Archive for April, 2011


Word: Creating conditional text

April 29, 2011

It can be done!

For full instructions on how to create conditional text using Microsoft Word, see Gary Calwell’s article in Words, volume 3, issue 2, May 2011, available here:


I’ll review your writing

April 28, 2011

I received an email the other day that set out the new communications protocol for a team. I got worried when I read that the person responsible for these glaring errors will be the person doing the reviewing of any material that goes out to the public…

In case you’re wondering what’s wrong with this, take a look at these:

  • Protocol’s: Possessive apostrophe inserted instead of the plural form — it should be protocols.
  • Communications Protocols: Two plurals when only one should be a plural, though you might be able to get away with this one. Personally, I think it should be communications protocol OR communication protocols.
  • Approved by myself: Arrggh! So this person is going to do it alone (which is what ‘by myself’ means)? I think they meant to say that they were responsible for review and approval, in which case it should be approved by me.

When the person doing the reviewing can’t get some basics right in their email, I have to be concerned about the written communications they will approve for public release.


Surprisingly, they got ‘occasion’ right

April 27, 2011

Oh dear.

I didn’t want to display the name of the place, as these two glaring errors/typos may not be their fault. I saw this ‘copy’ in a competition when some wine provided by the liquor store was the prize, so it may have been the competition promoter’s error.

Surprisingly, they got right one of the words that many people have trouble with — ‘occasion’.


Even editors miss typos

April 26, 2011

Seen in a recent newsletter from an editors’ association… Classic!

I’ve heard of all sorts of ways to raise funds, but this one takes the prize for the most innovative!


Firefox 4: Practice what you preach

April 25, 2011

I downloaded Firefox 4 the other day. And I watched the video of the new features, as well as the interactive display. One of Firefox 4’s new security features is the ability to verify a site’s identity by clicking on its favicon.

Unfortunately, when I clicked on the favicon for Mozilla (the makers of Firefox), I got this:

It would be nice if they practiced what they preached.

(I checked several other popular websites too — Google, my bank, White Pages, WordPress, etc. — and all of them have this same message. So, how do web developers make sure their site is listed as legitimate? I looked in the Firefox options, but could see nothing there. Anyone know?)

Update: For more information about this website identification, see Seems it’s OK for there to be no ID information for many sites (and they will have a light gray tinge around the favicon), but that’s not how I initially read the summary information about this new website security feature — I had to go hunting to find it. That said, when I logged into my bank, I still got the gray shading around the favicon, not blue or green as described in that article.


Word: Very slow to load and respond. Solved.

April 21, 2011

Word 2007 — and now Word 2010 — on my Vista laptop has often been very slow to load a document and to respond to a document command (like Save). I’ve been blaming Vista…

But when I started to edit a 300+ page Word 2010 document on my Vista laptop, the unresponsiveness was going to be a huge productivity drain. So off to Google to see if there was an answer to this problem. And there is! And it’s not related to Vista at all, but to how a Word document interacts with the default printer. If the default printer is a networked printer, then there can be response issues.

In my case, the default printer is not only a networked printer, but when I opened this 300+ page document, the printer was turned off (it was a Sunday and I don’t use the printer all the time, especially on weekends).

After following the advice of people in this forum thread, I changed my default printer on the Vista laptop to Adobe PDF (Microsoft EPS works well too, I believe). And guess what? The document responded beautifully! No more achingly long Not responding messages in the Word 2010 title bar; no more watching the ‘spinning wheel of death’ (as I like to call it) while waiting and waiting for the Word document to respond because it was trying to talk to my network printer.


But I have to question WHY Microsoft still ties things like Word documents so closely to the default printer. Most of us have many ‘printers’ listed these days — many of which aren’t even printers, but instead are printer drivers. If a network printer is set as the default and it can’t find it, then why don’t we get a message to tell us to change to another printer driver so we can work in a fully responsive document?

[Link last checked April 2011]


And the abuse of apostrophes continues…

April 20, 2011

J, a long-time reader of this blog, sent me these two photos he took in the NewsLink bookstore at Sydney’s international terminal.

NewsLink has more than 40 stores in all major Australian airports and at Hong Kong’s international airport — I suspect this apostrophe abuse is in all their stores.

You’d think the person responsible for approving the copy for their signs (perhaps the company’s Marketing and Merchandising Manager?) would know the difference between a plural (DVDs) and a possessive (Children’s [books]).

Obviously not <sigh>.

And no, I won’t comment on the offerings in the Children’s section…

[Links last checked April 2011; thanks for letting me use your photos, J]


Malcolm Gladwell speaking in Australia

April 19, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) and Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple Computers)  are both giving keynote addresses at the Business Congress conference on the Gold Coast, Queensland, 1 to 3 June 2011.


[Link last checked April 2011]


The power of good copyediting

April 18, 2011


How styles change

April 15, 2011

For all those who INSIST that a word is only ever spelled one way, or that punctuation can only be used in a specific way, I invite you to step back in time and look at some newspapers from several decades or more ago and see how they dealt with things.

As part of my genealogical research, I’ve been checking out some of the newspaper articles via the National Library of Australia’s TROVE collection ( It’s been a real education in how changes have occurred to the written word, as well as in writing in general.

Here are some examples from earlier times:

  • Barker-street: I saw this form of writing street names in sample newspapers from the 1870s to at least the mid 1930s. Today we would write this as Barker Street, or, more likely, as Barker St (perhaps with or without a trailing period).
  • Senior-constable: Now written as Senior Constable.
  • to-day, to-morrow: Now written as today, tomorrow.
  • 10.35 a.m.: Depending on the style guide you use, likely to be written today as 10:35 am or 10:35am
  • Mr. J. P. Morgan: Again, depending on your style guide, likely to be written as Mr JP Morgan.
  • Headlines/subheads finished with a period: Periods are no longer used in headlines.
  • Headlines/subheads all in upper case: Sentence or title case is more common (and readable!) these days.
  • 11 o’clock on Sunday morning: We would be more likely to use the less wordy 11 am Sunday.
  • Messrs., Mesdames, Miss, Master: Does anyone use these designations of gender and marital status any more?
  • &c.: Used for etc.
  • M’Donald, M’Kean, M’Bain etc.: We now insert a ‘c’ (or ‘ac’) to make McDonald, McKean, McBain etc.

In looking through the articles, I was constantly amazed at the excessive use of periods, dashes, and dividing lines between articles. In the days of setting metal type by hand, this would have just added to the time taken to get a newspaper out, so I’m surprised minimal punctuation didn’t happen much sooner.

Then there was the flowery language…

  • ‘… died before he could be removed to hospital’ (from 1935)

And what constituted ‘news’:

  • ‘Overland’ train passenger lists (1890s) for journeys from Adelaide to Melbourne, Sydney to Melbourne etc. That would be like publishing airline passenger lists in today’s newspapers! Obviously privacy wasn’t such an issue 100 years ago…
  • Full details of a wedding ceremony (including what everyone in the bridal party was wearing) sharing the front page with international stories and advertisements for liver pills and the like.

Then there are these that speak for themselves, with their mix of humor, ordinariness, and sadness…

From 1896

From 1908

From 1935

[Link last checked April 2011]