Monday, April 18, 2005

The readership responds

The business-tech magazine where I'm copy chief received this letter from a reader:

subject: Please proof-read your articles

I will if you'll proofread your E-mail. "Proofread" isn't hyphenated.

Dear Sirs

Doesn't that call out for some punctuation? A colon? A comma? Something?

And isn't it a little rude to assume the person opening your note will be male? One of my female staff members read it first.

I recently attempted to pick up and actually read your magazine, despite having a (free) subscription for some time. Two issues in a row I've been pulled up short whilst reading an article, trying to fathom the meaning of some bizarre typographical errors.

You're actually reading! How very, very brave! And you used the word "whilst"! Does that mean you're British? Or just pedantic?

Also, it makes very little sense to say that you "attempted" to pick up the magazine and "actually" read. Maybe you "actually" picked it up and "attempted" to read?

To whit:

Um, you mean "to wit," twit. Look it up.

April 4, 2005 issue, bottom of page 33:

"For someone of Siebel’s size to move so fast was stunning" says, Soni, who's more than doubling the number of seats--to 22--that Izmocars licenses"

Where do I begin? I've checked the electronic file, the online version, and hard copies. Every version has the comma in the correct place, i.e., "'...stunning,' says Soni." Perhaps a fly pooped on your copy and you mistook it for a comma? Or perhaps you drooled on it?

Also, you've punctuated your extract incorrectly. You've got a dangling quotation mark at the end. Did you mean to put the whole thing within quotation marks? Oh, and there should be a comma after 2005.

March 28th, 2005 issue, bottom of page 24:

"That puts a challenge's labor and bandwidth burdens only on those marked as spammers"

My time is short, and my attention span is challenged by these idiotic sentences. I need accurate and reliable news or comment on the IT industry, not a mental challenge's labor to Izmocar.

Your attention span is even shorter than your time, it seems. How clever to take a sentence out of context! When you read the sentence in the context of the paragraph, the meaning seems quite clear. (A company's E-mail network gets a suspected piece of spam. The network issues a "challenge" to the sender. The sender's network carries the burden of handling these automatically issued challenges.) Perhaps you stumbled over the fact that "burdens" is a plural noun here and you thought it was a verb? Did you know some words can work as both verbs and nouns? Amazing, but true! Instead of reading technology magazines, maybe you should try something easier. Have you seen Highlights for Children? Also, you got the name of the company wrong. It's Izmocars, not Izmocar. And why do you have "April 4" but "March 28th"? Shouldn't it be "April 4th" and "March 28th" or "April 4" and "March 28"? Let's pick one style and stick with it.

Your advertisers deserve better, as do your readers.

Hm. Or we deserve better readers. And your concern for our advertisers seems, well, strange.


S--- M----
Director, [a tech department]
Warner Bros.

What's the matter, S.? Someone turn down your script? That one you've been writing during every free moment for the last decade? How sad.

There. I feel better now.



Gavriel said...

Hi, comment here is more on the whole blog than this individual post.

Everything is very well written and pretty funny too. Sorry, can't actually worship you, but I can hand out cheap compliments if that will help. Of course, on the down side, politically speaking I think you are the Devil's spawn, but then we can agree to disagree, can't we?

Keep posting. If it's done with wit and thought, then it's fun to read, even if it's basically crap wrapped in shiny tin-foil (and no, I have no idea where hypens-go).

Jim Donahue said...

I've always thought of it more like a chocolate bonbon, wrapped in love.

Will said...

Gavriel, if you worshipped Jim as we do, you would never hand out cheap comments.

Jezzy said...

That entry was brilliant.

Glad you got that off your chest!

fanatic cook said...

Bonbon is one great word. I want to hear George Bush say it, slowly.

Talley said...

I've been a copy chief at publications as well, and I have never gotten a complaint letter that wasn't full of stuff I'd never allow in print.

At least the writer didn't impugn your patriotism, as heppened when one of my teams misidentified a military officer on a naval base as a Navy officer--he was Air Force on loan. Which made us, apparently, unpatriotic, and unappreciative of the service of veterans, to boot!

(that was a humdinger of a sentence, though--even *in* context)

Did you *actually* write back? I do sometimes, and point out their errors oh-so-politely when I do.

Jim Donahue said...

I have written back--but not this time. I've never found it to be worth the trouble.

Jim Donahue said...


Seltzerboy said...

Who knew copyediting could be a contact sport? Go,Jim!

Last week, I received a torn page from our April issue noting that phosphorus, a noun, refers to the element; however, as an adjective it's spelled phosphorous. But this reader also offered, "Normally, your copyediting is quite good!" Can't take issue with that. She even spelled copyediting as one word.

For this post, my copyediting may be excused because Luddites don't know the Web coding to italicize words used as words.

Jim Donahue said...

Greetings, Seltzerboy. A link to SB's most-useful pizza blog has been added to my list of links. (Not that the site needs any promotion, after mentions in The New Yorker, Newsday, and a gazillion other places.)

Knatolee said...

What an idjit!

And he spelled "labour" wrong. ;)))