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Plain English Campaign announces 2008 Golden Bull winners

I’m not a fan of year-end retrospectives or awards. I know what happened during the past year, I don’t need a reminder. And awards often are just a gimmick to recognize the giver rather than the recipient.

But the Plain English Campaign recently announced its Golden Bull winners for 2008, highlighting the “the year’s ‘best’ examples of gobbledygook.”

Read the list of honorees–all of them are deserving. (And thankfully none of them are clients of mine!)

(Via Grammar & Composition)

Maureen Dowd is a lazy writer

Read a  New York Times’ op-ed writer for a few months and you know what his or her column will say ahead of time.

  • Thomas Friedman: Globalization is good and inevitable.
  • Nicholas Kristof: Life is miserable in developing countries.
  • Bill Kristol: I am wrong about everything.
  • Paul Krugman: George W. Bush is bad.
  • Bob Herbert: There’s nothing a government program can’t fix.

While Maureen Dowd doesn’t hawk an ideology, she seldom makes sense. She just fires out a slew of zingers; sure, some of them hit, but mostly she makes a mess. Every Dowd column I read has me thinking The Times sacked its copyeditors.

But as I’m a Tiny Fey fan (and who outside of Wasilla isn’t these days?), I read Dowd’s cover article on the comedian in this month’s Vanity Fair. As expected, there are several passages that are great examples of how not to write.

  • “Vintage-y Upper West Side apartment”—Tacking a “y” onto the end of a word is the epitome of lazy writing. A minute or two searching a thesaurus probably would have led Dowd to a real word or phrase.
  • “Her [Fey's] former S.N.L. pal Colin Quinn”—Were Fey and Quinn once, but no longer, friends? Or is Dowd just referring to the fact that they used to work together? If it’s the former, don’t leave your readers hanging, dish the dirt Dowd. If it’s the latter, “pal” is a lousy word choice; we all have colleagues with whom we aren’t friends.
  • “Then she retreated backstage at S.N.L., wore a ski hat, and gained weight writing sharp, funny jokes and eating junk food”—On first read, it sounds as if writing jokes made Fey fat. Writing the fragment as “she gained weight eating junk food while writing sharp, funny jokes” prevents confusion.

“I feel bad” versus “I feel badly”

Often people use the sentence “I feel badly” to convey sympathy.

That’s wrong. Not being compassionate, that is, but rather using the word “badly.” The correct sentence is “I feel bad.” Yes, that sounds incorrect, but that’s because you are used to the grammatically incorrect sentence.

Still unsure? Do you say

  • “I feel sad” or “I feel sadly”
  • “The bottle feels hard” or “The bottle feels hardly”
  • “He feels sexy” or “He feels sexily”

Only use the sentence “I feel badly” when referring to a disability regarding your sense of touch.

Want a more detailed explanation? Read this web page.

I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure Greg Oden isn’t going to miss his rookie season in the NBA

A headline from The New York Times (as of about 10 minutes ago), “Oden Likely to Miss His Rookie Season”:

New York Times: Greg Oden to Miss His Rookie Seaso

New York Times: Greg Oden to Miss His Rookie Seaso

I’m no doctor, but I don’t think surgery on the new Portland Trail Blazer’s right knee will cause him to miss his rookie season.

Oden’s rookie season will just be the following year—or whenever he gets around to playing again.

For the record, made the mistake too.