Crimes (against English) of the year 2013

I enjoy collecting crimes against English and I’ve enjoyed reading through this year’s crop. Here are some of my favourites.

Yes, you do need a professional copywriter

I’ve seen so many examples of really bad copywriting that I can only assume someone believed the old line that ‘anyone can write’. (Note: they can’t.)

  • On a leaflet from double-glazing company: ‘Let’s join the evolution and start saving money now!’
  • In the Argos catalogue: ‘traditional plastic decorative fencing’.
  • In an advert in a local freesheet, this question: ‘Have you got Leg Veins?’ (The right answer is, presumably, ‘I hope so.’)

No, you don’t need solutions

Of course, there were some good examples of the perennial over-use of ‘solutions’.

  • RBS has a ‘Director of Customer Solutions’.
  • The ATS mission statement: ‘Our core mission is to provide all our customers with optimal tyre services and solutions’.
  • And this particularly cringe-worthy one: someone on LinkedIn whose job title is ‘solutions consultant’. (I think he means ‘salesman’.)

Yes, you do still need sub-editors

Then there was the continual proof that the ‘save our subs’ theme is still much needed, with evidence of what happens when publications skimp on sub-editing expertise.

You really need that ‘second pair of eyes’ to notice that a writer has used the first word that comes to mind instead of the right one. Whether it’s ignorance, time pressure or just typing going into autopilot, someone needs to be there to put it right.

On MSN News I read: ‘Baby elephant rejected by mom wept inconsolably, but is now OK.’ (Couldn’t have been that inconsolable, then.)

The BBC website is another regular offender. On the Case Histories page I read, of one character: ‘He’s aware he is a project of a different policing era.’ (I think they meant ‘product’.)

The Guardian may have lost its Grauniad reputation for typos, but there are plenty of other errors on offer.

Sometimes it’s just a case of accidentally typing the wrong word. In an article on newspaper circulation I saw: ‘The Sun was overhauled by the Daily Mail.’ Sometimes it’s over-zealous subbing: ‘I received sixpence a week pocket money, five new pence in today’s money.’ (For younger readers: it’s not.)

And this, for obvious reasons, is my favourite: ‘Education was very bad outside the grammer school system.’ Quote of the year!


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