Tuesday, 25 September 2012

What is . . .

'What is is what is not is not is not that it it is'
'What is, is. What is not, is not. Is not that it? It is.'

Silly, really.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Test your proofreading skills

How good a proofreader are you or your staff?

To celebrate summer/the Olympics/the start of the footy season/someone’s birthday/an anniversary we are giving away 100 five-minute proofreading assessments. These assessments are used in Proofamatics workshops to measure the improvement in participants' skills - usually, by the way, a 30% reduction in proofreading errors.

To claim your free assessment, and a copy of our invaluable Proofamatics guide to grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitalisation, simply e-mail us on info@proofamatics.com with your name, company, address etc.

We have 100 to give away - first come, first served.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

I hope you are well?

Just received an e-mail from a company which started with 'I hope you are well?' 

I suspect the writer didn't mean what he said. He was probably asking after my health, though goodness knows why - we've never met and I may work from my bed due to a congenital illness, for all he knows. (Have you noticed how call-centre calls all start with this unnecessary question? Thus making them even more annoying than they are). What the writer actually wrote was that his hoping was in question. Personally, I would caution him against exposing his inner doubts in this way. 

The e-mail was promoting a Professional Written Communication Skills Training Course. Nuff said.

Monday, 23 July 2012

First and only

Tautological adspeak and poor at that. You can't be 'first and only'. When you were first, you were the only; if you are the only, then you were, and are, the first.

You might consider 'the first and still the only'. Don't: 'only' is sufficient here. However, 'still the only' works as a shorter, punchier, phrase and makes a point about your uniqueness and the lack of serious competition. And it's the same number of words as the first, incorrect effort.

There, that was easy, wasn't it?

A simple proofreading system

It isn't difficult to proofread but it can take time to do it efficiently - unless you have a system. Reading straight through the document and hoping for the best usually doesn't work that well. It leads to reading for comprehension and then you read what should be there, rather than what actually is there.

A simple system is required:

Concentrate You can't be on the phone, listening to the radio or having a conversation with colleagues and expect to be able to spot errors

Break up the text There are various ways of doing this. You could, for example, break the document into columns and read straight down each column; you could jump around the document reading 'blocks' of text (this is good for checking hard data such as values, quantities etc.); try reading the second half of the line before the first half (tricky, but effective)

Concentrate See above

Don't look for all types of errors at once There are too many types of errors to find them all in one go. Be prepared to scan the document two or even three times to find different sorts of errors. For example: hard data, then grammar, then typos

Concentrate Getting the message?

Finally, skim the full document Having found all, or most of the errors, read through the document, fast, to check that it makes good sense.

And don't forget to c*********e.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Homosexuals and Lesbians

The Daily Telegraph @telegraphnews obviously doesn't know its Latin from its Greek. On the front page today it refers to 'homosexuals and lesbians'. As 'homo' in this word comes from the Greek meaning 'same' (think homophone or homonym) not from the Latin meaning 'man' (think 'ecce homo') then it is fairly clear that 'homosexual' means 'of the same sex' and includes both male and female - and what they have written equates to saying 'readers and women'. (Mark you, deep in Charles Moore's empire, they may well think in those terms.)
This does, of course raise the question of what word to use for homosexual men that equates to 'lesbian' for homosexual women. 'Gay men' doesn't really work as one can equally say 'gay women' and I think, trust, hope and pray that we've moved from 'raging queen'. Maybe we have to bow to one of the numerous Daily Telegraph articles about women taking over the world, getting the best jobs and making men into second-class citizens - they won't even let us have a word to describe 10% (allegedly) of the male population!

Thursday, 12 January 2012


A further nail in the coffin of the apostrophe? Waterstone's, a purveyor of books on all subjects - including English grammar and punctuation - has decided to drop the apostrophe from its name to make it easier for users in this digital age. One can only assume that they are busy tearing pages out of the grammar books they purvey and that their usually educated and helpful staff are being put through emergency English lessons.
Howls of horror from the Apostrophe Protection Society, as is only right but, one suspects, not much other negative reaction as few people actually know the rules and, it seems, even fewer care.
Perhaps Mr Daunt, the current MD, comes from Birmingham where they decided to drop the apostrophe from all road names a couple of years ago.
Three cheers for the march of progress, then?