Strip search finds crack between buttocks

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A gift of a story for the sub-editor generates another classic naughty headline, this time courtesy of WYFF4 television station in South Carolina (via Common Sense Journalism). Did this make the TV news too? Would love to have seen the anchor deliver the line.

Starting to gather quite a collection of rude heads – see Top 10 rudest headlines in the world ever, possibly from the hyperbolic list era of 2008, and some more recent headline funnies.

Editing isn’t as easy as everyone thinks

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Along with a bajillion others, I read about 26-year-old Amanda Hocking’s success in publishing her e-books on Kindle in a blog post called A Very Rich Indie Writer. She has self-published nine books and sold 100,000+ copies of those ebooks per month. PER MONTH!

After becoming internet phenomenon of the week a couple of weeks ago, she responded with this: Some things that need to be said – in which the above quote appears.

I’m making it Quote of the Week. Editing is an invisible but essential function, designed to tidy up, improve, fact-check, legal check, make more readable, cut the fluff and otherwise hone the content to be a better read for the audience. What sub-editors do goes far beyond basic grammar and spell checks.

And self-editing is hard (impossible, I would say).

Good luck to Amanda Hocking. With her inspiring success as an independent book publisher and all her hard work, she is surely now in the realm of affording a good editor. But with several recent features on the Lost art of editing, I hope she can find one.

As for me, I recently downloaded my first Kindle for Android e-book – Poke the Box – inspired by Seth Godin’s new publishing venture The Domino Project.

Both Poke the Box (which has a central message of ‘Go!’, or JFDI) and Amanda Hocking are shaping my own e-book idea. More of which, hopefully, in a future post.

Girls’ school still offering ‘something special’ – head

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Fantastic! Can’t believe I missed this one but I shall belatedly add this to my list of naughtiest headlines. Did the sub know? Or is it a classic blooper? It’s been  fixed for the online edition but the lovely internet has already archived a scan of it and sent it around the world. (It was sent to me by an Aussie journalist friend who saw it in The Australian.)

Reminds me of the time I left a reporter’s headline on a music review and got roundly told off on delivery day for ‘Sweet folk all’.  You can read the story of that in my post on the Top 10 rudest headlines in the world ever, possibly.

2010 Subs’ Standards in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,800 times in 2010. That’s about 14 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 20 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 76 posts. There were 16 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was August 11th with 700 views. The most popular post that day was 10 reasons Wanky Balls cockup may not be lazy journalism.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were blogs.journalism.co.uk, twitter.com, fleetstreetblues.blogspot.com, journalism.co.uk, and facebook.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for my tornado hell, caroline phillips tornado, funny obama headlines, online tone, and gay dix.

POPULAR POSTS in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

10 reasons Wanky Balls cockup may not be lazy journalism August 2010
16 comments

2

‘My tornado hell’, my red pen heaven December 2008

3

RIP Sub-editing: Does email have a hyphen and does anyone care? – pt 3 April 2010
5 comments

4

RIP Sub-editing: the rise of technology – pt 2 April 2010
3 comments

5

Starter kit: how to blog for your company April 2010
2 comments

HSE in typo-ridden, grammer-challenged style guide shocker!

In-house style guides are there to keep publications clear, consistent and accurate so shouldn’t they be proofread for spelling, grammar and punctuation themselves?

You’d think so, but it seems the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland forgot to check its work (or it hired the worst proofreader in the world) when it published a Plain language style guide for documents.

You can see the pretty long list of the errors on the document in Stan Carey’s post: HSE – Who proofreads the proofreaders? There’s also a good discussion going on in the comments.

My experience is that this kind of work can easily fall between the cracks in a big organisation. It is often the comms people who create the copy and the illustrators who lay it out. Technical points or queries about sense will most likely be run past a subject matter expert.

But basic proofreading is often passed on to the person in the department considered to have a good grasp of English. This is like giving the company accounts to someone who likes numbers, or layout to someone who is good at drawing.

Big orgs seem unaware of (or unwilling to prioritise the budget for?) proofreaders. But proofreading is a skill. Not only does it keep spelling, grammar and style points on track but, through accuracy and better readability, it builds trust in the reader.

I’ve only worked for two public sector organisations and both had previously just done the proofing themselves. In some cases, they didn’t do a bad job. But when they saw the level of red pen marks of a qualified proofreader, then they realised the difference between a quick read-though and a proper markup.

Still, the HSE errors are particularly surprising – even an automatic spellcheck should have picked up many of the issues that Stan highlights.

But, yanno, whatevah! I’m sure HSE is not the only outfit in the land with a dodgy style guide. I remember a superbly accurately Radio Times style guide that was completely unusable because it was the size of a doorstep.

Anyway, enough finger-pointing. Here is a LOLcat to rebalance the universe.

Typos from real life: Renualt

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Far more fun that spotting a typo in 9pt in a newspaper or magazine, is spotting one in big, fat, silver letters on the back of a van – check out this Renault on the move in Birmingham today.

Or should I say Renualt?

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How did this happen? Subversive, disillusioned, overtired or dyslexic production line engineer, or simply a typo? (Here are 153,000 others who also prefer the alternative spelling of Renault.)

Quick pics by Pete Ashton.

Nose abatement – not quite the new Wanky Balls

But still a rather lovely headline typo NOT spotted by the subs of the Birmingham Post and another indicator that inaccuracies can a story make (cf Wanky Balls). It’s getting comments so maybe it will stay. Spotted by Getgood.

Nose abatement headline

See, typos can be good.

10 reasons Wanky Balls cockup may not be lazy journalism

Last Saturday (7.08.10) the Independent printed – oh horror oh horror! – an error. Rather a funny error, though. For anyone who hasn’t had wanky balls on their lips today (sorry, that one nicked from The Twitchhiker), the clip claims that The Big Chill was formerly known as the Wanky Balls festival. Evidence in the final par below from the original spotter.

Independent clip with the error on

Spotted and clipped by musician Kat Arney, who knows the organisers of The Big CHill

The misinformation was lifted from Wikipedia – which Kat also clipped and published on her blog post.

It’s a classic fact-check funny that has also garnered many a witty comment wherever it was blogged. Bitter Wallet‘s commentators, for example, started openly bragging about their Wiki fiddling:

I once changed Roy Keane’s middle name from Maurice to Sarah, and it remained thus for a fortnight. I also changed the bit about him “often seen walking his dog, Triggs” subtly to “wanking”.

For ages Emily Bronte’s Wikipedia page kept reverting to a version which claimed she was buried with her pet monkey, Dave.

Etc etc. Warning: Depart now if you just want to enjoy the funny and skip my imminent rant.

But there were also many calls of ‘lazy journalism’ as well as the usual journalist haters who tend to lurk in comment sections. And, to be honest, they sucked all the fun out of the Wanky Ballsup, causing me to be a ranting subbing funsucker in return.

Of course, they could well be RIGHT. Someone lifted it from the Wikipedia page after all.

But…

As a sub-editor who was assigned to fact check every tiny detail for about 20 years, and who no longer does this for a living because of the advent of the lovely World Wide Web, I also call ‘lazy commenting’. I can think of plenty of excuses other than laziness for the appearance of Wanky Balls.

Such as…

Subbing cuts
Anyone who follows newsprint’s woes will know that editorial staff have been slashed and those who remain are often swamped with the extra workload. Entire subs teams have been let go in some cases and national newspaper subbing outsourced to other countries.

Subs brain drain
Freelance rates for sub-editors have been static or falling for a few years, work has been drying up and good subs have been moving on so that they can pay their mortgage. Budget cuts = ever-shrinking subs desk = fewer (not less!) factcheckers.

Web-first publishing
In web-first environments, reporters may have to sub their own copy whereas traditionally the sub-editing team would have checked the facts. Proofing your own copy? Cue potential Wanky Ball errors.

Human error
(sh)It happens.

Sub with a grudge
I remember a whole subbing team banding together after being sacked to code naughties into the captions.

Bored sub
As above but with a sense of humour.

Untrained sub
This is so going to sound like an old fart but back in the day you had to learn your subbing chops through an accredited apprenticeship or training course. I can’t tell you the amount of subs I’ve met who say they’ve just shimmied over into subbing from writing. Hello? Media law? Understanding of a decent source? Not out of the realms of possibility that the chief shouted over to the rookie to ask if it he checked it and the rookie said yes to save embarrassment.

Untrained writer
Same same but likely to nick willy-nilly wanky balls off the internet, especially from that nice, handy, informative Wikipedia site. Good subs should be trained to spot such plagiarism; see my next excuse.

Luddite sub
With a grey head long stuck in print, he/she possibly has no idea that Wikipedia is a first port of call not a fact-checking end destination. It came up first in Google…

Deadline call
It looked suspect but just wasn’t worth holding up the presses for. Or more likely, the end sub saw it and thought there’s no way this got to me without being checked – it’s so OTT it must be true.

Of course, has anyone considered that it might actually be true, that Wanky Balls was an affectionate working title named by the wags behind it ? After all, many a silly or rude band name has been tried on for size by musicians before they picked the final winner.

So just to be sure I asked Kat Arney what her source was, and could it possibly be true on some level?

She replied:

I personally know Pete Lawrence, the founder of the Big Chill, and many people who’ve been involved in the festival since the very beginning. So I can categorically tell you it’s incorrect.

So I checked. Happy now? Although perhaps we should phone the organisers to be 100% sure and get it direct from the horse’s mouth.

You’ll have to do it, though; there’s a huge spider that just legged it under my sofa (I’m serious), and imma gonna have to jump to safety.

Now BIG SPIDER – that is a proper excuse for Wanky Balls.

#walkyballsgate

Reuters doesn’t look a Gay-Dix gifthorse in the mouth

The classic Reuters headline

This super pun headline worthy of the tabloids is actually from Reuters and headlines the Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix beating former world champ Tyson Gay in a 200m race last week. Thank goodness, Dix didn’t come from behind and there wasn’t a final Gay spurt is all I’m saying.

LOLcat grammar

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures