I know what it means, but what does it *say*?


For years I drove past this sign every day on the bus, and it has always driven me crazy. I understand what it is supposed to mean. Making wine at this location will save you money. But what on earth is that second line supposed to say when you read it to yourself in your head: Saving dollars? Saving moneys? Savings?

I just don’t know, and that apostrophe just makes it all the more painful. If they really felt they needed that $ symbol, the most logical way to phrase it would have been the simplest: Save $

Maybe “you” should learn what quotation marks are for…

Again, I must say that I understand Internet advertising may be an unfair place to go looking for grammatical and punctuation screw-ups. But still — I couldn’t ignore this ad:


What on earth does the person who wrote this ad think those quotation marks mean? Probably the same thing as the guy who wrote the sign I used to pass by at the skytrain station that read:

We prepare “fresh” food daily.


And you want me to take your IQ test?

I’ll admit that Internet advertising banners are not necessarily expected to adhere to the strictest rules of spelling and grammar.

But surely if you expect me to have any interest in your “IQ Quiz,” you should at least know when to use “a” and when to use “an”… and that’s as far as I’m going to go in my linguistic analysis of this ad. Otherwise my brain might fall out.


Beaconicity? A non-word? C’mon now…

As an editor, I am firmly opposed to using a five-syllable word when there’s a perfectly good one- or two-syllable one that says exactly what you mean, especially when it can make your meaning less clear.

So I offer my enthusiastic congratulations to the Local Government Association, a group that represents city councils in the UK, for their recent banning of 100 “non-words” that have recently cropped up in bureaucratic correspondence, but that baffle the general population — the very people these local councils are meant to serve.

Here’s an article from The Guardian that explains the move, and contains these insightful words from the association’s chairman:

Why do we have to have ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when we could just ‘talk to people’ instead?

Here’s a list of the top ten terms — with plain-English translations — from The Telegraph.  My favourite?

Predictors of Beaconicity: Signs that a council may win an award

Of course. Who wouldn’t have understood that?

Como se dice?

I’ve discovered something interesting recently, through the process of taking a Spanish class: You never think about the mechanics of your native language. (Well, I think about the mechanics of my native language, but I could hardly be a very good editor — or soap-box grammarian — without doing so.)

Your brain knows how English works. You picked up its oddities as a child, and trying to explain what you are doing when you’re conjugating a verb, or choosing a tense, or putting a sentence together is just about impossible.

In a foreign language, you have to struggle to understand what a reflexive verb is, what the indirect pronoun is, and what on earth you would do with the present subjunctive. You know all this stuff in English; you just don’t know what it’s called. And this means you should be very careful when trying to explain the use of English to a non-native speaker.

At the end of my Spanish class last night, there was some confusion because the teacher (a native Spanish speaker who speaks English as a second language) was trying to differentiate between what we had covered last class (the one the week before) and what we would cover in the last class (the final one). He asked us how he could indicate which he meant, and the other students all told him it was just based on context.

But this isn’t true. It just seems true to a native speaker because you don’t think about how you’re using the language.

Sure, context helps. Talking about the past helps to indicate that you mean the class from the week before, and talking about the future clearly indicates you mean a class that is still to come. But context is not the only difference:

  • Last class is the previous class.
  • The last class is the final class.

The things that rattle around in an editor’s brain!

Think she’s heard the one about people in glass houses?

I’ve had two separate people draw my attention to this image now, so I suppose it’s time to post it here. Thanks to Ric and Lloyd for calling my attention to this gem — I guess I’m getting a bit of a reputation for being a cantankerous editor.

Enthusiastic but foolish...

This is just so delightfully ironic. And I love that she’s made it so easy for all of us soapbox-types to poke fun at her by double-underlining her mistake!

A freelance travel & lifestyle writer/editor in Vancouver, BC.