Since many of you probably started texting long before I did, you may be wondering whether spelling still matters. The article covers two sides: some say language and grammar just as important as ever; others say not as important. What are your thoughts? How do you feel about grammar and language use in general? Anyone have pet peeves about others’ grammar mistakes? Do you think that since anyone can publish online, good use of language can set you apart?
Hand and cheese sandwich
South of the Boarder – here’s a classic case of a homophone mixup. How should border be spelled? This picture was taken in L.A.
If anyone here is planning on getting a tattoo, remember to bring a dictionary. If there is a word that has personal significance for you, learn how to spell it. The sad part about this is that neither the tattoo artist nor the client caught the mistake.
So let’s look at some examples of typos and other mistakes in journalism and see how silly it makes us look.
See the problem with this headline? Unfortunately, spell check can’t always help us!
This one’s priceless. You can’t make this stuff up.
This is where the Chronicle Herald misspelled its own name when announcing some awards.
Here we have more classic apostrophe abuse, plus the capitalization of every word.
Another major category of mistakes is the use of unnecessary quotations. In researching this class, I discovered that there is an entire blog and book dedicated to the abuse of quotation marks. Imagine saying this sentence with air quotes – there is an implication of something very wrong with those boxes.
Here’s another example of misused quotes. It seems that the sign writer wants to emphasize the phrase is not by highlighting it with quotes. Have they heard of underlining?
Fried boloney sandwiches. “They’re delicious!” Says who? The people trying to sell them. No need to quote yourself. Sign writers like to use quotes to imply that this is a testimonial about the offered service or product.
Don’t think that misspelling and word usage is only of importance if you’re going into print or online work. This one goes out to all the broadcast people in here. This incident took place after an interview about Vancouver Island, where, according to the interviewee, people used to “canoodle”.
One of the signs that spelling does still matter is readers’ reaction to misspelling. Here are some quotes from Kathy English, the Toronto Star’s public editor.
I don’t believe texting will kill the English language, and I’ll show you a video that helps put texting in perspective. This is part of a TED talk by linguist and writer John McWhorter. TED stands for Technology, Education and Design – speakers are chosen on various topics; their speeches posted online.
Copy Editing Class I
So you think you can edit?
• Does spelling still matter 2U?
• Grammar game
• CP Style basics
Spelling matters to readers
“Our readers remind us constantly that
“Misspellings and typos in the newspaper
and online can provoke more passionate
reader indignation than just about any
other journalistic transgression.”
Kathy English, public editor, Toronto Star
TED talk on texting
O Class divides into two teams
O Each team member answers a question
O If that team member can’t answer, the
other team gets a chance for half a point.
O Have fun!
It’s been a particularly dry
summer in Halifax.
Meteorologists recorded less
than 10 days of rain from June
Answer 1: It should be “fewer than 10
O Use “fewer” for count nouns:
I drink fewer cups of coffee at night than I
O Use “less” for mass nouns:
I drink less coffee at night than I used to.
O The “less than 10 items” sign at the
grocery store should read “fewer”.
The elementary school’s new
meditation program has a
calming affect on students,
principal Bob Connor says.
Answer 2: It should be effect, not
Affect (verb): to influence, have an
Effect (noun or verb): a result; to
bring about, accomplish
Every time they take the
children to the neighbourhood
park, they see used syringes
laying on the grass.
It’s lying rather than laying.
Lie doesn’t require a direct
object, but lay does:
He lies down to sleep.
He lays the book down on the
Witnesses gave police numerous
tips about the masked man that fled
the scene of the liquor store
The masked man who fled
the scene of the robbery.
That usually refers to objects,
who usually refers to people.
“Sexist frosh chants aren’t just
a womens’ issue,” said Katrina
Jones, who studies at McGill
University. “The school culture
concerns all students.”
Answer 5: It’s apostrophe s in women’s,
Singular and plural nouns that don’t end in s
take an apostrophe s to form the
Plural nouns ending in s take an apostrophe
Teachers’ apples, the Joneses’ daughter
Now that the provincial election
campaign has kicked off,
candidates’ posters will be an every
day sight around Halifax.
When used as an adjective, it’s
everyday; as a noun, it’s every
Fire destroyed an historic
building in Stittsville, Ont., on
Monday, causing almost
$500,000 in damage.
It’s a, not an, before historic or
Many millennials – those born
in the 80’s and 90’s – are
struggling with student debt and
limited job prospects.
It should be ’80s and ’90s, not
80’s and 90’s.
The apostrophe stands for the
missing 19 in 1980 and 1990.
The couple was planning to file
a lawsuit against the
construction company that built
their leaky condo.
O Answer 9: The couple were
planning – couple takes a plural
verb when it is used in the sense of
O When the word couple treats two
people as a unit, the verb is
A couple pays a $10 ticket.
A student who participated in
yesterday’s anti-war demonstration
claimed they were a victim of police
The word “they” is plural, and
doesn’t agree with “student”.
The correct pronoun is he or
This is an example of pronoun-
Having battered and bruised
Louisiana, Florida was
Hurricane Isaac’s next victim.
Sentence should read “Having
battered and bruised Louisiana,
Hurricane Isaac moved onto its
next victim, Florida.
This is an example of a dangling
After hearing all the party
platforms, many voters are still
deciding who to vote for.
It should be whom, not who,
because whom refers to the
object, who to the subject.
Who stands for he, she or they
Whom stands for him, her or them
The Conservatives’ new policy
on immigration is one of many
that Liberals take issue with.
Sentence ends with a preposition. It
should be re-written to something
along the lines of:
Liberals take issue with many of the
Conservatives’ new policies,
including their approach to
Quebec public health officials fear
that the ongoing outbreak of
Legionnaires’ disease put
hospitalized seniors at risk.
Keep verb tense consistent. It
should stay in the present and
be “puts” seniors at risk.
The demonstrators marched
peacefully carrying signs and
chanting protests toward city
The sentence needs commas: The
demonstrators marched peacefully,
carrying signs and chanting protests,
toward city hall.
The commas are used to set off a
“Their going to get a chance to
pass judgment on all three
parties and decide whom they
want in power,” said Liberal
leader Stephen McNeil
Answer 16: It’s “they’re”, not
They’re is a contraction of they
are, their is a pronoun and there
is a noun.
Starbucks announced that their
new pumpkin spice latte will be
available at all franchise
locations on Oct. 1.
Starbucks said its or the
company’s new latte would be
Don’t refer to a business as
The expression is “to pique
interest”. There’s a difference
between peak, peek and pique.
The dog owner received a $30
fine for letting his German
shepherd off it’s leash near the
playground at the Halifax
Should be its leash. It’s is a
contraction of it is. Its is a
The outcome of the election is
dependant on whether the new
centrist party splinters the vote.
It’s dependent, not dependant.
Dependent is an adjective,
dependant is a noun.
Bonus quiz question!
Grammatically correct this Gotye
Somebody that I used to know
A childhood whale-watching trip
peaked Jane Smith’s interest in
marine biology, leading her to
pursue the subject at Dalhousie
• word usage
• CP style
• look at story
point of view
What is copy editing?
Copy editors are … you!
O Copy desks are shrinking
O Many stories go online raw
O Questionable social media and other
O As corrections increase, credibility
O Onus is on reporters to get it right
O Apply same standards to blogging,
What is CP style?
CP style is a set of journalism standards
established by The Canadian Press,
Canada’s national news agency.
Canadian Press provides national wire
stories to many news agencies.
Many media outlets follow the CP Stylebook
for consistency in reporting and editing.
10 examples of CP style
1. Trade names
It’s iPad, Velcro, Jell-O, Jimmy Choo shoes
Upper case in general; consult official website in
It’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but Montreal
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.
Formal, integral titles are capped; occupational
titles are not
3. Don’t use a serial comma!
Correct: We ate apples, oranges and bananas.
Incorrect: We ate apples, oranges, and bananas.
Use familiar ones (NATO, NHL, WHO, CBC), but not
obscure ones, like the Nova Scotia Knitters’ League
Spell out numbers below 10 and use figures for 10 and
up. Example: The bus crash left two people dead
and 12 injured.
6. In Canada, words end in “our”, not “or”.
For example: colour, labour, behaviour
7. Per cent
When referring to statistics we write “per cent”, not
percent or %.
Example: The government plans a five per cent
increase in education spending this year.
8. When a sentence starts with a number, write it
Example: Five thousand homes lost electricity when
the storm hit yesterday.
9. Periods are used in geographical and time
acronyms, but not in other acronyms.
Example: CBC radio, CTV news
Geographical: Chester, N.S., Montreal, Que.
Time: 10 a.m., 11 p.m.
10. Street names
Full names are capped: Wall Street, Bay Street.
Addresses are abbreviated: 15 Barrington St.
O Readings for
O CP Style in-
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