or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, October 08, 2005


If you ever doubted that every single piece of published writing anywhere needs a second pair of eyes, these examples ought to set your mind straight.

But first, to set the scene: Friday was my day off, so Jim took a day off and rented a car and we drove to Halifax. We just kind of bummed around, didn't do much of anything, but it was nice to visit the city where we met and where we'd spent so much time. And while there, I spotted the following professionally designed and executed signs:

1) one which gave information about what to do in case of fire, emergency, or "poisin";

2) one (in a parking garage) which forbade, among other things, brawling, vandalism, and "drunkeness";

3) one which indicated that the business in question was "independently-owned and operated".

(This third item is, I admit, not necessarily obvious, so here's why it's wrong. It's true that we connect the words of a phrase using hyphens to change their parts of speech, and logically therefore we'd use a hyphen to yoke the adverb "independently" to the adjective "owned" to form a compound adjective; but as it happens, that rule is nearly always suspended in the case of adverbs ending in "-ly". And even if it weren't, even if we allowed the hyphen, we'd need a second hyphen in front of "operated" to make it parallel with the first adjective, as in "short-haired and -tempered". Either way, it's wrong: two hyphens bad, no hyphens good, but one hyphen wrong.)

So; professional signmakers need proofreaders. No surprise there.

If all this weren't enough, Friday night I was trying something that's very much in the news in iPod-land; giving your machinery a like-new look with a can of Brasso and a microfibre cloth. (Here's how.) So naturally I set out some newspaper on the kitchen table and had at it. Polishing metal is not something that takes all of your concentration, so naturally my attention drifted to the newspaper, the October 1st edition of the Moncton Times & Transcript. And there on the back page of the Life & Times section (page H8), in the local announcements, was the following, and I swear that this really was in the paper and that I'm not making it up:

The Salivation Army is holding a support group for children ages six to 16 who are or have been affected because a loved one is incarcerated.

There. Right there in black and white. The most definitive possible argument for having a proofreader on the staff of every single newspaper.

(P.S. The Brasso/microfibre procedure worked like a charm on my first-generation iPod. It polished out many scratches and removed all manner of tarnish and schmutz, and while you wouldn't mistake it for new, it has a gleam it hasn't had in a couple of years.)


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