Subbing the world

Righting copywriting wrongs, one word at a time

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

Sleeping comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Coleman sleeping bag label

Not content with upsetting celebrity food writers via this blog, reader Stephen Green (of Greenfisher) has sent me this label from the Coleman sleeping bag his wife bought recently.

If you can’t read the notes on the label, Stephen’s kindly supplied a transcript:

The temperature ratings of our sleeping bags are based on tests which comply to the temperature rating protocols of the European Standard (EN 13537-4.3.3 Manikin* Methodology only).

The definitions, provided according to the European Standard, are:

Comfort: Lower limit of comfort range down to which a sleeping bag used with a relaxed posture, such as lying on the back, is globally in thermal equilibrium and just not feeling cold. Related to a standard woman and in standard conditions of use.

Limit: Lower limit at which a sleeping bag user with a rolled-up body posture is globally in thermal equilibrium and just not feeling cold. Related to a standard man and in standard conditions of use.

Extreme: Lower extreme temperature where the risks of health damage by hypothermia occurs. Related to a standard woman and in standard conditions of use.

Coleman® suggests to follow the “Comfort” temperature.

*Note: during the tests, the manikin is dressed with jacket, trousers and long socks, lying on an insulating mattress – sleeping bag fully closed.

So that’s all clear then. As long as you’re a ‘standard man’ or a ‘standard woman’, of course. Or possibly a ‘manikin.’

Filed under: Confusing, Contributions, Jargon, microcopy, Verbiage

Don’t try to pretend this is an accident

Reuters 'Gay/Dix' headline

Credit for spotting this one from Reuters goes to Doug Bebb, Web Editor at the NSPCC. Thanks Doug.

‘Nuff said, really, except that I find it difficult to believe this wasn’t written with a knowing titter.

As Doug says in his email, it’s reminiscent of that famous (if disputed) bit of Brian Johnston commentary, when he apparently announced during a 1976 Test match that, ‘The batsman’s Holding, the bowler’s Willey.’ The things words will do to you if you don’t keep an eye on them. Shocking.

Well, anyway, it’s lunchtime now, so I’m off for a hot roll with the wife. Cheerio!

Filed under: Contributions, Double meanings

Censuring the BBC

BBC typo

So, class: what’s wrong with this paragraph (another contribution from eagle-eyed copywriter Jim Davies)?

It’s from today’s BBC Sport website (scroll down to ‘Other Gossip’).

Well, yes, I probably would hyphenate ‘mid-flow’, but that’s not what we’re looking for.

A comma after ‘press conference?’ Do you know, I think you’re right. But again, not the target today.

Yes? You at the back, with the chewing gum in your hair? Yes, well done. Quite right:

BBC typo corrected

Censure means to strongly disapprove of something, or even to issue an official reprimand. You can almost see how someone might think that was what Fifa was doing, in a way.

But it seems obvious that whoever scrambled this paragraph out meant censor, as in to suppress certain material on behalf of some regime or other. Oops.

Bizarrely enough, when I was collecting my links I found that is featuring censor as one of its ‘commonly confused’ words today: confused words

Even so, I don’t think we can let the BBC off the hook, can we? Otherwise we’d be censoring our own right to censure. Which would be a shame indeed.


UPDATE (about three hours later):

The page has now been corrected:

BBC typo changed

Is this because of its appearance here? I wouldn’t wish to claim credit unduly, but who knows…?

Filed under: Contributions, Typos

Righting wrongs: writing on another writer’s wrong ‘write off’

Visit Cornwall email

Thanks to fellow copywriter Jim Davies for this one. It’s an email he got from Visit Cornwall. Looks quite smart, doesn’t it? But there is dumbness here, alas.

Jim directed my attention, as I now direct yours, to the copy under STAY. There: that first sentence.

Yes, it is really long, isn’t it? Really long.

But that’s not the major crime that Jim’s reporting. The sentence, if you’re having trouble reading it, says:

‘Travelling on a budget in Cornwall doesn’t mean you have to wistfully right-off thoughts of quality because Cornwall is home to the best caravan holiday park in the country.’

For one thing, it’s crying out for a comma after ‘quality’. (Without it, it implies you might dismiss thoughts of quality because Cornwall is home to the best caravan holiday park in the country. Which doesn’t make much sense.)

But that’s not the major crime either, unless I’ve mistaken Jim’s purpose. The glaring problem is that hyphenated phrase in the middle.


This is one of those Rumsfeldian problems, I think: an unknown unknown.

Whoever wrote this email (and, God help us, all those who read and approved it) presumably just thought the phrase was correct. They didn’t know that they didn’t know the real phrase.

What they thought ‘right-off’ might actually mean is anyone’s guess. And why would it be hyphenated, anyway?

These things, to follow the Rumsfeldian theme, must remain known unknowns. (Unless someone from Visit Cornwall fancies piercing this dense fog of sarcasm to let me know.)

The correct phrase? Well, of course it should be ‘write off’.

But you already knew that. (And I knew you knew it.)


Filed under: Confusing, Contributions

Splashing about in language

Graduate100 website

Someone who I’m guessing would rather not be named has sent me a link to Graduate100: ‘the largest initiative of its kind that profiles and promotes Britain’s highest achieving graduates and undergraduates across all academic areas.’

As you can tell, they haven’t scrimped on the copy for their splash page (above).

‘Don’t hold back,’ they presumably told the writer. ‘We’d like as many words in here as you can manage. Go for broke.’

Just check out that second sentence. Not only is it a whopper, filling most of the paragraph, it’s also bewilderingly elaborate:

However, throughout our involvement in the Graduate 100 initiative, we were exposed, on a day-to-day basis, to an almost inexhaustible unveiling of the identities of Britain’s highest achieving and most talented university students.

There’s a part of me that almost admires this sort of thing.

‘…exposed, on a day-to-day basis, to an almost inexhaustible unveiling…’

It’s wantonly, unashamedly meaningless. It even sounds a bit saucy. And it positively wallows in language.

Words for this writer are not precious gems, to be selected and combined with care. They’re a plastic ball pool at the kids’ playcentre. He (or she) hurls himself (or herself) into them and thrashes wildly about, sending multi-coloured verbs, adjectives and nouns cascading in all directions.

It doesn’t do anything for communication, but you have to admit it is kind of fun.

Filed under: Confusing, Contributions, Verbiage

May I have this UK Independance?

UKIP leaflet mis-spelled

Thanks to Nick Asbury for tweeting me this rather confused piece of election material today.

However frothingly bonkers a party may be, one does expect them to be able to spell their own name. (Not to mention understanding the use of full stops and capital letters.)

The BNP has a good strategy in this regard: even its most Neanderthal members can, presumably, put three letters in the right order.

Perhaps UKIP should just stick to initials.

Filed under: Contributions, Naming, Typos

You lot are worse than me

Jay Rayner quote


UPDATE: After this went up yesterday, Jay Rayner got in touch (see comments) and explained that the fault above was not his. So as you read the post, bear in mind that he got subbed by the Observer before he got subbed here. Sorry for the error, Jay. I’m just glad we didn’t pick up on anything by Giles Coren.


Before I started this blog, I feared for myself as the most pernickety, grumpy, nyeh-nyeh-nyeh-y old pedant ever.

But you people are beating me on that score. Hands down.

Look what Stephen Green tweeted: this page from the Observer, in which Jay Rayner has mentally grouped ‘health and safety’ into a sort of compound singular, and treated them as such in his copy.

Stephen’s having none of it. And who’s to argue? Jay could at least have capitalised the nouns: Health and Safety. The suggestion of a proper noun would have acted as some sort of defence.

Perhaps an ampersand, too, would have helped reinforce the sense of a single thing: Health & Safety. Like Marks & Spencer.

But leaving those two words nakedly ordinary, in simple lower case, renders them undeniably separate and simple – weaklings among the literary herd, helpless as the verbal jaguar that is Stephen Green leaps from the undergrowth and savages them both to the floor – them and their silly little ‘is‘.

I’m getting a bit scared of my readers.

Filed under: Contributions, Grammar

At last: an alternative to imaginary crisps!

Richard has sent me a note about Walkers Sensations (with this image nicked from The Dieline):

Sensations packs

Quite rightly, he highlights that line on the pack, ‘Made with real ingredients‘, as deserving of our scorn.

It would be tricky, after all, to create crisps from unreal ingredients. What would you do, mix the dream of a potato with a painting of some chilli, and a memory of salt?

Yes, all right, of course we know what they mean. They mean they’ve used actual produce to achieve the flavour, rather than artifical flavouring number E4506/B. Which is a nice thing to know.

(Although if you look the ingredients up, you find that in amongst the ‘real ingredients’ is the somewhat vague ‘Flavouring’.)

Nobody really thinks Walkers are offering us an alternative to imaginary crisps. I understand that. But it’s nice to know someone other than me looks at language like this and does a little roll of the eyes. Thanks, Richard.

Filed under: Confusing, Contributions, microcopy

Pulled in two directions

A lovely contribution, this, from designer David Hyde. As David says, your first reaction is that the confusion is unintentional. But on second thoughts, maybe it’s a deliberate joke.

This blog is about copy cock-ups, though, so to avoid veering wildly off-remit we’ll just assume this is an amusing gaffe.

(David would also like to draw typographic attention to that inverted S on DOGS. Oops.)

Filed under: Amusing tangents, Confusing, Contributions

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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