Sloppy copy: top five horrors

It’s enough to give us a heart attack.  Yes, we know we live in a world where malapropisms, text message spelling and other general King’s English delights reign supreme. But we are still—call us naïve—shocked when we continue to see top media outlets, ads and others play fast and loose with the rules.

Herewith, our top 5 commonly seen sloppy copy offenses, in random order:

  1. As in “lay low,” “lay out in the sun,” and “lay down.” Wrong wrong wrong. Each of those uses in the present tense should utilize “lie.” “Lay” is reserved for physically placing something, as in “I will lay the ‘Call Me Caitlyn’ Vanity Fair issue on the nightstand.” Or in the past tense, as in “The copywriter lay waiting on the stretcher for the account manager to save him.” Unfortunately, these misuses have become so ingrained that we hear newscasters and other authority figures who should know better reading sloppy copy like this. And it’s everywhere in ads and other messaging.
  2. Graduate college. This absolutely boggles our little sheepskin-weaned minds. What happened to the preposition (from) in this phrase? We hear it everywhere—“Junior graduated high school.” Actually, the true and appropriate usage is “Junior was graduated from high school.” Graduation and the term graduate itself is bestowed, not achieved, and thus one cannot really “graduate” on one’s own.
  3. Whenever. This is another annoying one that calls for situation splicing to choose the right word. Often confused and misused for “when.” As in “I am expecting Beyonce to come over to pick up Blue Ivy—whenever she gets here we will leave.” Wrong! Should be when, because it connotes a specific, one- time situation or event. Whenever is proper when it’s a recurring or unknown timing situation, as in “Whenever Jay comes over, he’s always in a great mood.”
  4. This one is in epidemic status with agencies and corporations. It’s only kinda sorta wrong, but it’s 100% overused and silly. As in “we bring efficiencies.” GE and their “we bring good things to life” tag from a decade ago may be to blame, but at this point we’re all complicit. The phrase conjures up mental imagery of busy account types and execs toting picnic baskets brimming with data and boxes full of better ways to do things. Yawn.
  5. Just sayin’. Yup. That’s what we doin’ right now.

Rage on, language lovers, against the dying of the light.

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Direct Choice Inc. is a full-service direct marketing agency that has worked with national and regional brands in a wide variety of vertical markets. In addition to this blog, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn


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