Is it just me? Lately many of the things I read contain glaring errors. It first hit me while reading Tim Tyler's Memetics.

"If memetics explains only explains the imitation of observed behavior, ..." (p 96)

"Perhaps biological an cultural differ..." (p 173)

"Genetic engineers can now take information form wherever they like..."

"However, not everyone seems agree that ..." (both on p 184)

"The upright gait hypothesis hypothesis is interesting for several reasons." (p 206)

I thought, "Didn't the editor even read this? Who was this?" But, lo, no editor was credited. There was no editor! Is this a new cost-cutting trend in publishing?

But the news lately has been just as bad.

It is original from the Andean area of South Africa and widely grown in both the north of Chile and Argentina and the south Mexico, especially Ecuador.

A Promising Fruit: The Tree Tomato

That sample was from today's Science Daily. Yesterday I noticed four or five glaring errors. This is disorienting, even a little scary. Has literacy decline crossed a tipping point?

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Is the problem literacy or the proofreading skills of the editors who (I sincerely hope!) are reviewing these pieces before they are published?

Certainly, spell-check and grammatical scanners (such as in Microsoft Word) are useful tools which I avail myself of regularly.  Still, having written technical documents and manuals as a part of several positions I've held, I was responsible for conveying important information accurately from both a technical and grammatical standpoint.  Those documents not only needed to be technically accurate; they had (in my mind) to look PROFESSIONAL.  This was a matter of pride - that an engineer who never studied technical writing formally was able to compose such documentation from having read so much of it.

And maybe that's what it takes: an awareness that, in doing such writing, the author is not only conveying information but his or her own competence at their given language

You're right, Loren, we expect many documents to be professional: not only accurate in content, but with no distractions of language mistakes or inappropriate casualness or personal points of view. Just as with sound engineering (for instance), the writing becomes practically invisible when it's done right.

Speaking of which, I actually appreciate the bits of humor Mackie sprinkles sparingly into their mixer manuals. It's on target, and doesn't detract from the technical content. As a musician, I find it acceptable where it wouldn't be in, say, a scientific paper or a legal document.

80 Hz ... This frequency represents the punch in bass drums, bass guitar, fat synth patches, and some really serious male singers who eat raw beef for breakfast.

On musicians' tendency to want "more me":

This is usually the knob you turn up when the lead singer glares at you, points at his stage monitor, and sticks his thumb up in the air. (It would follow that if the singer stuck his thumb down, you’d turn the knob down, but that never happens.)

Inadequate education is still goin' round. I saw this in HS. And my university professors ('50s) were notably bad writers. Emphasis on communication has to start in the cradle. For real bad writing, see any newspaper.

While full-fledged editors help ensure that the work as a whole presents its ideas well, even a copy editor would have caught the egregious errors within single sentences! And many of the errors you quoted were simple matters of proofreading. (...sigh...)

It is original from the Andean area of South Africa ....

That inspired a mental image of a very warped earth!

ROFL Fantastic illustration! Thanks

Interesting concept!

I've also noticed it lately.  Of course, I hesitate to get too critical because I don't check my writing like I should, and often embarrass myself.

That being said, when I write large pieces, intended to be read by quite a few people, I proofread them 4 or 5 times over the course of days before I post them.  Even so, I should find at least one other person to proofread them.

Spud, I know what you mean! I always find errors after a piece has been made public for a while. The clue then for me, is to wait, and reread hours or days later. I still have problems with verbs and often pick the wrong preposition. I grew up in an erra of multiple choice. Very few of my classes required composition. When I wrote at the masters and doctoral level, I wrote so badly, even I can't stand to read my old carbon copies. 

Years ago I saw a multiple-guess test whose questions were all about nonsense terms like gostaks and doshes.* Using the axiom that every question has exactly one correct answer, it was possible to find the unique, consistent set of right answers despite knowing nothing about the subject!

* No, not those particular terms. But the story "The Gostak and the Doshes" came to mind. And it turns out there's even an interactive fiction text-adventure game "The Gostak" (free to play online or download) where a major part of the challenge is figuring out the language.

Ruth and I proofread and actually edit for each other, most recently lots of political letters (see "Writing to Congress" and "Heads Up Pennsylvanians"). It's amazing what misteaks and over sites are completely invisible, what you overlook until someone else looks over your piece... preferably before you put the envelope in the post office's collection box (Ruth sends lots of snail mail -- much more impact than signing petitions), or hit Send!

(My understanding is that legislators' staffers pay attention to paper letters, emails, and phone calls, preferably ones that aren't obviously part of a mass writing campaign, and especially ones that have a personal story. When an issue takes up a lot of staff time, the politician gets an idea that their reelection might depend on doing the right thing.)

I think they've probably fired all the proofreaders, for economical reasons. In the best of circumstances, there would be 2 proofreaders working on every article, because one person will still miss stuff (I've worked as a proofreader). And it's not the editor's job to proofread, so they don't. But the editors aren't doing so well, either -- the use of English is pretty rotten in a lot of books and articles, too. I just finished reading 1491, which is about pre-Columbian life in the Americas, and his English is poor, to say the least, and the book WAS edited. *I* could do a better job than that! I've now edited and proofread 2 pamphlets as a teamwork job, and they came out marvelous. I AM good at it, if I can toot my own horn! :-)

One gets the impression that people are so lazy, depending on automated spell checking and grammar checking, that it's imagined human proofreaders aren't needed. They are!




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