“Condense or approach a customer service representative”: I saw this sign in the Wilmington, Delaware, railroad station, and I was baffled. Should condense have been contact? Maybe. Some writers readily accept nonsensical suggestions from a word processor’s spelling checker. Later, I wondered whether it meant “condense your baggage,” as in consolidate your luggage—maybe stuff it into one suitcase and stand on the lid to get it shut. The verb condense has two forms: transitive and intransitive. You can condense something (a book, for example) by making it smaller, or something can condense by becoming smaller, which happens when water vapor condenses into liquid water on a cold glass.
Don’t let this happen to you: Make sure that text makes sense the first time someone reads it.
* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.