Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Dislike when Others Make Mistakes

I freely admit that I make errors. When it comes to the written and spoken word, in English, anyway, I’m less prone to them than many, but it does happen. So there’s some truth to the statement “Mike makes mistakes, but objects when others do it.” Because here’s the difference – I make an effort to correct my mistakes, and I make an extra effort to ensure that any sort of “formal” document that’s intended for public distribution, for marketing purposes, or as part of a formal document for which I am being paid is as error-free as possible. I’m probably not entirely alone in this, but it’s starting to look as if I may be.

I took my wife out for dinner and a movie last weekend, and throughout the afternoon my tender eyes suffered one vicious assault after another in the form of my mother tongue being mutilated like cattle in a UFO. One sign at the mall proclaimed that you could have your slushy flavored like Banana’s. Like a banana’s what, I ask.

So, as I said, throughout the day I was subjected to one spelling or grammatical error after the next. At the restaurant, for instance, the back page of the menu explained the history of the company and misused the contraction for “it is.” It was the fifth or sixth such error I’d noticed during the day, and I was emphatically not looking for them.

They weren’t egregious, nor did they change the meaning of the document in a way that the reader was likely to be confused. It was just so deplorably lazy. In each case, it would have taken a few minutes at most to have a second reader glance over the copy before it was printed, published, and distributed. I mean for chrissakes, there were eight damn words at most on the “Banana’s” sign. Somebody paid good money to have a sign painted that contained a big glaring mistake right there on it, then proudly displayed that sign outside their business. Somebody paid good money to have hundreds of those menus printed and shipped to restaurants across thirteen states and that wasn’t even the sole error I noticed, just the first.

It has never been easier to proof a document than it is today. Modern word-processors will handle virtually all of the most common spelling errors. Sadly, the grammar-check is much less reliable, but then there’s the Internet for detailed and diabolically simple descriptions, rules and examples for every grammatical quandary a writer is likely to experience.

But I count this as yet another proof of the decline of western civilization – that people who are using words in an attempt to promote their products and make money can’t even be bothered to ensure that the words are used properly when it’s so simple to do it right can only suggest a level of decay and ruin not seen since the last days of Rome. It’s symptomatic, I think, of a crumbling of the intellectual fiber of our society combined with a disregard, nay a disdain, for the kind of pride of craftsmanship that has been replaced with the lamentable sentiment of “meh, good enough.” Well, it’s not good enough for me, and I will continue to dislike it when others make mistakes.


  1. The other day I walked past a school. The sign out front declared "Next week: Can Food Drive"

    To which I thought: I don't know, can it?

    Ken in Orlando

  2. Hahaha! Nice response!

    It doesn't so much bother me that the sign was wrong - I can assume that a non-educator was responsible. But how many actual teachers drove past that every single day and let it slide? Gah!