A couple of weeks ago, Adam logged a post about Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, two fellows on an American road quest to correct typos. I had visited Jeff's blog and was hardly surprised that the duo (Herson replaced for this leg by another college pal, Josh Roberts) would eventually make their way to Portland. And I wasn't terribly staggered to pick up this morning's The Sunday Oregonian which chronicles their visit to our fair city (and provides Deck's favorable comparison of Portland to Seattle). That having been said, I was a bit taken aback to notice that, in anecdotal support of the TEAL (Typo Eradication Advancement League) cause, Margie Boulé (likely, her copy editors) managed to spell Chicago’s Milwaukee (or Milwuakee) Furniture as, wait for it... Milwaukie (and, Milwuakie). Yes, it happens twice. While our quaint suburb (the one ending in -ie) is indeed our own, our midwest neighbors promote the most common spelling. In an exchange about the blunder, Jeff points out that "Somerville" is also misspelled. Ugh. I'll go ahead and agree to maintain hope that Ms. Boulé's closing line, in reference to Deck's possible book, "it just better not have any typos," is an inside joke designed to prompt attention to her story's grammatical detail. And perhaps, to solicit feedback. Mine.
Men after my own heart: the Chicago Tribune reports on two young men, traveling the country and correcting typographical and grammatical errors in signs. First Obama, now this: what's in the water in the Land of Lincoln?
Tangentially related to the post below, from Scott Stevenson, a pithy observation about language design in software development that holds true in brand development, to wit:
Many developers believe in the "start with something simple" philosophy when writing code, but may not immediately realize it works just as well for writing copy. When you sit down to write about what your app does, start with just that — explain what it does. Read the whole thing. Via John Gruber. Also related, and of interest: The Plain English Campaign (via Ace Jet 170).
A Web page contains so many variables — dynamic presentation as well as content — that the old rules of, say, writing a headline to fit a given space might not seem as valid as they did on the printed page. The Washington Post does a better job of it than others (the Times and its dense galaxy of headlines presented as unordered lists to mind). A case in point is this morning's editorial page reaction to Barack Obama's speech on race:
Here, you get a four-line encapsulation of the page's content, and the result is even amusing, assuming you know the players: Eugene Robinson, the Post's reliably center-left columnist; Michael Gerson, the former Bush staffer who implausibly mined the speeches of JFK and FDR to write talking points for the Current Occupant; and the Post itself, whose editorial page is run by arch-conservative Fred Hiatt, which makes its three-word smackdown of Gerson's column even more interesting.
To me, what is of interest here is how the Post manipulates its content management system to provide a summary of the section's content that would only work on the Web: the same sequence of information wouldn't work as well in the contents box of the printed front page. It requires the immediacy of the hyperlink. Moreover, it is entirely different content from that on the columns' respective pages. You may say that I'm on about nothing here, but most content management systems (including the one I'm using now) are designed to work with strict categories of information; the default would be to excerpt the headline of the column as a hyperlink, which would work technically but almost surely ignore the need for pith. The fact that the Post's Web folks have taken a detail so small into consideration is worthy of congratulation. The Web is different, and no matter how clever we think we are in our talk of "buckets" and so forth, once the buckets are set out, it's worth thinking about teacups and even thimbles.
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