The story: 3 U.S. Defeats: Vietnam, Iraq and Now Iran (NY Times Op-Ed 8-7-15)
The mistake: “The big question is, Why did we lose?”
The Copy Vigilante says: Actually the big question is why is why capitalized in the middle of a sentence? Another big question is why is there a comma after “is” when it’s not needed? And the biggest question is why did the editor miss this glaring, simple mistake? Why – oh why?!
Here are some of the Copy Vigilante’s favorite books: Strunk and White – The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, Stephen King – On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft and Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Omnibus.
The story: 3 die in Calif. Bank robbery, gun battle, high-speed chase (cbsnews.com 7/17/14)
The mistake: “Police shot out the SUV’s, disabling the vehicle, but the suspects refused to surrender and exchanged a final volley of gunfire.”
The Copy Vigilante says: The police shot out the SUV’s what?! Carburetor? License plate? Side view mirror? Once again a word is missing from a major news story. Umm, the last time I checked words were pretty damn important to news stories!
The story: Local official is 6th arrest in Georgia baby’s shooting (nbcnews.com 3/29/13)
The mistake: “A handgun was discovered about two miles away from the crime scene, submerged a marsh, the Brunswick police spokesman said yesterday.”
The Copy Vigilante says: It’s really depressing when a major news organization doesn’t catch a word missing from a sentence. Granted it’s a small word, ‘in’, but still, pretty pathetic. And if we take this mangled sentence by itself we can have fun! If a marsh submerges itself, isn’t that redundant? And if something is trying to submerge a marsh it’s going to take a hell of a lot of water!
The story: Grand Old Planet (NY Times Op-Ed 11-23-12)
The mistake: “How are we going to search effectively for natural resources if schools trying to teach modern geology must give equal time to claims that the world is only 6.000 years old?”
The Copy Vigilante says: I know you probably don’t like numbers. That’s why you’re in the writing, editing and journalism business. But still, when presenting a number in an article let’s get it right!
The story: In Search of Answers From Mr. Romney (NY Times Editorial 10-8-12)
The mistake: “…hasn’t really talked about them before.Militancy in the…”
The Copy Vigilante says: This is an easy one NY Times. A space goes after the period. And question mark, exclamation point and any other punctuation that ends a sentence. Come on now!
The story: Former Manson follower recommended for parole after 40 years (nbcnews.com 10-4-12)
The mistake: “Former Charles Manson associate Bruce Davis…”
“…recommendation that David be released.”
The Copy Vigilante says: Why should we believe anything in this article when nbcnews.com can’t even get the person’s name right? The first four times he’s mentioned his last name is “Davis”. But in the second-to-last paragraph he becomes “David”. One of the first things my editor told me years ago at a major daily newspaper was this: “Make sure you always get the person’s name right!”
The story: The Scandalously Boring Truth About Michael Jackson’s Will (forbes.com 8-17-12)
The mistakes: “Michael’s first child—Prince Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., born on in February—is mentioned by name… ”
“Others have confirmed that the King of Pop was in the Big Apple that day.”
The Copy Vigilante says: A big beer company once ran a “born on” ad campaign where they bragged about the freshness of their beer. The editor who worked on this story must have had a few at lunch because he/she couldn’t figure out if the article should get Prince’s precise birth date or just the month. As for the hyperlink, the editor forgot to underline “Big” and make it a link to NYC. Although something tells me their “editing” software decided to make this just a link to the company Apple. Hey Forbes, turn Hal off now!
The story and mistake:
When the Network Effect Goes Into Reverse
The more users a social network site attracts, the more others will want to use it. But a site’s audience can decline, too. (nytimes.com 8-17-12)
The Copy Vigilante says: Really? And I thought social media sites stayed hip forever.
The story: Plane towing “Will You Marry Me?” banner crashes off RI (cbsnews.com 7-24-12)
The mistakes: “A romantic gesture went awry off the coast of Rhode Island Monday when a plane towing a “Will You Marry Me” crashed into the water.”
CBS Boston affiliate WBZ reported that the Coast Guard rushed to rescue the pilot, the only one on board the plane, at around 4:10 p.m. ET after receiving a radio transmission
GENERIC life preserver ring coast guard rescue drowning (CBS/AP)
The Copy Vigilante says: A “Will You Marry Me” what? Salt and Pepper shaker set? Clown hat? Duck-billed platypus? My point is it could be anything given the fact that a very important word is missing here (at least they got it right in the headline.) In the next paragraph a period is missing. Is it just me or don’t sentences need punctuation? The last mistake is the caption under a picture of the Coast Guard logo and a life preserver. While they sound like tags they’re not because they don’t link to anything. And if they were tags they don’t belong under a picture. Instead it’s just a babbling line of copy.
The story: Has Air France Flight 447 mystery finally been solved? (cnn.com 7-4-12)
The mistakes: The lack of speed, wind or direction information also prevented the Autopilot system from functioning, said air accident investigator Alain Bouillard said at the time of the crash.
According to Learmount, many aviation experts have yet to rule out the human factor. “The crash happened at around 2:00 a.m. on a dark night…”
“Whether it was out of control — and I doubt this — it was not being controlled. Imagine it is 2 am and two sleepy pilots…”
The Copy Vigilante says: We don’t need two “saids” but do need consistency when it comes to showing the time. It’s either 2:00 a.m. or 2 am so come on CNN, pick one!