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Tuesday, 08 September 2009


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and while we are at it --- how about the folks that always mess up the words "their" and "there" --- my mother was an English major in college and if us kids got this wrong we were toast.

And the spiel checker won't help you with those eros.
Nature Lover

There was a cute longwinded demonstration of this that I have at home I cannot find that hopefully someone has bookmarked.

Pickley, pickley, pickley!

Funny post, Mike, but, sadly, quite troo.

I must confess, my last post on M9 was badly written. I'll do my best to improve my writings in english. I see that I'm not the only one to write what I'm thinking impulsively.

If I'm learning english (american english) by reading (sometimes writing thoughts too) on TOP, I want to be sure the content is well written too...reading mistakes makes things fuzzy.

Thank you to let me evolve.

A Belgian student...

Its usage...it's driving me crazy. Don't people realize that "it's" is an abbreviation for it is...and "its" isn't (is not).

" I'll do my best to improve my writings in english."

Thanks Nico! And thanks for reading.


That's a tough one, even for otherwise literate writers.


That's a tough one, even for otherwise literate writers.


No it snot.

I know you think you believe you understand what I intended to say, but I am not entirely sure that what you think you know I said is what truly wanted I meant to communicate and that you have not misunderstood what I truly strived to state.

(edited from the original text for succinctness and clarity)

Hi Jeff,

About single letter typos: My personal favorite is the 'Costumer Benefit'. With that one can reduce the target group to a very exclusive bunch of people.


This is an epidemic on blogs and in emails.
I receive a lot of professional email with significant technical content. The grammar, spelling and syntax are often atrocious to the point of being painful (or worse, misleading) to read. Perhaps it is because engineers don't get much education in writing or perhaps it is simply the generally poor quality of public education today. The media certainly doesn't help as every newscast is full of bad grammar these days. Poorly wrought emails (or blog posts) certainly affect how I view the intelligence of the sender and the utility of the content.

Jeff - Yes it's!


I was taught that "it's" is a contraction, not an abbreviation. There is a difference between the two, and it's a nit-picky one at that.

Glad I mentioned the easy one...now let's talk about my other pet peeves, e.g., possessive case before a gerund, or subject of an elliptical clause. (I appreciate your letting me vent. Hope you are as frustrated as I.)

What's more annoying than reading something that displays the distinct lack of basic writing skills of the author?

When the author is the CEO of the company you work for, and he makes about 20 times your salary.

That just isn't fair.

(I do realize how irrational the previous statement is. But still.)

I know one photoblogger who frequently had errors in his own posts. I'd occasionally send him messages pointing out his most-common errors, but never got a reply. Nor did he correct his mistakes in later posts.

I would have thought that, as a medical professional, he would have been better educated. (English is his native language, so it's not a question of him being educated at a non-English-speaking university.)


Loosers on the lose!

I know what you mean. Strangely, though, corporation and company presidents and CEOs as a group have higher vocabulary levels than both University professors and writers. That's according to the Johnson O'Connor Research Institute, which studies vocabulary.


And when and where did "lense" get an extra "e" from... there must be fifty examples of that spelling error used every day within the Forum pages of the DPReview site. Is it an accepted modern American spelling of the word "lens" and included in Webster's?

OK, OK: easy target. Set up the clay pigeons and pass the bazookas. ;)

Malcom wrote:
> I receive a lot of professional email with significant technical content. The grammar, spelling and syntax are often atrocious to the point of being painful (or worse, misleading) to read. Perhaps it is because engineers don't get much education in writing or perhaps it is simply the generally poor quality of public education today.

... And perhaps it's because engineering strongly selects for people with highly visual-cortex-dominant mentalities? Most of the engineers I know think in pictures, then laboriously patch together a verbal analogue of their thoughts in order to communicate via the spoken/written language.

Yes: it's still possible to achieve competence in a spoken/written language under that circumstance, even as it's possible for me to learn a new foreign tongue in adulthood. Let he who consistently avoids the path of least resistance cast the first past participle imperfect.

Over here, we blame "lense" on the British!

Nobody in here but us people who write "lens."


Jeff's right, its it's not difficult. When in doubt, turn into a plural and whether you get "their" or "they are" will tell you the Answer.

Provided, of course, you're among the dwindling numbers who still make the difference between "their" and "they're". Or "there" (I've seen this one.)

My pet peeve is apostrophe-ed plurals, like "look at my photo's". *That* gets my goat's, all of them.

(I am happy for Mike that his fund drive went so well he can now afford Comment Triage Committee :))


You are suffering from a mild attack of beams and motes:

"The grammar, spelling and syntax are often atrocious to the point of being painful (or worse, misleading) to read."

The grammar of a language includes its syntax.

"The media certainly doesn't help ...."

Purists would certainly insist on "The media certainly don't help ...".

But that's the great thing about language. It's constantly being created and recreated.

Donna's comment almost sound like some emails I get from my many friends and colleagues in Russia. Many have a rudimentary grasp of English, and many even uses machine-translation, which often gives some interesting results. For example a camera is often called "the chamber", and a (money) transfer a "translation". And "interesting" is often seen instead of "interested", etc etc. I have learned to sort of squint and squeeze out the meaning from very obscure mails.

@Dan...correct...good catch.

@Murray and Mike...My CEO (for a major corporation) routinely rejected poorly written communications, from anyone in the company, based on grammar, spelling, structure or content. The error(s)sometimes wouldn't be identified; the communication simply returned, even multiple times.

Note to Mike...please don't reject this post

It´s called "zee disease of MS Word autocorrection".

Better, the lack of it.

I just noticed my typo... I'm sure it was good for a chuckle, and maybe a (very) small nudge toward the Velben argument? In any case, Mike's take on Leica-envy explained things much better than I would have, even without typos.

It was also right on target: I find the Leica bashing humorous, even a little irksome, and yet I shoot with an Ikon. :-)

Be thankful Mike, it could be like this:



PS. Eolake, I feel your pain. Where I am, the level of English can descend into fairly bad gibberisha t times.

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC
It highlights for my review
Mistakes I cannot sea.

I ran this poem thru it
I'm sure your pleased to no
Its letter perfect in it's weigh
My checker told me sew.

You can find newer, longer versions if you google "Owed to a Spellcheck", or similar.

One reference is this, which I pulled when I could not locate the text that I thought I had saved years ago:


- Mike

With reference to the featured comment, the spellchecker iz American and so cannot be expected to correct English spelling.


From ebay tonight, 'Interesting people welcome to my home!'



Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!
-- Author unknown

This is the classic, I think.

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC
It highlights for my review
Mistakes I cannot sea.

I ran this poem thru it
I'm sure your pleased to no
Its letter perfect in it's weigh
My checker told me sew.

Longer versions abound on the net, if you google "Owed to a spellchecker"

One such reference is here:


I spend most of my day running around the Internet searching for people who make errors in grammar, syntax, punctuation, or spelling. I do this to relax my eyes after checking RAW files looking for noise in the red channel at 1000%.

If it weren't for spell check, I might a job. Its a disgrace.

Mike, if this issue is important enough to make you pea, where's the spell checker and a hot link to a thesaurus?

I (figuratively) wince whenever I see or hear the word "literally" misused. I recently heard a presenter on a cable music channel say "Melbourne literally sh*ts on other cities when it comes to nightlife". Messy!

Hi Mike:

I checked your (not you're) site today expecting Leica news and I find a grammar brawl; well I love a good brawl (verbal, anyway) and I have my own pet peeves and its/it’s is one of them. To quote:

“Its usage...it's driving me crazy. Don't people realize that "it's" is an abbreviation for it is...and "its" isn't (is not).
Posted by: Jeff

That's a tough one, even for otherwise literate writers.
Posted by: Mike Johnston”

Mike, no it’s (i.e., it is) not a tough one. Would you write hi’s or her’s? So is it that hard to remember not to write it’s for its?
Anyone who has read this far in the comments might enjoy the following:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Paperback)
by Lynne Truss
Purchased through Mike’s Amazon (not Mikes) link of course.

One would think we are all expected to have bean Engrish or Communications majors in skool. ;)

I majored in Physics and work in IT. And you expect me to to actually no how to type?

(Point taken, please ignore the lame attempts at humorous spelling alone. Today I'm joking. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.)

OK, I've got to add my own rant.

For example: "My brother is older than me." Instead of "My brother is older than I (am)."

Another example:
"She gave the trophy to myself."
Instead of "She gave the trophy to me."

Also: "My wife and myself really enjoyed the bottle of wine you folks brought over."
Instead of "My wife and I really enjoyed . . .."

For some reason, many people are afraid of the words "me" and "I" and substitute "myself" in their place. Anyone know when or why the misuse (or failure to use) those two words began? It seems rampant, mostly in the spoken language.

I appreciate your voracity.

Mike, to mention a mutual love (high-end audio), a curiously common habit among British audio advertisers (don't know how it is in the US) is to bang on about the abilities of the intergrated amplifiers they stock.

And this the birthplace of Shakespeer.

Of the various errors (it's/its, they're/their/there, loose/lose, etc.), I think that the use of "it's" as "belonging to it" actually has a little bit of logic. After all, we say John's camera or Sally's house or the car's window.

I have to comment: Owed to a Spellchecker is hilarious!

I'm learning english (american english)

Try 'proper' English - from England!

The wonderful poem "The Chaos", quoted by Bryce Lees, and sometimes attributed to anon, is actually by Dutch writer Gerard Nolst Trenité, see http://www.spellingsociety.org/journals/j17/caos.php .

I'm a native and lifelong British English speaker, and I doubt if as many as 1 or 2% of my compatriots could get it 100% right at the first attempt.

The classic one that I come across, again and again, is "than" versus "then".

Hello Mike,

I'm going to confess to being guilty of this on your blog last week---I missed it while typing, but saw it immediately after hitting the post button (I just noticed the preview button...d'oh).

Any chance this software has an 'edit' feature??

"Try 'proper' English - from England!"

I know but here It's funny to point out the differences.
And if we speak about the quality of spoken english, I think there are no doubts. I appreciate particularly the Irish accent (suculant).
It sounds well for me with the londoner's one.

Every specificities are welcome, like SLR, DSLR, TLR, leicas...!-) We are open-minded.

Here's a quick tip for proofing short pieces like comments - read it in reverse order before hitting that POST button. With all the words out of context you are much more likely to catch a typo.

I hope it wasn't anything I did. If so, my excuse is that I never learned how to type properly, and thatI am left-handed, too.

See my above. See what I mean?

Mike, thank you for this thread. (That's "thank you", not the noun "thankyou".) Speaking of missing spaces, I've noticed that a lot of advertisers don't realise that by taking the space out of "every day" they come up with a word that means ordinary and commonplace ("everyday discounts").

For an entertaining read on this subject, I recommend, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" by Lynne Truss. It is very enjoyable and began my conversion toward "sticklerhood".

re gravestones:

no doubt apochryphal story of a yorkshire widower. He tells the stonemason to put "She was Thine" on her gravestone.

The mason is a little puzzled, but as the client is always right he proceeds. When it is finished the Yorkshireman sees that he has carved "She was thin" and angrily points out that he has missed out the E.

At the funeral the stone reads "Ee, she was thin".

[You might not get this joke]

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