This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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30 October 2012

Are your ebooks full of typos?

When I first got my Kindle, I spent some time considering what I'd buy to read on it. My friends were enjoying revisiting Dickens and Hugo without the inconvenience of the weight and volume of those large tomes. But I decided on Jane Austen. Imagine having her complete works at the touch of a button, and all for free. But when these ebooks materialised in my device, I noticed that I'd ended up with the 'Compete Works of Jane Austen'. Somehow it took a bit of the excitement away.

To be fair, the print book I'm reading at the moment has several repeated paragraphs. (I've checked, and it's not just that I'm falling asleep while reading and going over bits I've already read!)

What are your thoughts on the quality of ebooks? Do the typos bother you? Or is the convenience of an e-reader enough to keep the excitement alive?

Read this blog by Laura June, and you'll find out some of the 'dirty little seccrets' about typos in ebooks.

Why is an ebook ever riddled with typos?

29 October 2012

Man is a curious animal...

Last week, Johnson posted on gendered language. If our workshop participants are typical, many of you have views on this topic. Here's a taste of what Johnson had to say:

In the history of English and other languages, men have magnanimously declared that grammatically or semantically masculine words could include women. In grammar, the traditional view is that the male pronoun is sex-neutral in sentences like "Everyone should find his seat and take out his notebook." And the scope of "man", "mankind", Jefferson's "all men are created equal", it was explained to women, included them too. But this has been a cause for feminist chagrin in modern times. Feminists and those hoping to avoid annoying people along these lines cautiously opt for "people" or "humankind" in place of "man" and "mankind".

More specific terms have been contentious too. At one point in history, "policemen" and "firemen" were not controversial because there were no policewomen and firewomen. Now, "police officers" and "firefighters" are the generic plurals of the day. But the conversion to sex-neutral terms has been patchy and inconsistent. The lowest enlisted ranks in America's navy are "seamen" — regardless of the sex of the sailors in question. The same applies to "airmen" in America's air force. Britain's Royal Navy has only "seamen" — but the Royal Air Force has "airwomen" as well as "airmen".

Other traditional terms are in similar disarray. Female Hollywood types are "actresses", uncontroversially, but many women of the serious New York stage call themselves "actors". No self-respecting female writer of verse calls herself a "poetess" any more. "Waitress" is holding its own against "server", but "stewardess" has quickly yielded to "flight attendant". "Hostess" is harmless but "mistress" is tainted.

25 October 2012

Bank's investment statements awarded WriteMark

ANZ has announced that the investment statements it will release at the end of this month have been rewritten in plain English and awarded the WriteMark. Look for the new investment statements for the ANZ Retail Term Deposits and ANZ Foreign Currency Term Deposits. Congratulations, ANZ, for rewriting that puts the reader first.

12 October 2012

Does my butt look big in this?

We were recently offered a complimentary gym membership. Some of the folks in the office thought a complimentary gym membership sounded like a great idea for those who don’t like to look at their side view in mirrors!

Compliment / complement is a troublesome pair. As you all know, the first is an expression of admiration but it also means something free, so the gym was correct. The second is something that adds extra features or benefits. 'She complimented me on the way my handbag complemented the outfit.' 

Liz of Libroediting has been blogging about troublesome pairs. Check out her index of troublesome pairs posts to see if you can find an entry on words that confuse you or your work colleagues.

Do I use compliment or complement?

08 October 2012

Grammar and the job market

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Kyle Wiens explains why he won't hire people who use poor grammar. The article begins:
If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.
Read on to find his reasons.