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Word For Word
January 5, 2008
I’m tired, it’s been a long day and I’m vegging out by flipping channels. Nothing on TCM or TV Land interests me, so I try the news. Remember, I’m only tired now—not depressed—because if I were, the news would be the last thing I’d watch.
I’m half-listening, while simultaneously reading the ticker on the bottom as it scrolls along. Two of the “late-breaking” (as opposed to “on-time breaking,” I guess) stories are the lead paint content found in children’s toys imported from China and the steroid controversy of wrestler Chris Benoit that apparently had some eerie coincidences associated with the tragic murder-suicide. So, I’m reading about “lead paint” and “eerie coincidences” except lead is spelled led and eerie is spelled erie—and all within the span of 60 seconds.
I’m not only tired now, I’m at the end of an even longer day because I’m at the end of my rope with the sloppily-spelled straw that broke this writer’s back. Let me amend that—it’s not even about spelling...it’s about knowing right-write-rite from wrong-wrong-wrong and it’s also about knowing that if you don’t know or aren’t sure, there’s a book called the dictionary where you look it up. It’s about taking enough pride in your work to get it right, not get it rite or get it write.
This wasn’t the first time I had cringed at bedraggled, inaccurate word usage on this particular news ticker. But it was the first time I decided to do something about it and fired off an email to one of the program’s anchors the next morning.
Here’s an excerpt:
I hope you read this and respond to it. There are constant spelling and grammatical errors on [your] ticker tape.
Some recent examples:
Last week, within one minute, I saw:
"Erie coincidence" (Since this was a prelude to Chris Benoit saga, I doubt it occurred on Lake Erie. Shouldn't we have tried "eerie" instead)?
"Led paint" (Although Moses led his people out of bondage, I don't recall that he led paint or pencils to the Promised Land. Since this was a story about contaminated paint in Chinese toys, the word "lead" would have been the correct choice) ... Now I know proper spelling is made out as a picayune matter, especially in the "feel good about yourself" atmosphere in many schools, but [your network] is supposed to set a higher standard. When fifth grade errors such as the ones I've cited above go over the air waves, they undermine your seriousness and wound your credibility....
You're killing me here and there's no excuse for it. ... Please remind whoever is in charge of writing the ticker tape these words are seen—and either admired or snickered at—by millions.
I didn’t really expect a personal reply—and I never got one. However, within two (not too or to) days of my email, the ticker itself offered an exclusive email address reserved for comments about...the ticker. Also, the spelling on the ticker improved. Literally overnight, there were no more errors.
Besides the obvious lesson (the difference a single email can make), the other lessons are even more important. Pay attention to the “little things” because they’re the foundation upon which the bigger things rest. Cross those Ts and dot those Is—figuratively and literally. Spelling checkers are only a tool; not a substitute for those homonyms you should have learned in elementary school. A typo looks like this: TPYO. A typo is not using led for lead or erie for eerie...or my personal “favorite,” Haiti’s for Hades (as in, “It’ll be a cold day in Hades when...”). Avoid convenient shortcuts; with the ad nauseum use of U for you, 2 for to and cuz for because, our language is in danger of soon becoming a jumble of Morse Code call letters, staccato blurbs where once there existed actual words.
Live dangerously. Spell correctly. Learn your homonyms. Take time to add o-u-g-h to doughnut, though and through. And when you see errors in places that hold themselves up as examples, whether newsletters, ads or television networks, make the effort to point these errors out to the offenders. As writers, we should respect language and always handle it with the utmost care.
And that’s my Word For Word.
I was shocked to see my last Word For Word was written in August. The last four months heading into January took on a life of their own and somewhere along the way, I lost track of them. I’ve been working with some exciting new companies as they approach their launch dates and other companies as they flesh out their offerings to accommodate all those wonderful occasions throughout the year. One of those companies is Yorkshire-based and since I’ve been to Yorkshire twice (and loved it both times), I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to their creative vision.
As you’ll see when you click on the “Order My Books” icon on the Home Page, I have some exciting news about my greeting card writing book. It continues to sell across the country and around the world and it’s time to...well, click on the page and you’ll see what’s just around the corner.
Spring (well, we’re not quite there yet, but it helps to fast forward) means writing conferences and I’ve been invited to speak at “A Writing Retreat: In The Company of Women VIII” founded by author Doris Larson. The retreat runs from April 18-20th (2008) and is being held at beautiful Punderson Manor Resort in Newbury, Ohio. Check out the website: www.bigwits.com and click on Women Writers Retreat where you can see the various workshops and presenters, plus how to register. The deadline for registration, by the way, is March 1, less than two months away. For me, that’s the equivalent of tomorrow.
I personally read all your emails and take much joy in learning about your writing, your background and your aspirations. I thank you for placing so much confidence in my advice and observations.
Please continue to order from our affiliates whenever possible, since the dividends we receive are plowed (or should that be, “ploughed?”) right back into the site. I still plan to feature an affiliate of the month within the next few weeks because the varied products they offer are worthwhile.
January is upon us and the humidity of August has turned to freezing rain, snow, wind and slush. This is the perfect time to cozy down with your computer, putting fingers to keys and tapping out words. Enjoy the process and may your creativity reign in 2008.
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