Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Worst Usage Error I've Ever Read

I know I can appear to be a language-usage curmudgeon, but I'm not.

Mostly, I'm amused at the funny constructions people come up with, whether in speech or informal texts, such as comments. I write about them here because I think others will find them amusing, too.

I admit to feeling more curmudgeonly about errors made by professional writers and, particularly, copy editors. Yes, we all work on deadlines, and everyone makes mistakes. There are so many errors in professional writing these days, it's getting to the point where I hardly notice the occasional typo. But there's nothing like a glaring "thinko" to make me sit up and take notice.

This one was made by a professional writer-editor and copy-edited by a second professional writer-editor, each with more than 20 years' experience. While explaining a series of changes in her organization in the last two years, the writer had this to say:

[The changes] began with the hiring of a new management company... From there we implemented a new logo and branding. Then came the new physical year -- moving from July-June to January-December.
As I said, if this had been written by a regular person, I would have chuckled. But the writer and copy editor both write annual report copy. How could the writer not know it's a fiscal year? How could the word "physical" even have flowed out of her typing fingers? And if the copy editor actually read the sentence, how could she have missed the error, since it makes absolutely no sense as written?

My headline might be a bit exaggerated; I'm sure there are worse usage errors. But considering the source, it was hard to keep my inner curmudgeon from taking over on this post.

Writing this reminds me once again of Muphry's Law, which says that "if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written."

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