vs. “effect,” this book is just the thing. And if you’re too well-versed in grammar to ever “lay in the sun” or “lie your keys on the counter,” then you’re probably a grammar geek like me, and this book will give you fits of laughter and make you want to pump your fist in the air while shouting, “Yes! Exactly!”

Read the whole thing here. And, if you're buying a copy and would like a personalized bookplate, contact us: info AT

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Bingo Edition

Back when we were in elementary school, we played Bingo at a friend's birthday party. Her father pulled B4 out of the hopper and said, "B4. Before what?" For many years, we laughed and laughed at his wit.

It's not funny anymore. B4 digging in? Augh!

Thanks to Kelly for the photo.

No Clemency for This Malapropism

Aimee D-Z sent this along from an invitation she received for a networking luncheon:


The weather is sort of in the climate, so we understand where this goof comes from, but the word this host wanted was "inclement."


Friday, January 01, 2010

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Apostrophe Catastrophe Edition

Once more, with feeling: When you're making plurals, you don't need apostrophes.

Thanks to Rachel A. for the lovely photo.