by Beth McAuley
Published at 2015-06-03
Ever wonder what editors do while they ride the subway on their way to work? One engaging pastime is to read subway posters for minor errors. The other morning I spotted these four. See if you can identify them.
–An Outdoor Deck Company
–A Tech Company
*Improve your digestion * Identify food sensitivities * Healthier skin
**Results may vary
–A Healthcare Company
A Two Day Curated Exhibit and Sale
–An Art Show
What could be corrected?
*Using the preposition “to” suggests that the sophisticated look needs to be corrected, that the deck owner wants to resolve the sophisticated look. The usual sense of this phrase is more along the lines of “the solution to the problem is.” Revised to read: “A simple solution for creating a more sophisticated look.”
*Faulty punctuation. I really want to pen in that closing quotation mark. The phrase reads as a full sentence. One might argue that it is a design style to only use the opening quotation marks (often seen in magazines), but I don’t buy it.
*Faulty parallelism. Each benefit listed begins with a verb, except for the last one: “Healthier skin.” To be parallel with the other benefits, it too needs a verb. Revise to read: “Enjoy healthier skin.”
*The double asterisk note should reflect benefits: Benefits may vary.
*To avoid ambiguity, should the temporary compound adjective “two day” be hyphenated? Is there any ambiguity when reading “A Two Day Curated Exhibit and Sale”? To avoid ambiguity, a usual convention is to hyphenate the compound adjective that, as a unit, modifies the noun. The noun being “Curated Exhibit and Sale.” If the compound adjective “two day” were hyphenated to read “A Two-Day Curated Exhibit and Sale,” would it be less ambiguous?
So, the next time you find yourself with some spare time on the subway and want to test yourself, take a look at a couple of the subway posters and see what you can spot. You can email us with your questions or take a look online at a number of the excellent grammar sites, some of which Lesley-Anne identified in “5 Best Grammar Blog for Authors.”