When Spellcheck won’t help you…and Autocorrect fails.

Spellcheck is many people’s favourite tool when writing; it’s great for picking out niggly spelling and grammatical errors. However, what it’s less good at is spotting words used out of context. If it’s in the dictionary, it’s deemed ‘acceptable’.

So you get odd things happening at times, such as articles where the writer has obviously become confused by two homonyms, and the results come out something like these (the below come from a Digital Tutors blog post about the game engines Unity and Unreal):

one engine might rain supreme

And this particularly poorly structured sentence – who are its ‘dominants’, exactly? The people who’ve been oppressing a game engine?

When it comes to mobile games that is where Unity really shows its dominants, with many popular mobile games created with it, it’s really become a mobile developers go-to game engine.

Finally, the penultimate paragraph has this recommendation:

‘We’re so krazy, we eschew dictionaries!’

First of all, apologies for not blogging last week. I’ve been simultaneously editing two books, and paid work took over a bit, culminating in me realising at midnight on Friday that it was probably a little late to be thinking about what to post twelve hours ago.

This week’s post/rant is called ‘Spell it however you like – it’s still wrong’.

Why, oh why do some companies give themselves a name that sounds perfectly reasonable, but is spelt in a ‘unique’ way? I know it’s easier to potentially trademark a name further down the line if no one else uses that spelling, and that people can still understand what’s meant, but we’re not back at primary school learning phonics.

I’m thinking here of pack leaders like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Bratz dolls (I particularly dislike ‘Slurpee’, but that’s not so much a misspelling as a horrible word), although there are plenty of places out there who present a challenge to accepted orthographic standards.

Take ‘Krazy’, for example. I just googled the word and found one of the top hits to be a company named Krazy Kool Kastles, who hire out bouncy castles in Northern Ireland. I bet they don’t abbreviate their name very often. (Returning to Krispy Kreme for a moment, at least their Hull branch had the sense to drop its ‘KKK Wednesdays‘.)

Just the first three pages of Google bring up Krazy Playdays (soft play centre), Krazy Horse (motorcycle shop), Krazy Kat (theatre group), Krazy Kev’s (magician and balloon modeller), Krazy About Pizza (take a wild guess), Latin Krazy (dance teaching) and Krazy K9s (dog training). They’re so crazy that they shun the curly c!

It’s also interesting to me that when I just googled the name of a company that used to be known as ‘Wonderous Ink’ (and which used to have a list of FAQs on its website, one of which was a long explanation of how ‘wonderous’ was an older and well-established spelling of ‘wondrous’) that it has now changed its name to Wondrous Ink. I guess they got sick of all the Facebook and Twitter comments they were receiving about the company name, but they’ll never manage to erase the Google Images search results that clearly show the older (and incorrect) spelling (shown below). Which is a shame, because their books look lovely. The Internet elephant has a very long memory.

wonderous ink

I could probably go on for hours and trawl the Internet for more examples, but let me leave you with my favourite example, and the one which triggered the thought for this week: QwinnT’Sentiel Beauty. The name caught my eye when the company car was parked next door, and no matter how many times I reread it, I find it virtually impossible to commit the ‘correct’ name to memory. I know ‘quintessential’ is quite a tricky word to spell, but surely easier than ‘qwinnt’sentiel’? They may provide a fantastic service – I’m not doubting that for a moment – but I find the fact that I can’t spell their name really off-putting. And this company is a reseller of Younique cosmetic products, a name which really makes me cringe (although I guess that’s more a matter of personal taste, as spellegance no doubt is to some people)!

‘Til next week,

Sarah

Literary ‘fails’: jumping on the ‘Fifty Shades’ bandwagon to make a point

First of all, I’ll hold my hands up and say I haven’t read the Fifty Shades books. I can’t therefore judge whether they’re gripping reads or garbage, but Grammarly‘s article ‘Fifty Shades of Grammar Mistakes‘ on the Huffington Post website illustrates perfectly the kind of issues that I have when reading an otherwise ‘good’ book.

If you’re anything like me, then these kind of errors – and worse ones – will leap out at you from the pages as if they’re in bold text, taking you out of the story. Since working as an editor and proofreader, I’ve become hyper-aware of what’s ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ in written work, but my history of spotting dodgy writing goes way, way back in time, to when I was about eleven and used a red pen to correct errors in the film tie-in book Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I remember, aged 15, being outraged that there were so many editorial errors in the copy of Faye Weldon’s The Life and Loves of A She-Devil that I got out of the library. Of course I didn’t annotate this copy – I’m a model citizen! – but the bizarre change of the lead character’s shoe size part-way through the book has stayed with me in my ‘top 10’ of fails ever since.

As an adult, I’ve tweeted companies to point out misspelled signs in various departments and emailed publishers regarding glaring mistakes in novels. For example – and yes, it’s Fay Weldon again, but I’d like to say for the record that I think she’s a great writer and I think her books are generally very well written, here is an email I sent to the publisher regarding the Corvus 2010 hardback 2010 edition of Kehua!:

Please find listed below the errors I found when reading ‘Kehua!’ a few months ago, in case any further editions haven’t picked up on these. This wasn’t an official ‘proofread’ – they are just things I noticed when reading for pleasure:
p.40, line 11: “I won’t do change it,” she said.
p.170, line 6 from bottom: quote from Janice starting “Janice replied, ‘A hymn. Glad that I live am I…” This makes it hard to figure out where Janice’s speech ends and the narrator’s voice takes over again.
p. 210, line 3: “She had made an Australian friend, Dionne, on the boat over.” BUT p. 210, lines 7-6 from bottom: “They both went to elocution lessons to get rid of their New Zealand accents.”
p. 228, line 15 from bottom: “Mary Stopes the birth-control heroine” (Marie)
p. 232, line 18: there is an extra gap between ‘Joey’ and ‘Matthews’.
p. 237, line 5 from bottom: “He is a big, handsome fleshy man, carelessly dressed, bright-eyed and forceful” (missing comma after ‘handsome’)
p. 261, line 13: “Alice took the tube down to King’s Cross” (Tube)
p. 311, chapter heading: “Another’s day’s writing” (Another day’s…)
p. 325, glossary: extra tab has been inserted so the definition of ‘tohunga’ is not lined up with the other definitions.

Perhaps you think I need to get out more!

Or take this email I sent regarding a rather major plot point in Dolly: A Ghost Story, by Susan Hill:

When speaking to Edward, Leonora says on p. 97, lines 9-11 of chapter 14: “Though as I am older and my mother [Violet] was older than yours [Dora], it would seem fairer that I get the lion’s share.” However, on p. 21, lines 1-3 of the second section, it says, “Kestrel Dickinson had been an only child for fourteen years before two sisters were born, Dora first and then Violet.”
This tactic hasn’t netted me any extra work so far, but I like to imagine it’s all part of me changing the world, one comma at a time.
If you enjoy ‘fails’ in writing, another copy-editor and proofreader who I know through LinkedIn has a fun Facebook page called ‘Dale’s Fails‘, where she collects particularly choice examples and usually posts a few a day. If you’re on Facebook, head over there and check out her page!
Finally, if anyone’s wondering what to get me for my next birthday, you can’t go wrong with Jenny Baranick’s Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares:
missed periods
I’m happy to read about grammar for work or pleasure – surely a sign that I’m in the right profession?
Until next time!
S