In the past few days The Word Fairy has been struck by an unusually high number of writing faux pas. Let me put down my wand as we explore some of them here, shall we?
From a syndicated radio program: “…for all of you wallflowers out there.” Folksy, huh? Trouble is, radio is a one-on-one medium and referring to your audience in the plural is a missed opportunity to connect with them. People tend to listen to the radio alone. It’s not like the old, old days when the family would gather around to find out the latest hijinks by Little Orphan Annie. This was a rookie mistake made by a veteran broadcaster on several radio stations at once.
From a radio commercial: “Are you a small business looking for more exposure?” Last time I checked, small businesses didn’t have ears so how could they listen to this ad? A small business has never looked for anything but the people running that business might want more exposure for it. A better way to say it might be, “Do you run a small business…?” The walls do not have ears. The people within those walls do.
From another radio commercial: “…there’s lots of free prizes!” Without the contraction this sentence would read, “there is lots of free prizes”. Bad grammar. There are lots of free prizes. And while we’re on the subject, why are prizes so often described as “free”? A prize, by its very nature, is a freebie. There is no such thing as a discounted prize or a prize on sale. The Word Fairy says if it’s a prize, it’s free. Case closed.
From the Free Press online: “A babysitter is facing serious charges after being pulled over for impaired driving — with one of her charges in the vehicle, police say.” Which meaning would you like me to take for the word charges; the offences the babysitter has been accused of or the kids in her care? There are so many other ways to write this sentence without using the same word two ways. The way it is, is unimaginative and it’s potentially confusing.
That’s enough for today. The Word Fairy’s brain hurts. And her small business says it wants to go out and look for more exposure.