Tag Archives: lazy language

Double negative labeling

I promise this blog is not turning into one that just finds fault with grammar and usage (plenty exist already), but I couldn’t help myself.

Sans Gluten Free glutino

Here we have Glutino brand Sans Gluten Free Wafer Cookies. While they taste really quite good, I was a little nervous because if it’s “without gluten free,” I suppose that would mean the cookies actually did contain gluten, which I’ve been strictly avoiding for nearly 11 months now.

I realize that this instance is almost certainly due to the bilingual nature of this packaging (Glutino is a Canadian brand), but still. On the side of the box, it’s much clearer, where it says: “SANS GLUTEN/BLE • GLUTEN/WHEAT FREE.” See, it’s not actually that difficult to communicate clearly, is it?

(And yes, they were quite tasty. Yum.)

Unnecessary quotation marks

please open door slowly
As seen on our recent trip to Florida, on the door of Down the Hatch, a coastal restaurant on Daytona Beach.

It shouldn’t need to be said here, but I’ll say it anyway: Quotation marks do not provide emphasis. Rather, they indicate that the material contained therein is being quoted. Hence the name of the marks. For emphasis, many techniques could be effective here. Bold, italics, underline, all caps [when the whole sign isn’t in caps], asterisks around the word, larger font, different font, different color — these are just a few of the options preferable to quotation marks. While I may not *love* all of these options, they’d all be better than quotation marks.

‘All that and a bag of chips’

I complained previously about its use of the word giddy, in a romantic context. The tourism department claimed, in that ad, that vacationing in Arkansas would make you fall in love.

This is my second complaint about Arkansas Department of Tourism‘s marketing. It’s not just because theirs is the only spiel I hear, though. I hear Missouri and Oklahoma appeals on a regular basis, and other states promote themselves in my hearing during football season, particularly.

Now, the department states: “We’ve got all that and a bag of chips.”

Rocketboom referenced slang from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s on Thursday.

Of course, hopefully somewhere in the state a visitor could find a bag of chips. They may even be able to choose between corn, potato or vegetable chips. That’s not the point. What does “and a bag of chips” really say about Arkansas?

• We live on (and offer vacationers) unhealthy, fried food?

• We’re backward and behind the times (the phrase originated by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, according to on definition at Urban Dictionary)?

• Chips are so good that they beat out the scenery, wildlife, cultural and historical offerings of the state (including the diamond mine)?

The phrase is nearly 15 years old, and it’s a saying that’s had its day. Its 15 minutes of use is well past.

I don’t know what they were thinking. I urge the department of tourism to pull this ad. It’s hurting their cause, not helping it.

When to follow the rules

It seems I started something and haven’t finished it yet. Here’s a follow up.

It’s hard to set a hard-and-fast rule. So many such standards depend on context and local style.

• Ending sentences with prepositions is often OK, except perhaps in the most formal of writings. Even English teachers are beginning to accept this. See here and here.

• Double negatives generally confuse the reader and thus should be avoided. The goal, after all, is clear communication.

It’s one of the foundational concepts of mass communication: What you say and what is heard can be two very different things. One of a writer’s goals is to prevent that from happening.

I’ve tackled creating a local style guide in the past, but I’m not about to start from scratch and create an overarching style guide. For so many venues of communication, style guides already exist!

Rules vary, based on context — both the online/scholarly paper/email/letter to Mom context and the culture/geographical location of a piece of writing — and that’s a good thing. I agree with Grammar Girl that nearly every institution in existence should have a local style, in writing, though.

I love the many nuances of our language and its use. I love that it evolves: New words constantly being created illustrates that there’s always more for me to discover.

In general, I enjoy language. Too much dissection can harm that relationship. Disrespect can also cause a problem, though. Balance between rules and creativity is simultaneously essential and hard to find.

It’s important to note, however, that the rules of writing cannot be broken in the spirit of creativity without the writer’s knowledge of the standards. All writers, regardless of their context, should acquaint themselves with the rules of writing.

Grace triumphs over grammar policing

I’m one of those people who care about correct grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage, particularly in writing.

I’ve gone through phases concerning grammar in speech. When I first worked at a newspaper, on the copy desk, I consciously changed my speech, removing audible pauses, slang, colloquialisms, lazy language. Sometimes now, when I’m tired, I speak in near-baby talk, intentionally failing to pronounce words correctly, using plurals when they make no sense. Referencing myself in third person.

When I was in high school I used to correct my parents’ grammar whenever they made a mistake, in front of them and their peers, even. I know it bothered Dad.

I read copyblogger‘s post about “Grammatical errors that make you look dumb” today, and I agree with him. Anyone writing anything should make an effort to avoid such mistakes. Eliminating errors from a person’s communications will help his or her credibility.

Some of the people who responded to his popular post, however, act like and even refer to themselves as “grammar nazis.” This behavior — and attitude — it would seem, also can injure the perpetrator’s reputation in the marketplace.

It does not help to present oneself as mean and overbearing and a know-it-all.

In the end, both can be lived out: Write correctly and give grace when you find someone else’s mistake(s). If you must offer a correction, do it tactfully, pleasantly and out of a helpful spirit that takes into account that good ol’ Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I may not always succeed at offering grace to others, but I have long-since stopped correcting individuals’ spoken grammar in public. I understand that I have weaknesses, too, and I don’t want them thrown in my face all the time.

Egocentrism in worship music

Songs sometimes have lyrics that aren’t necessarily truthful; it seems they just needed a word or a phrase to fit this spot in the chorus. Sure, this is probably true of most composition or human creativity, but it’s perhaps most noticeable in music, where we’re likely to sing a song more than once — even if we don’t notice it the first time, we’ve got more opportunities. Books? Most people read most books only once, if that often. Newspapers certainly don’t get reread. Fine art, alas, does not get studied that intently by most viewers.

I’m referring specifically to worship music today, and I’ll use one song as an example: Jeremy Camp’s “Wonderful Maker.”

This is a great song; I take issue with only one phrase of the chorus, or it could be one word of that phrase.

    What a wonderful Maker
    What a wonderful Saviour
    How majestic your whispers
    And how humble your love
    With a strength like no other
    And the heart of a father
    How majestic your whispers
    What a wonderful God

Is God’s love humble?

hum·ble  [huhm-buhl, uhm-] adjective,
1. not proud or arrogant; modest: to be humble although successful.
2. having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.: In the presence of so many world-famous writers I felt very humble.
3. low in rank, importance, status, quality, etc.; lowly: of humble origin; a humble home.
4. courteously respectful: In my humble opinion you are wrong.
5. low in height, level, etc.; small in size: a humble member of the galaxy.
–verb (used with object)
6. to lower in condition, importance, or dignity; abase.
7. to destroy the independence, power, or will of.
8. to make meek: to humble one’s heart.
[Origin: 1200–50; ME (h)umble Egocentrism.

We believe the world revolves around us, or at least that it should. We fail, time and again, to consider others before ourselves.

If God’s love really was humble, perhaps he would let us remain in our egocentrism. But it isn’t. He isn’t. And he won’t.

An example of lazy language

Metropolitan National Bank has this slogan: Nearby & Neighborly. A representative of the company, with whom I participated in the year-long Leadership Benton County, Wyley Elliott, President Benton County, had moved to the burgeoning corner of the state just days before the class began. During the August-to-May 2005-2006 timeframe of the class, he had overseen the construction and opening of (I think it was) 11 branches in the two-county area. That’s nothing remarkable for the Northwest Arkansas region. Banks seem to pop up nearly on top of each other.

Another member of the class, Nohemi Lopez, received a promotion to assistant vice president and branch manager at one location in Bentonville last fall.

My gripe is their use of the slogan, Nearby & Neighborly, in their television advertisements.

“Nearby to where you live, work and play.”

How professional can a banking institution be when it fails to use correct grammar? Would it be disastrous to say, instead, “Near where you live and work”? This would have communicated the same information, and even without the final -by, would still have connected the viewer/hearer to the slogan.

The ad’s phrasing is awkward and stilted, and it’s a huge turnoff. A company that wants me to entrust my dollars to its keeping should be able to use the English language properly.

I have friends who have chosen a bank purely based on its logo design. My husband and I have nearly switched banks because our bank was taken over by one with a bad look.

How is this different? It’s still the outward image the corporation is presenting, asking the public to judge them upon.

My vote: good design and good language skills.