Subbing the world

Righting copywriting wrongs, one word at a time

‘Oops’ doesn’t really cover it

Thanks to a tweet from the splendid Adopt-a-Word*, I’ve discovered this story from yesterday’s Guardian:

Penguin Cookbook typo freshly ground black people

As typos go, this really is a biggie. So big, you almost wonder if some twisted white supremacist proof-reader put it through on purpose.

$20,000 later (this happened in Australia), all the offending books have been pulped, according to the publisher. Which is hardly surprising.

And they say pedantic nit-picking is pointless.

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* Full disclosure: My opinion of their splendidness is in no way coloured by the fact they’re one of my clients.

Filed under: Typos

I can but highlight your error

Ode Less Travelled cover

I’ve started reading Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled, and it’s a marvellous thing. (I’m afraid I’m one of those people who thinks virtually anything Stephen Fry does is marvellous.*)

The quote from the Independent on Sunday, though, is less so.

‘You can’t but marvel…’?

In this context, ‘but’ is used as an adverb, essentially synonymous with ‘only':

‘You can only marvel at Fry’s easy familiarity…’

So what the quote actually says is, ‘You can’t only marvel at Fry’s easy familiarity…’

Which rather begs the question of what else you might marvel at. There’s certainly plenty more to marvel at in the book, but something tells me this isn’t what the generous reviewer was getting at.

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*Fry, on the other hand, would detest this blog. Absolutely revile and abhor it. Just listen to his splendid podcast on the subject (Series 2 Ep 3), where he boils grammatical pedants alive in a cauldron of furious metaphors. Quite right too. Bastards.

Filed under: Grammar

D&AD: Devil & A Detail

It’s such a tiny, tiny thing. But you know what they say about the Devil and details.

D&AD email header

Instead of:

If you are unable to to see the D&AD email below, please view online at…

why didn’t this D&AD email just say:

If you can’t see this email, go to…?

It just sounds nicer and more human. Shorter too.

All these tiny things. They all matter.

Well, all right. They matter to me.

Filed under: microcopy, Tone of voice

Let's start with this blog. The name's just not right, is it? It's much wider than sub-editing. It's just as often about words that are technically correct, but tonally all over the place. Oh well. Anyway, please feel free to send me your own examples of horrible copy (but please, no more erroneous apostrophes): mike[at]reedwords.co.uk

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