Media Watch



Here is another assemblage of less than shining achievements in journalism.

• From a review of a movie about a ninety-three-year-old designer: “She makes no attempt to deny the pains and rigors of life in her ninth decade.” Let’s see now, a three-year-old is in her first decade; a thirteen-year-old is in her second decade; a twenty-three-year-old is in her third decade. Do the math: a ninety-three-year-old is in her tenth decade.

• “It’s a real kudo for Yahoo.” There is no such thing as “a kudo.” Kudos is a Greek word meaning “praise” or “glory.” Despite the s on the end, kudos is singular, not plural.

• “Green yelled, ‘I told ya’ll it was over!!!’ ” The punctuation is a mess even before the sentence ends with that intemperate outburst of exclamation points. Apparently the writer’s MO is to just fling apostrophes around and pray they make a smooth landing. Well, the one in “ya’ll” sure didn’t. Why would anyone want to harm a nice word like all by disfiguring it with a wayward apostrophe? The correct contraction of you all is y’all. The apostrophe replaces the ou in you—just as it stands in for the wi in you will when we write you’ll or the ha in you have when we write you’ve. What missing letter or letters does the apostrophe in ya’ll replace?

• Three sentences from three articles that share one problem: “But improvements could take awhile.” “Every once in awhile, then, you feel like you’re watching an old mystery.” “Hanging around with fantastic writers rubs off on you after awhile.”

All three writers should have used the two-word noun phrase a while. It is worthwhile preserving the difference between awhile and a while. As one word, awhile is an adverb meaning “for a while.” Obviously the writer of the first sentence didn’t mean “improvements could take for a while,” which makes no sense. He should have gone with the noun phrase “a while,” making the noun “while” the object of “could take.”

The writers of the second and third sentences have mistakenly made awhile the object of the prepositions in and after. But only nouns and pronouns may be objects of prepositions, never adverbs. Claire Kehrwald Cook sums it all up in her book Line by Line: “Use the article [a] and noun [while], not the adverb [awhile], after a preposition … Use awhile only where you can substitute the synonymous phrase for a time.”

• “It is a memorial to the thousands of soldiers who fought and died in the June 18, 1815 battle of Waterloo.” Add a comma after “1815.” Most people still use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year, but many forget to put another comma after the year.

• “Our design critic’s favorite example of ‘defensive architecture’ are the wooden benches on Mission.” The writer forgot what every schoolchild learns the first week of English class: The verb must agree with the subject. The subject is “example.” The critic’s favorite example is the wooden benches. Case closed.

 

Pop Quiz

The following are sentences recently heard over the airwaves. See if you can spot the errors. Our answers are at the bottom of the newsletter.

1. “Iran is as great a threat that Israel has ever faced.”
2. “It’s a extremely politicized department.”
3. “Every one of our allies in the region are up in arms.”
4. “It’s a good opportunity for whomever becomes the nominee.”
5. “This could spurn other people to do the same thing.”

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. “Iran is as great a threat as Israel has ever faced.”
2. “It’s an extremely politicized department.”
3. “Every one of our allies in the region is up in arms.”
4. “It’s a good opportunity for whoever becomes the nominee.”
5. “This could spur other people to do the same thing.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 4, 2015, at 7:19 pm

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12 Comments on Media Watch

12 responses to “Media Watch”

  1. Renee L. says:

    I have a question about this example:
    “Our design critic’s favorite example of ‘defensive architecture’ are the wooden benches on Mission.” The writer forgot what every schoolchild learns the first week of English class: The verb must agree with the subject. The subject is “example.” The critic’s favorite example is the wooden benches. Case closed.

    Which would be correct if you changed the structure of the sentence to:
    The wooden benches on Mission is/are our design critic’s favorite example of ‘defensive architecture.’

  2. Vanessa G. says:

    Gah! I keep seeing “motioned” used as a verb for someone who made a motion at a meeting! This seems wrong to me! Shouldn’t it be “made a motion”?

  3. kirby furlong says:

    this headline appeared on the Los Angeles Times website on 9/9/15 regarding a high school bus fire…

    None of the students headed home from a water polo match was injured on the fire on the 5 freeway.

    Question…shouldn’t it be IS instead of WAS in the previous sentence? One of the students was injured, yes, none of the students WERE injured…it’s been so long since my high school english classes, lol, but could you let me know if im correct or incorrect, thank you.

    • Our post None Were vs. None Was says, “The word none is versatile. It has a plural sense (“not any”) as well as a singular sense (“not a single one”). When none is followed by of, look at the noun in your of phrase (object of the preposition). If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, there is more leeway. Most of the time, but not always, you will want to use a plural verb.” Therefore, we prefer none of the students were injured, however, none of the students was injured is not incorrect.

  4. Kathleen D. says:

    Street closures or street closings

  5. Denise A. says:

    I have somewhat of a head scratcher, and I don’t know where to find the answer…

    It concerns a final sentence at the end of a marketing text.

    We want to use the expression Let’s talk about it; my problem is with the preceding word being plural:
    Investments, let’s talk about it.
    I’m not convinced we can use a plural noun before that expression, but I may be wrong.
    Would a period after Investments solve the problem?
    I have suggested Investing, let’s talk about it – but we’d much rather put the emphasis on Investments.

    Any suggestions?

  6. Sylvia Hetzel says:

    I recently took a photo of a large, bright red advertisement on a Washington, D.C. Metro train which states:

    Most low fares in the Washington region.
    (BWI Marshall Airport)

    Is it just me or is that inexcusable? Do monosyllabic adjectives no longer require “est” in the superlative form? Is “most low” now acceptable?

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