Category Archives: Hall of Shame

Steve’s Hall of Shame: It’s Protection, Buster*

Customs and Border Protection. This caption appeared on U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Flickr page.

Don’t let this happen to you: As my editorial checklist says (and yours should say it too): Check repeated information. If the agency’s name is given in two places, is the name the same? That sentence didn’t need two periods at the end either. Further advice for all employees, not just editors: memorize the name of your employer.


* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.

Advertisements

Hiking trial

A hiking trial? Sounds like a grueling hike. This caption was in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Free Lance–Star on Feb. 23, 2017.

Don’t let this happen to you: Maintain a list of “bad words”—words that probably shouldn’t be in your documents but that a spellchecker won’t catch. Search for these words as part of copyediting. Trail happens to be in my own list but in reverse: that is, trial is more likely to appear in the work I edit, and trail is more likely to be a typo.

Steve’s Hall of Shame:* A decadent headline

p>No, 50 years is not half a decade, it’s half a century.

Or is decade going the way of decimate? A lot of people now use decimate to mean not “reduce by a tenth” but “reduce by a lot.” Does decade no longer mean “ten years” but “a lot of years”? I’m just kidding. I hope this doesn’t happen to decade. And what would half of a lot be anyway?

It reminds me of Chico Marx in The Cocoanuts explaining to Groucho why a real estate lot is too much: “Sometimes you no got enough, it’s too much, you gotta whole lot. Sometimes you got a little bit. You no think it’s enough, somebody else maybe thinks itsa too much, itsa whole lot too. Now, itsa whole lot, itsa too much, itsa too much, itsa whole lot … same thing.”

Decade, decimate, itsa whole lot, same thing.

This was in the Fredericksburg, Va., Free Lance–Star on Jan. 26, 2017.

Don’t let this happen to you: This didn’t need an editor to catch it. It just needed somebody who was paying attention.


* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.

Slow as Manasses

In the Virginia Railway Express Ride magazine, November 2016, the chart says both “Manassas” (the correct spelling) and “Manasses.” (Maybe they meant “molasses”?)

Don’t let this happen to you: First, run a spellcheck. My copy of Microsoft Word recognizes Manassas but flags Manasses as misspelled. Second, check repeated information—and here we have the name of a city repeated twice but spelled two ways.

Steve’s Hall of Shame:* Slained

Getting slained is one of the worst things that can happen to anybody—or to a headline. This was in the Fredericksburg, Va., Free Lance–Star, Sep. 22, 2016.

Don’t let this happen to you: Spellcheck everything—even headlines.


* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.

Steve’s Hall of Shame:* Headling doesn’t go herery

After its June 28, 2016, debacle with a front-page headline mentioning the bribery conviction of Virginia’s current governor, McAuliffe, rather than the previous governor, McDonnell, the Fredericksburg Free Lance–Star said it was hiring more editors and starting a “new process for proofing.” Clearly the process isn’t up to speed, as shown by thiw Sep. 11 headline.

Don’t let this happen to you: Read everything twice, and spell-check everything—even headlines.


* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.

Steve’s Hall of Shame:* McGovernors mixed up

On June 28, 2016, the Fredericksburg Free Lance–Star splashed this headline across the front page. As the story and the photo caption make clear, it was Virginia’s previous governor, McDonnell, not the current governor, McAuliffe, who was convicted of receiving bribes.

Don’t let this happen to you: On the next day, at the top of the front page, the newspaper printed “a sincere apology.” It blamed the “massive and embarrassing error” on “several factors”: “new software” and design changes. It said it was hiring more editors and starting a “new process for proofing.” I don’t buy any of that except maybe that the paper needed a new process. If no editor was responsible for making sure that the top headline on the front page was true and correct, that certainly needed to change. New software and design changes should not hinder an editor from doing that. However, the paper didn’t need an editor to spot the error. At work, I showed the front page of the newspaper, and a co-worker immediately noticed that the wrong governor was named in the headline. Governor McDonnell’s conviction for receiving bribes has been a major story in Virginia for a while now, and it didn’t take an editor to know that. At an editorial level, the error could have been prevented by following one of the steps on my copyediting and proofreading checklist: check repeated information. Do the caption, story, and headline all say the same thing? No, they don’t …


* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.