Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tyops and Mes Ups

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, it has been a while.

I'm a big fan of typos and errors. Assuming of course, there their they're someone else's doing.

But errors, unlike American citizens, simply aren't created equal; when words go awry, there are definite categories of mistakeness. I've narrowed it down to three general categories of screw-ups: the Good, the Bad, and the downright Ugly.*

In a nutshell:
The Good - the context is ambiguous is enough that you can defend the "error." If used correctly, it makes anyone who tries to correct you look bad.
The Bad - a run-of-the-mill typo that makes you look bad.
The Ugly - an error that makes someone else look bad.

Details and examples follow.

You might be thinking that a "good mistake" is an oxy-moron. But that's not true. Sure, it's difficult, but it's also doable.

The trick is this - you've got to be wrong, but right at the same time. It's a lot like writing "Trulse" on a true/false question or registering to vote as an independent - you're never wrong if you don't have a declared position.

While rare, I found an example of a good error in this story (highly amusing tale, by the way). Check out this line:In this instance, the word MSNBC probably wanted was 'site.' However, you can't call them on it. Think about it: if YouTube removes the video from their site, it is, for all intents and purposes, out of their sight as well.

If someone tries to nail you for one of these errors, they're the ones who're going to come out looking bad.

Basically, whenever you're unsure of witch "your" to use, use you're common sense and try to spin it.

The last sentence contain many examples of "bad" typos. This is where you simply blow it - you're wrong and your critics can drill you.

This post from the Blogger Buzz blog is a perfect example:Perhaps my past gerbil ownership puts me at an unfair advantage, but I'd bet the majority of the general public knows that's no gerbil - that's a big stupid guinea pig.**

Of course, bad errors can vary in degrees of severity. This one is particularly grievous for two reasons: 1) guinea pigs and gerbils really don't look all that much alike, and 2) the title of the post that Blogger Buzz jacked the picture from is "Hee Pig." Whoops.

Mistakes like guinea pig misidentification can certainly be damaging, but they pale in comparison to ugly errors. These errors are those that make other people look stupid - like if you make a grammar error in a direct quote. You might think that's a great way to avoid some heat ("How was I supposed to know he used the right which?!"), but guess again.

If you use the wrong verb tense, or confuse a raven for a crow, in all likelihood, you'll probably only have to answer to a few grammar nerds and ornithologists who have nothing better to do. But if you make someone look dumb by screwing up their words, you could have a serious problem on your hands.

Hypothetically, if you misquote a top military aide with mafia ties, you could very well end up with a nuclear warhead in your bed.

A few real-life examples:

1) A story covering some drama in the Toronto Blue Jays lockeroom this past summer contained this line:While your average sports fan might not catch it, someone's bound to say, "'Your in the lineup'? Are you kidding me?!" Some dads across the nation might even tell their sons to root against Zaun because of his poor intellectual example. Realistically speaking, do you really want to mix it up with a 190 pound, mullet-sporting major league catcher? Didn't think so.

2) This story about China's bureaucratic bloggers contained the following paragraph:I don't care how bad Mr. Wang's accent is: you simply do not insult the English of an official representing one of the world's most powerful nations. Even if his comments sounded more like 'were' than 'where', you've got to look at the bigger picture. National security could be at stake.

While this gaffe didn't lead to an exchange of ballistic missiles, just think how bad you'd feel if your leaky prose triggered WWIII.

3) In recent days, Bradblog.com picked up on this ugly visual error concerning former Florida Republican Representative Mark Foley:That's a pretty significant graphical typo. As we all know, the only thing worse than being called a child molester is being called a Democrat.

Writing is not simply correct or incorrect. But remember this: if you can't screw up right, don't screw up at all.

*Clint, I apologize for using one of your movies in such an innocuous manner.
**Yes, I'm still mad at the species for the one that peed all over my leg in elementary school.


Anonymous said...

...and know one needs to no that you're unnamed relative offers this blog grammatical and spelling help on a regular basis, either.

Those errors are all good.

Jason Hill said...

"...registering to vote as an independent: you're never wrong if you don't have a declared position."


Anonymous said...

Thanks mom.

Jason: I hate to self incriminate, but I will say, politically speaking, that I am never wrong, but not always right...

Tim Nance said...

Ha! Before even reading the comments, this blog reminded me of my first introduction to the difference between your and you're--from your mom. Do tell her I said hello!