Subbing the world

Righting copywriting wrongs, one word at a time

Full stop.

Red stop light

Enough. I’m calling time on Subbing The World, I’m afraid.

Well, I say ‘I’m afraid’, as if this eventuality might cause some significant consternation out there. But the stats for this little venture don’t lie:

WP stats

Sigh. However, it’s not really the teeny-weeny readership that’s stopping me. (Bless each one of you by the way, especially if you commented.) On a good day, I think I’ve hit around 80 views. And if I had 80 people in a room listening to me, I’d no doubt be delighted, if a little intimidated. In fact, the attention of half that many real, live people would probably be enough to fire a warm glow in the heart, and the cheeks.

So it’s not really that. It’s partly that I’m just stupidly busy with the work people actually pay me for. And it’s also a nagging feeling that if I’m going to blog about anything, it should be something more positive and fun, rather than scoring points off people being crap. If you’re not careful with this sort of thing, you start to feel like this woman featured in The Onion recently:

The Onion: pop culture expert

There’s a fine line between defending quality and just jeering from the sidelines. And I’m starting to feel a bit jeery.

So thanks to everyone who told me they liked the blog. And sorry if this comes in any way as a disappointment. Maybe I’ll think of something fun to do instead, like the divine and hilarious Mr Blog.

I do have a sporadic worky blog on my website, if you’re interested. But I’m pretty hopeless at the discipline of blogging regularly, so don’t expect too much.

(It all changes when it comes to micro-blogging, of course. I have personal and work Twitter accounts, and would love to have you along on those, if you’re not already.)

Otherwise, au revoir, Merry Christmas, and generally positive vibes, okay?



(That full stop train signal at the top is from another erratic project of mine, by the way.)


Filed under: The End

Experience Corner: Stapling

Since I announced the launch of Experience Corner, the contributions have been flooding in. By which I mean that, just as you have one flood, I’ve had one contribution.

Luckily, it’s from the ever-dependable Nick Asbury. My original post inspired him to see if even the most mundane of products got the ‘experience’ treatment. And he hit the jackpot immediately:

Stapling experience

Yes, popped up top of the Google results for ‘stapling experience’.

However, I was in two minds about allowing this into Experience Corner. After all, undeniably mundane as stapling is, we are talking electric stapling here. This is much more than the squeezing of leaves between two manual jaws, and hammering down with the heel of the hand. This is rapid, dependable stapling at hitherto unimagined degrees of accuracy and efficiency.

As Rapid Electric Stapler points out breathlessly, ‘People can staple non-stop with the help of these electric staplers.’ He (or she, it’s not clear) then goes on to reassure us that:

This technology has reduced the worries of people regarding stapling.

And we can all be grateful for that.

Is it so hard, I found myself wondering, to believe that the sheer physical pleasure of deploying an instrument such as the Stanley Electric Stapler might well be sufficiently overwhelming to warrant the name of experience?

Indeed, is that over-used term not perhaps too meagre for the transfiguring, Damascene encounter that occurs when one moves from antiquated manual labour to the electrically-powered thrust and fold of those precise steel prongs? Do we not demean this near-religious passion by including it rather sarcastically in our so-called ‘Experience Corner’? I fear that perhaps we do. I am ashamed.

The last words must be left to Rapid Electric Stapler, that anonymous champion of the powered paper-fixing device:

[In] today’s cutthroat world of business one must keep abreast with evolving technologies and embrace it to make their business a success.

How true. How true.

Filed under: Experience Corner

Burger in a bum?

Copywriter Jim Davies recently sent me this picture for the blog:

Anus burger sign

It seems like prime meat for my mincer, to be sure. But too prime to be true? I wondered. I googled.

Another anus burger

(Found here)

To lose one critical G, to paraphrase that famous Lady, may be regarded as misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness.

But three?

Another anus burger sign

(Found here)

Or four?

Bacon & Cheese Anus

(Found here)

By now I’m starting to assume some sort of Photoshop japery. After all, it turns out not to be just McDonald’s:

BK Anus

(Found here)

In fact, an ‘anus burger’ search on Flickr gets a whole host of results.

So is it real, or fake? This blog and this one seem to take the ‘typos’ at face value. And there seem to be so many. Who would bother to keep Photoshopping the same, fairly limited, gag onto dozens of shots?

Maybe they’re the real thing after all. I like to assume that rather than being symptoms of stupidity, they’re symptoms of boredom and mild rebellion by teenage McJobbers, trying to find some fun between scraping the oven and ‘You want fries with that?’

Filed under: Typos

Spelling is not among them

Pubic schools

I mean, honestly. Thanks for tweeting this, Nick.

Original on AdFreak.

Filed under: Typos

Not the world’s greatest offer

Barratts offer sticker

Passing Barratts in the Westfield Centre yesterday, I spotted this poorly worded sticker.

It doesn’t sound all that amazing, really: two shoes would appear to be, to quote one of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s finest moments, ‘the minimum requirement’.

But at least that’s an excuse to remind us all of some truly masterful writing, here performed live at some indeterminate point in the Seventies:

Filed under: Confusing

Vowel movements

I said earlier that I don’t tend to post about typos, as they’re usually pretty mundane. ‘Unless,’ I said, ‘the word ought to have been something like “shot” or “bigger”.’

As is the synchronicitous way of things, shortly after that post I found myself poring over the takeaway menu from our local Indian restaurant, wondering what to have for dinner. The item below caught my eye – for all the wrong reasons, obviously.

Indian menu typo

An embarrassing slip for any restaurant to make. Given the traditional caricature of Indian food, and its gastrointestinal ramifications, this does seem especially unfortunate. But still very appealing to the schoolboy element of my sense of humour.

(The takeaway, by the way, was delicious. If you’re around my part of Surrey, I heartily recommend The Dorking Brasserie. But perhaps not their proof-reader.)

Filed under: Typos

And the prize for Most Bizarre And Misplaced Dirty Harry Reference goes to…

"Go ahead, make their day"

…my local Esso garage. Quite how you get from Clint Eastwood blowing away a gang of stick-up men in Sudden Impact to the impulse purchase of a cheap bouquet is rather beyond me.

(Don’t you also love the weasliness of ‘make their day’? Some bright spark in a meeting somewhere said, ‘Isn’t “her” a bit limiting? And possibly sexist?’)

Filed under: Confusing

Experience Corner: No 1

For a long time, Private Eye ran a ‘Solutions’ column, collecting all those ridiculous uses of ‘solutions’, like describing cardboard boxes as Christmas Ornament Storage Solutions. They seem to have got bored of that now, and I can’t say I blame them. But it was fun while it lasted.

In similar spirit, I thought it was time I started ‘Experience Corner’. As I sat chewing my muesli this morning, my eye fell on the back of the Alpen bag, where I read this:

Alpen breakfast experience

And this:

Alpen taste experience

In both cases, you could drop the word experience without any loss of meaning. (Or perhaps, without compromising your reading experience.)

So why is it there? And why in God’s name is everything an ‘experience’ these days? I can’t go to a shop, I have to have a retail experience. I can’t eat at a restaurant, I have to have a dining experience.

I know what it means when people use it internally, as part of their business-speak. They mean the complete package: not just the food, for example, but the service, décor and ambience.

Fine. Use it internally. But don’t inflict it on the public. They’re happy enough to enjoy ‘that unique Alpen taste’, or ‘a deliciously creamy breakfast’, without unnecessary words floating about in it.

I’d be very grateful if you could send me your own examples of this silly and annoying copywriting habit. Thanks, and have a nice day experience.

Filed under: Experience Corner, Jargon, Verbiage

Wagamama slips up on the pavement

Wagamama pavement ad

What is it with restaurant brands and question marks?

This ad, applied to the pavement near the Westfield Shopping Centre in London (or to give it its official title, The Howling White Desert of The Soul) is one of those examples where punctuation really does alter meaning.

Imagine someone pointing out a hairstyle and saying, ‘Fancy having your hair done like that?’ That sounds fairly positive. It sounds like they’ve spotted something they think might work quite well for you.

‘Fancy having your hair done like that,’ sounds a bit different. Not quite so positive now. Like Mary Whitehouse spotting a mohawk.

Fancy a big brand like Wagamama making such a basic mistake.

Filed under: Punctuation

Eagle-Eyed Reader Of The Month Award

Samsung Galaxy press ad typo

The prize goes to my sometime client and fellow tweeter, Belfast-based graphic designer Gareth Hammond, for this one. He sent me these shots of a recent press ad for the Samsung Galaxy S phone.

Normally, when someone says they spotted a typo, it’s quite a mundane affair, unless the word ought to have been something like ‘shot’ or ‘bigger’.

But this one is definitely embarrassing, albeit not for that sort of tittery reason. Gareth also supplied a close-up, thank heavens:

Galaxy S typo close-up

I mean, if you’re going to put a shot of your product in an ad, it probably makes sense to check that everything on it is right. You wouldn’t use a shot of a car if it had a flat tyre, would you?

Silly Samsung. Clever Gareth.

Filed under: Contributions, Typos

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]


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