Tag Archives: grammar

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.

LOLcat grammar

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

‘What will you miss when newspapers are gone?’

Will you miss me, Seth Godin? You don’t seem to mention copy editors, concentrating as you have in your post on the loss of  ‘local news, investigative journalism and intelligent coverage of national news’.

I am/was a sub-editor who is having to check less and less as life moves online and into endless opinion. My job has all but disappeared. The ‘invisible’ skill – to the readers anyway – of copy editing, checking and proofreading may be missed as reputations fall, libel and copyright court cases soar, stocks crash on the back of incorrect tagging and anal grammar pundits click away in annoyance.

While you’ve obviously done a spell-check on your column, I did have to laugh at:

I worry about the quality of a democracy when the the state government …

And I worry about the quality of ‘the the’ content, and where I will be able to find checked content. I’m not meaning to nitpick. It’s a small example, nothing to bother about. But it’s the trustworthiness, I will miss; the knowing that what I’m reading has been via the lawyers, a copy editor and/or a chief sub-editor.

We can all live with a  few spelling/grammar stuff -ups. But it’s kind of like airlines and maintenance. If the seatbacks don’t work and the carpets are worn, then you don’t care but you do worry about the engine. The trust has gone. 

So I think the ‘invisible’ sub-editor may finally become visible when newspapers are gone – and, even with the tabloid spin, it’s them who I’ll miss. And in case you think I’m feeling sorry for myself, I don’t think that’s it. My job’s already moved on. The sub-editing element has sunk to less than 20%. I’m just another opinionated media outlet now!

Every little helps at Tesco – even correct grammar

Nice to see grammatical pedantry is alive and well. There are 145 comments and counting on the Telegraph’s story of Tesco changing its ’10 items or less’ signs to ‘up to 10 items’. Also, 51 so far on a Digitalspy forum. And, weirdly, 23 on a community of Mazda MX-5 owners, one of whom suggests putting rulebreakers in stocks at the supermarket for everyone to jeer at.

Now that would also be a great way to boost trade of eggs and on-offer fruit and veg, wouldn’t it? See grammar IS good for commerce…

Subs are still sexy

Feeling all aglow in the knowledge that the majority of people do still care about me and my life correct spelling, grammar and punctuation – even on the easy-going internet. After posting a poll on my new e-ddiction Ask500people.com, 82% said they do still care about getting such pernicketty things as punctuation right.

Not only that but 49% said they cared about proper spelling full stop, while only 20% took a more lax view on the internet and 13% only stepped up their game at work and school.

Of course, the mindset of poll clickers means they only tend to vote if they are interested in the subject already, but still… as long as so many people get riled up by the subject, the sub’s role is set to continue.

One of the things I like about ask500people is the global pinpointing… with grammar addicts and spelling bees clicking from as far afield as Colombia, the Philippines, Iran, Ukraine, Senegal, Bolivia and more.

Watching the location pins pop up as people vote is like seeing a graphic version of Bowie/Jagger’s ‘Dancing in the Streets’. Okay, Tokyo, South America, Australia, France, Germany, U.K, Africa… All we need is subbing, sweet subbing, cos there’s typos everywhere… Forgive me, under wordplay restrictions right now so in dire need of an outlet, sob.

Who cares about spelling and grammar?

Do YOU care about correct spelling, punctuation and grammar any more? Find out who does and in what circumstances as 500 people around the world give their view.