pause for pedantry

Sunset over trees

Often, as I surf the internet, I find phrases, badly cropped headlines, verbal ambiguities, and punctuation failures that bring me up short and make me pause. When this happens, I tend to take a screenshot of the offending – or amusing – text and store it off to one side.

The intention is then to write about it on the blog, but sometimes I completely forget. Which is why the images in this post are from a whole range of contexts. While some of them are not particularly recent, I think they are probably still worth commenting on.

Sometimes the oddities can be found as close at hand as my own inbox. I let my sports centre membership lapse during 2020, and, once lockdown was lifted, the company emailed me, to try and get me to re-join. I decided I didn’t want to “relive” my membership – is that even a word? – not least because of their apparently blasé attitude and desire to see me in difficulties.

Unfortunate email preview: We can't wait to see you having problems

The pandemic gave rise to plenty of odd headlines, perhaps as so many of us were sitting at home desperate to hear any updates as soon as they were available. The side-effects of Covid were of definite interest and I’ll admit that some of them seemed quite appealing.

Headline: Are Covid patients getting younger?

As a poet, I think I am particularly attuned to line breaks in text and I remember catching sight of the next headline. It appeared at the bottom of the screen without the final word as I scrolled through the news. For a moment, the pandemic threatened to turn into the apocalypse.

Headline with bad line break: Next fortnight crucial for ending England

But there is more to life than the news: this is the UK, after all, and the weather is important too. But I don’t really understand why this forecast warranted a weather warning symbol. Unless, perhaps, because we’re not used to such pleasant weather.Weather warning symbol for pleasant weather forecastNext is a headline I found on the LinkedIn profile of a business friend. He develops websites, the charges for which depend on a huge number of factors. I am not at all sure the cropped headline gives a good impression of his pricing strategy.
LInkedIn post title cropped short: How much does a new website cost? Well, it depends on a hug

I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad següe into this survey question that asked for demographic details. I recall thinking that the phrasing was a little ambiguous. Personally, I tend to associate more with men, but that’s not because I identify as one.

Survey question: what gender do you most associate with?

Of course, not every badly phrased sentence or mis-read headline is actually wrong. Sometimes, it’s entirely my own fault and not that of the writer or proofreader.

In the news story about Barack Obama and Marcus Rashford discussing the way books have changed their lives, I was hugely disappointed to find that the greengrocer’s apostrophe was in fact a smut on my computer screen. The meeting was arranged by a publishing house, and not by a flightless bird from Antarctica.

News article extract. ...a meeting set up by the publishers Penguin...

So the web is a constant source of misreadings and double takes. That’s probably enough pedantry for today, but I will just end with a video of Sir Patrick Stewart giving a brief masterclass on the art of the quadruple take to his wife, Sunny Ozell.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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