Words Can Get You in Trouble!

A true story ~

Years ago, I was the main writer and editor of a local newspaper.  In a profile of a local government worker, I spoke of his experience, expertise, background, degree, and career in Public Administration.  It was a very complimentary story except for one thing.

One use of the word “Public” left out the “L.”  It was only once, but I missed it while proofing and so did our proofreader.  In our defense, a small “L” is a very thin letter.

However, the very proficient public administrator was razzed unmercifully for quite some time by his colleagues, who did see the error.  He laughingly threatened to take my firstborn.

It turns out that these things NEVER go away.  One of the colleagues recently told me that he still has the feature story.

Words, spelled wrong or the wrong word or a non-word can betray you!

A boss insisted that “alot” is a word.  It isn’t, never has been and – unless the dictionaries bow to the many people who agree with my ex-boss – it never will be a word.  However, she wouldn’t be convinced, despite the lack of definition spelled her way in the dictionary. Two words – a lot. I see it wrong a lot!

And, a 4-Star General of English Usage, David P. has sent me several other misuses to share –

“Alright” is not.  It is shown in the dictionary as being “nonstandard” usage.  Do you want to be labeled as “nonstandard?”  Then, don’t use it.  All right – two words!

Other laughable errors, also submitted by David P. are: Prostrate gland (please don’t be prostrate over the – prostate gland), duck tape (only correct if you’re using the brand of duct tape named after the feathered creature), and Convent Garden (if you’re visiting nuns, it might be a Convent Garden, however the location in England is Covent Garden.)

I would like to say that my error tops these except for the same embarrassing usage – only prominently posted on the front page of another journalist’s paper.  At least my “public” without the “L” was buried deep in the story on an inside page.

My red-faced lesson: PROOF carefully – and give the story to another person or two to check.

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