Oh, CNN, no. Just no (from earlier today):

Yes, I’m an English teacher. But I’m neither a pedantic purist nor a snooty arch-prescriptivist, I swear. It’s all about context. If I see a punctuation error (or something similar) in an email, or in someone’s blog post, or on Twitter, etc., I notice it, but I really don’t care. And even if I did care, it wouldn’t be my place to correct the person. In other words, #1) there are bigger fish to fry (the stakes are low), and #2) I’m not a rude and annoying busybody.

In a more formal/public context, though, things like this do matter, because they create a certain impression in the viewer’s/reader’s mind. The viewer/reader then takes that impression and uses it to form a judgment about the entity (person, business, etc.) that committed the error. The stakes are higher in such contexts because, rightly or wrongly, we do make such judgments. In a sense, it’s a form of visual rhetoric.

tl;dr: CNN needs to hire a proofreader.

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49 Responses to I can haz apostrophe?

  1. Steve Zara says:

    I see poor punctuation as a lack of respect for the reader.

  2. Justicar says:

    It’s time to eat Carl.

    It’s time to eat, Carl.

    Yes, punctuation saves lives.

  3. ERV says:


  4. Steve Zara says:

    Be thankful I’m wearing my pompous hat – I have others :)

  5. ERV says:

    Okay, okay, since its’ you’re birthday, Il’l use apostrophes in this sentence.

    Happy now?

    ………. ROFL!

  6. Alan Canon says:

    I’m a computer programmer, but I’m also an avid (read: nonstop, compulsive) reader, and I speak in New York Times English, thank-you-very-much. Incorrect grammar, usage, punctuation, drives me absolutely nuts: I want my English to “compile” cleanly, just as if it were computer code being vetted by a machine. At the same time, I’m aware we do have as our native tongue <> and I do love wordplay and intentional, impish misuse of the language. Douglas Hofstadter, Lewis Carroll, even Shakespeare himself would not be as they are without the freedom to break the rules one has mastered, even as a jazz player learns a riff cold as a precursor to utterly fucking with it in performance.

    Miranda, for your part, I don’t see you writing strongly worded letters to the inventors of lolcat-speke, so I think you’re off the hook in the “busybody” department. The worst offender I know of along those lines was Richard Feynman’s long time office mate, Murray Gell-Mann, who famously would correct other people on the pronunciations of their own names! There’s an anecdote about Feynman running into Gell-Mann after a long absence of the latter. Feynman asked him where he’d been, and Gell-Mann, with a thick Quebecois accent, said, “MOON-trey-ALLGH!” Feynman finally figured out that Gell-Mann had been in Montreal, and said, “Murray, don’t you think the purpose of language is communication?”

  7. Alan Canon says:

    Damn, my double broken brackets surrounding French got mangled: In the above, read “At the same time, I’m aware we do have as our native tongue ;une langue sans Académie.'”

    • Ant Allan says:

      Ah, did you mean to write: «use langue sans Académie»? i.e., not “double broken brackets”, but guillemets. Not that it’s like me to be pedantic…

      Your “inner” angle brackets, and the text between them, were “eaten” as HTML!


  8. Brad MacInnis says:

    Well spotted, Miranda (well-spotted Miranda)? I blame the GOP as well as CNN. They’re (their? there?) too busy spouting stupidity to bother checking their (etc) punctuation or spelling…or facts.

    Like Lynne Truss, I’m usually armed with a black Sharpie to add or delete the apostrophe(‘)s wot make my brain hurt. I’m a pedant only when I want to be. I’d start my own blog on the subject, but I’m sure it’s been done.

    • John Greg says:

      Yay to Lynn Truss; bestestest grammar writer-with-humour ever!

    • Lynne Truss is great! But she is loathed by many linguists, including some (most?) of the bloggers at Language Log. Geez. As much as I do enjoy Language Log, some of their bloggers and most of their commenters are a very odd brand of insufferably snobby/holier-than-thou descriptivists.

      • Oh! One more thing about Language Log. A couple weeks ago, they had a ridiculous post about Ben Goldacre’s Twitter. The post can pretty much be summed up as: “Oh dear me! I just took a look at Ben Goldacre’s Twitter feed and now I need the fainting couch! How can write in such an uncouth and casual manner? And how could he be such an idiotic prescriptivist about the passive tense? And, dear lord, he doesn’t always properly capitalize his words. MY GOD, HE IS A DOCTOR! How could he do this? I am galled. I need a lie-down”.

        Ugh, it’s ridiculous and pompous as hell, and most of the comments are just as bad. Ben’s comment is great, though. And someone called “Sili” (I think he/she is a Pharyngulite, but I’m not sure) tried and failed to diss Jerry! (I forgot to tell him about this at the time). Here’s the comment in question:

        Sili said,

        September 15, 2011 @ 10:26 am

        Pompous windbaggery is unfortunately as common among skeptics, as it is elsewhere. The Skeptics Guide to the Universe goes off the rails when they touch upon language (I’ve suggested they interview a LanguageLogger, but they must be getting too many suggestions), and Jerry Coyne is run of the mill prescriptivist.

        Hahaha! “Pompous windbaggery”? Pot. Kettle. Black. Jebus! As I said, LL is made up of lots of insufferably snooty and bitchy arch-descriptivists.

  9. Juno Walker says:

    Well, not to reign on you’re parade, but even proofreader’s make mistakes.

    Their people to you, know.

  10. Thanny says:

    I do agree that ten minutes should be enough for someone to spot that error and correct it.

    What really annoys me, however, is reading a book (any book), and finding spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. And I don’t mean fussy ones – to joyously split infinitives is every English-speaker’s duty – but “that doesn’t make any sense” ones.

    I have a kind of curse, which I recently discovered my sister shares, where such errors jump out of the page at me as I’m reading. I just cannot imagine why the publishing industry can’t hire someone with the same ability/disability to simply read a manuscript before mass printing.

    Sadly, I do not have the same ability while typing, so contribute my fair share of errors with anything I don’t read before posting.

    • John Greg says:

      “I just cannot imagine why the publishing industry can’t hire someone with the same ability/disability to simply read a manuscript before mass printing.”

      Having been tangentially connected with the publishing industry, I can say that they do. However, as with everything else today, speed is of the utmost importance, so many books, especially very large books and formula pulp novels tend to be edited and proofed under ridiculously short deadlines.

  11. Spence says:

    *reads posts and leaves*

    • You can read leaves? Like, tea leaves and Oak leaves and shit?

      • Spence says:

        Hi Phil, good to see you still around!

        I refer, of course, to the leaves of a book ;^) It’s the posts you should be worried about. I was talking about wooden stakes there.

        • Hey Spence! Good to see you too, but I’ve never really left.

          I can’t help but feel you are trying to keep the humor/puns going. I cannot, in the name of whatever-unexisting-deity disagree with that. Impossible! No suree!

          But I have to point out that you should have picked on my (rather unsubtle) “and shit” in your answer.

          Let’s make it “you’re answer” just to piss off Miranda :)

          • Hee! It takes a lot to piss me off, though. For as much as language (etc.) errors do make me cringe, they don’t make me mad. In most situations, it’s more of a facepalm kind of thing. One example is a church near where my parents live, which has on its sign: “Service’s on Sunday’s are at 10 am and 12 noon”. I mean, really? No one noticed those errors before they paid for that sign? Geez!

          • Ant Allan says:

            On an episode of QI, David Mitchell — the comedian, not the MP, nor the author of The Cloud Atlas — suggested that signwriters offer two prices for their services: At the lower price, they will make your sign exactly as you asked for it, complete with errors; at the higher price, they will copyedit it first.


  12. Damn! This comment section is one the funniest ones I’ve read in ages. Literally made me LoL (laugh over language).

    Otter then that, Iam agree…

  13. (belated) Happy Birthday Miranda !

  14. Is it just me ? Affect/Effect almost brings out the Nazi in me

  15. Oh! I forgot to post this semi-relevant lolzy comic that has been going around the internet this week. Heh! (Can’t remember what site I got it from):

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