Period drama

The Clapham branch of Hamptons the estate agents underwent a revamp just before Christmas. Its new sign is shown below.


I’m always amazed that important signage gets through basic proof-reading with mistakes. Maybe the period after Lettings (and the lack of a corresponding one after Sales) sticks out more to me than to other people. But nonetheless, it’s something that should have been picked up in the proof-read, particularly as this is the only text on the sign.

Nice font though (Georgia), and well done on the phone-number grouping.

Posted by Dan, 28 December, 2007 under Life

The lanky em dash

I use the ALT short-cuts in Word and emails to make sure that my em and en dashes are correct (ALT+0151 and ALT+0150 respectively). It’s slightly annoying that in my font of choice (Georgia 12-point), the em dash seems to be a pixel taller than its sibling characters, shunting down a smidgeon the line of text which it graces. The result is, I’m sure, more noticeable by me than by my limited, highly appreciated readership.

Posted by Dan, 13 August, 2007 under Life | Thoughts

Strunk & White

I’m reading The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, a recommendation from Alan. It’s a lovely, pocket-sized book, and the first 47 pages have been educational and thoroughly enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the following point of style.

Flammable. An oddity, chiefly used in saving lives. The common word meaning “combustible” is inflammable. But some people are thrown off by the in- and think inflammable means “not combustible.” For this reason, trucks carrying gasoline or explosives are now marked FLAMMABLE. Unless you are operating such a truck and hence are concerned with the safety of children and illiterates, use inflammable.

I’m looking forward to the remaining 48 pages.

Posted by Dan, 18 July, 2007 under Grammar | Life

I’ll be with you momentarily

A recent trend, one that was particularly prominent in New York, is to use the word momentarily to mean “in a moment”. I’ve always frowned upon this use, believing it to instead mean “for a moment”.

So my view is that the former of the uses is correct, while the latter is wrong:

  • She muted the call momentarily to cough up a lung
  • I’m just going to mute the call to cough up a lung, but will be with you momentarily seems to ratify my view.

Posted by Dan, 19 June, 2007 under Life | Rules

Tommorrow, tommorrow, I love ya, tommorrow

Bless her. And a lovely, if subtle, article title.

Posted by Dan, 1 June, 2007 under Grammar | Life

Crime’s against the apostrophe

We received a pre-printed gift card the other day bearing the message Its a girl. And I read a headline in a professional publication today bearing the word childrens’. Grammatical heathens.

Posted by Dan, 23 January, 2007 under Grammar | Life

Where grammar and geekery collide

It seems that these two ‘qualities’ are mutually exclusive: a healthy understanding of grammar and an above average appetite for all things technical.

While I’ve already referred to the sliding standards of people at large, it seems this trend is particularly prevalent among techies.

To prove this point, simply scroll down the titles and short summaries of articles on digg, and cringe away. Inconsistent mixed-casing, heinous apostrophe crimes and overall grammatical disappointment abound. It’s not as if they have to write long essays; digg summaries are really short.

I’m not sure whether it’s an education issue or one of attention to detail. Either way, it’s distressing, and one of the reasons you rarely get well-rounded techies.

Posted by Dan, 18 January, 2007 under Life | Thoughts

Grammatical disappointment

2006 has been a year of grammatical disappointment. On both sides of the Atlantic, I’ve been stunned at the lack of grammatical awareness among colleagues and clients.

There are two types: grammatical clumsiness and unquestionable errors. The former is almost expected; the latter is becoming similarly commonplace. I’ve seen numerous documents allegedly in a state ready for distribution which have been littered with mistakes.

While Microsoft Office will correct your spelling and make sure your sums are correct, it hasn’t yet mastered perfecting the grammar of the ill-educated.

The root of the problem has to be schooling. The trend is generally more prevalent among younger workers (although it’s surprising how often the older generation can get it wrong), indeed suggesting that educational standards have dropped over time. I also think the trend is exacerbated through laziness. People sometimes know the rule that they’ve broken (its/it’s being a prime example) once their copy has been corrected.

While I would be the first to give myself the pedant label (well, maybe not the first), I’m confident that my issue here goes beyond pedantry.

For the record, while both countries fall short of the mark, my experience suggests that grammatical standards in the American workplace are higher than those here in the UK.

Here’s a little test to keep you on your toes.

Posted by Dan, 21 December, 2006 under Grammar | Life

Apostrophe makes grammatically incorrect comeback

The Metro newspaper today tried to make up for its double apostrophe omission last Friday. In its offline article about the despicable Connor family from Brooklands, Manchester, it reported that “Natalie [Connor] faces 11 years’ in prison for manslaughter.”

Maybe the apostrophe is making a comeback, in a grammatically incorrect way.

Posted by Dan, 20 December, 2006 under Grammar | Life

Y-O-U-R means your; Y-O-U-’-R-E means you are!

Marks and Spencer has some grammatically incorrect slippers on sale at the moment. They contain a red card that you can pull out, which reads: Your Off.

Reminds me of the Friends episode where Ross teaches Rachel the meaning of your and you’re.

Posted by Dan, 17 December, 2006 under Grammar | Life

The death of the apostrophe?

Two headlines in this morning’s Metro:

  • Airports growth is a step nearer
  • 30 years jail for trying to kill PC

There should be an apostrophe after both Airports and years, although the former is potentially excusable.

Standards are slipping, and the apostrophe seems to be bearing the brunt.

Posted by Dan, 14 December, 2006 under Grammar | Life

Seasons deserve capitalisation

I’ve always thought that seasons deserve capitalisation, yet you’re unlikely to find a style guide that concurs. The Guardian’s opts for lc. I vaguely remember discussing this very subject with Steve a few years back, and him agreeing.

The days of the week and the months of the year are all classed as proper nours, being awarded the honour of a capital letter at the beginning—the grammatical equivalent of being knighted, I expect.

Yet spring, summer, autumn and winter are left behind, blending unnoticed with the words around them, and it seems unlikely that they’ll be granted a meeting with the Queen (who herself has been grammatically knighted).

Isn’t it about time we honoured their work?

Posted by Dan, 24 November, 2006 under Life | Thoughts and the errant em dash

When you search for flights on and click search, you are presented with a holding screen, informing you that: is searching for
flights on selected travel dates:
Thu 23/11/2006 — Sat 25/11/2006

(Obviously the dates in question are those pertinent to your requested jaunt rather than mine.)

The em dash (—) between the dates should be an en dash (–), and there shouldn’t be any spaces.

It’s only a tiny point, but on a screen that all flight-bookers will see, they should really get it right.

Posted by Dan, 20 November, 2006 under Grammar | Life

The ellipsis in braille

Steve questioned how an ellipsis was displayed in braille. Apparently, it’s three apostrophes. In six-dot braille, the bottom-left dot is raised for an apostrophe, and you repeat this three times for an ellipsis. So in effect, it looks very similar to the ellipsis in written English.

As an aside, the full stop in braille is made up of three dots, middle-left, middle-right and bottom-right. Seems inefficient, but I may be wrong.

As a further aside, the fact that braille symbols are made up of six binary entities means that there are only 64 combinations to play with. This limit is extended by the use of prefixes to signify that a capital (bottom-right) or number (bottom-left, top-right, middle-right, bottom-right) follows.

Posted by Dan, 12 November, 2006 under Life | Thoughts