I’ll be the first to admit I’m not perfect. But like author Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots and Leaves fame, I can’t help but notice and be appalled by the punctuation mistakes that regularly get past proofreaders. (Or perhaps nobody hires proofreaders any more?) Spelling and grammar mistakes in newspapers and ads also jump out at me.
Recently, an almost-full-page ad in Toronto’s largest newspaper proudly displayed this mismatch:
“Will his addiction cost a patient their life?” (italics mine) screams the headline promoting an episode of grouchy doctor House.
How hard would it have been for the copywriter to find out if the patient in danger was male or female? How much would it have given away of the plot to write “his life” or “her life”?
In many cases, you can assume the word sailed through a spellcheck, because it sure sounds like the intended word.
For example, just before Christmas, I received a high-end piece in the mail from a prominent retailer, featuring many lovely and expensive gift suggestions for the “holiday season” (why not just “the holidays”? or “Christmas?” — but that’s another pet peeve). But wait, the print piece “is only a sneak peak at what we have available exclusively online”! Presumably, it’s a foothill in the mountain of gifts that were available.
It seems that both in English and in French, people no longer have any grounding in grammar or syntax. They write the way they speak and they Get it Write.(:-) I also find that the concrete and abstract meanings of words get interchanged very often. On the French side, there is a sophisticated spellchecker called ProLexis which detects many mistakes a Microsoft Word spellchecker would not find.
You can see that the translator’s work is not made any easier between the authors who do not know how to write and the readers who do not understand what they read.