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Not Wrong, but Not as Clear as Possible

There is a good reason the New York Times is considered one of the world’s top newspapers. With 122 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other paper, and with the largest  combined print and online circulation (and with Donald Trump often calling it “failing New York Times”), it’s the paper to which all journalists should aspire. It’s historic (witness its landmark Supreme Court libel ruling New York Times v. Sullivan and its Pentagon Papers ruling New York Times Co. v. United States) and it’s credible.

I didn’t originally understand the following paragraph, written by Maureen Dowd and appearing in the Feb. 3, 2018 edition. It’s in a story about Uma Thurman talking about Harvey Weinstein.

“Pulp Fiction” made Weinstein rich and respected, and Thurman says he introduced her to President Barack Obama at a fund-raiser as the reason he had his house.

Huh? He had his house because he introduced her to a president? Wow. I didn’t know Obama was in the habit of giving out houses because of introductions.

OK. I know what the intent here is: “Pulp Fiction,” was so successful that it made Weinstein enough money to buy his house. But when I first read the paragraph, I took it to mean that the reason he got his house was because he introduced Thurman to Obama. Then I thought that Weinstein was crediting Thurman with Weinstein’s house, which is only indirectly true (the real credit should go to everybody who helped make the movie the success it was, starting with Quentin Tarantino).

The reality is one has to be really careful to make sure what’s written is exactly what is meant, and it’s not easy to do when you’re the writer.

Thanks to Richard C. for the idea.

Until next time! Use the right words!


February 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mistakes, She’s Made (More Than) a Few

I received the following email. Let’s just say that I won’t be responding, and neither should you. The number of mistakes boggles my mind.

Hope you caught the song-lyric reference in the title.

Until next time! Use the right words!

Attn: Beloved,
Good morning,

Greetings in the name of humanity, I am Mrs. Deborah Calvert Herman a citizen of Australia but presently in the Malaysia,used to beworking for the federal government, I am 50 years old, I am now anew Christian but from all indication, my health condition is really deteriorating and it is quite severe because i been suffering for a long time from cancer of the Lungs, from obvious diagnosis,I won't live more than 1 year, according to my doctors, this is because the cancer stage has gotten to a very bad stage.

My late husband died last five years ago, and during the period of our marriage we couldn't produce any child. My late husband was very wealthy and after his death, I inherited all his business and wealth.

The doctors has advised me that I may not live for more than 1 year, so I now decided to divide the part of this wealth to contribute to the development of the church in Africa, America Asia, and Europe.

I selected you after visiting the website and I prayed over it. I am willing to donate the sum of $25,000.000.00u.usd (twenty five million United States dollars) to the less privileged.

Please I want you to note that this fund is lying in a security company in Malaysia. Once i hear from you, I will forward to you all the information you will use to get fund released from the security company and to be transferred to your account.

I honestly pray that this money when transferred to your account will be used for the said purpose, because I have come to find out that wealth acquisition without humility, all is vanity.

Please provide me with the following information so I can forward it to a church attorney who used to work at times for my late husband's lawyer.

He is diligent and a Christian so I am confident he is going to handle the transaction with you and lead, advice you on how to secure the funds in your favor.

Information needed:
Full name...................................
Full address......................................
Company and address:...........................
Marital status:...............................
Fax no..............................................
Phone no:............................................

I await your urgent reply. (
Your sister
Mrs. Deborah Calvert Herman

May 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Too Bad This Offer Isn’t Genuine

I received the following email:

Dear Friend ,

If this message intrude into your privacy or cause you any 
inconvenience, I sincerely apologize as that's not the intended 

I am one of the senior staff of Emirates Development Bank, here 
in ABU DHABI, UAE. We have an amount of money to the tune of five 
hundred million United State dollars (US$500,000.000.) only, 
floating in our Bank that we can re-profile for our mutual 
benefit, if you agree to cooperate with me. This is just between 
You and me, and we can split the fund in the ratio of 50/50%, as 
I do not want to be greedy. You will be the recipient and I will 
show you how we can execute the transaction successfully. There 
is no risk involved and it will be a hitch-free transaction.

If you want to work with me, kindly indicate your interest to do 
so and I will give you the details. This is strictly confidential 
and must not be disclosed to a third party please. For further 
correspondence, Kindly and urgently reply to my private email as 

My Regards,

Abdul Al Fahim

This couldn’t come at a more frustrating time. I’m having money problems, so I really wish there was somebody out there willing to share $500 million dollars. But I know it’s not the case because I don’t believe anybody really reaches out randomly on a email list. Plus, I think what he’s asking to do, split money that seems to belong to the bank, is criminal.


  1. There’s a space after the comma in the greeting.
  2. There’s a bad space in the first paragraph.
  3. Nobody who speaks English as a first language would write “$500,000.000.”
  4. The name of the country is United States.
  5. There’s a space missing between “US” and the dollar amount.
  6. “You” is improperly capitalized.
  7. Nobody who speaks English as a first language would write “50/50%.”
  8. There’s a bad break in the last paragraph, making me think that there should have been a period after “confidential.”
  9. “Kindly” is improperly capitalized.

Also, please, nobody contact that email address.

Until next time! Use the right words!

April 27, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friends Don’t Let Friends Commit Crimes

Another day, another scam email. This one has the audacity to call me “Friend.”

Dear Friend,

I got your e-mail address contact through your country’s Information Exchange On
line while browsing and after that,I decided to contact you to ask for your
assistance in this urgent matter that requires trust, confidentiality because you
might receive this message in your Inbox,Junk/Spam folder.

My name is Mr. Nafiz Karadere senior Manager of ( GARANTI BANK OF TURKEY) I am 55
years old man,married with four children.

I have a very urgent,confidential and profitable business for both of us Valued at
$25.5 Million (Twenty Five Million, Five Hundred Thousand United state Dollars).
This fund is an excess of what my branch in which I am the senior manager made as
profit last year. I have already submitted an approved End of the Year 2015 report
to my Head Office and they will never know of this Excess.I have since then, placed
this amount of $25.5 Million (Twenty Five Million,Five Hundred Thousand United state
Dollars) on a SUSPENSE SECURITY without a beneficiary.

As a senior Manager of the bank,I cannot be directly connected to this money thus I
am impelled to request for your assistance to receive this money as the beneficiary
of the funds. If we could do this together,we shall share this funds 50/50 between
us accordingly and this transaction is 100% risk free,as no-risk involved in this
and this is going to be a direct transaction. All I need from you is to stand as the
original depositor of this fund.

If interested,please write back for more information,while I shall explain more in
details as soon as I got a response from you if you are interested.

Thanks for your kind understanding,awaiting your response!
Best Regards,
Mr. Nafiz Karadere


  1. I know of no such Information Exchange (or Information Exchange On).
  2. If you read this carefully, you will see that “Mr. Nafiz Karadere” is embezzling the $25.5 million. Also, I’m pretty sure that what he’s asking you to do is a crime.
  3. Get the name of the country right, dumbshit. It’s United States.
  4. What is a “suspense security?”
  5. Too many spacing mistakes, among many other obvious errors.
  6. If he submitted an end of year 2015 report, why did he wait a year before writing this? It smacks of criminal action, if you ask me.

Until next time! Use the right words!

February 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Hope You Stay Stuck in That Airport

This is not about President Donald Trump’s travel ban that caused people to be unable to leave various airports. If you read the latest scam email I received, you will see why I hope this con artist stays stuck in some unnamed airport.

As this is a shorter letter, I counted only 12 mistakes. Don’t make it 13 by calling the phone number. It’s a Columbus, Ohio area code.

Dear Card Owner,
This is to notify you today that I Mr. Rex Anthonio have already arrived to your
country yesterday with your ATM CARD which is valued at $1.5 million united state
dollars Sent from European Union branch Turkey. Kindly send your information for
reconfirmation, to avoid wrong delivery. below is my telephone numbers; (614)559
(1)Your Full Name:
(2)Mobile Phone Number:
(3)Current Home Address:
(4)Fax Number:
(7)Nearest Airport :
Note that am in an airport right now waiting for your e-mail, so kindly send your
complete delivery information as I have directed you,to avoid misplacement.
I am,
Rex Anthonio

I typed “Aimes Delivery Company” into Google. No such name came up.

Until next time! Use the right words!

February 21, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s That Nation’s Name?

If you’re a sports apparel company, and if you wish to outfit a team of players representing  a country, you’d better spell the country name correctly.

For the Copa America, Adidas didn’t, spelling one South American nation Columbia instead of Colombia.

Besides it probably annoying about 48 million people (the country’s population) as well as famous expats such as Sofia Vergara, it’s funny in that Columbia is a feminization of the name “United States of America.” (Too bad Adidas isn’t American, for that would be really funny; it’s German.)

What’s next? Spelling a long, skinny South American nation Chilly? How about Hatey, in the Care-i-bean? Peroo?


Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

June 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halves or Thirds?

It’s high school soccer season for me (it’s winter sport where I live), and the season always begins with low-key scrimmages between usually friendly teams. Today, was just such a game.

Normally, varsity high school soccer games (not matches) are played in two equal halves of 40 minutes. But because it was a scrimmage and not officially a regular-season game, the coaches wanted to do something different. The home-team coach approached me and asked if I would be OK if they would play three halves of 27 minutes each.

I responded, “You can’t play three halves; you can play three thirds.” The coach responded with a laugh, a high-five and a fist bump, for he realized the error of his words. Then he paid me.

We played the three periods, so the teams got an extra minute.

Until next time! Use the right words!

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Know Your “Racket” from Your “Racquet”

Earlier this year, I interviewed a member of the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame. This past weekend, I vacationed in Palm Springs, where I saw numerous — and unused — tennis courts. I guess tennis isn’t as big among the retired set as it once was.

Still these two things reminded me to write about the proper use of the apparatus tennis, badminton and racquetball use: In all cases, it’s a racket.

It’s never a racquet, unless you’re referring to the sport racquetball. Then, it’s a racquetball racket.

Don’t cause a racket. It’s just how it is. And be careful about being a racketeer because you’re probably engaging in some sort of criminal behavior called racketeering. My dictionary has another word for it: extortion.

In other words, stick to sports.

Until next time! Use the right words!


November 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Once Again, For The Veterans

I honored the veterans last year, but I believe it’s worth repeating.

Today is Armistice Day, which marks the Armistice of Compiègne that the Allies and Germany signed in France on Nov. 11, 1918, officially ending the Great War’s war on the western front. It went into effect, famously, on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”

That’s what I would have written between 1919 and 1939, when there had been only one world war.

After World War II, many countries changed the name of the holiday. In the United States, it was renamed All Veterans Day, which was later shortened to Veterans Day. It honors all veterans from all conflicts who serve or have served. This is not the same as Memorial Day, which honors the veterans who died while serving.

But notice the spelling of Veterans. It’s not Veteran’s Day because we honor all veterans, not just one. It could be spelled Veterans’ Day, but it’s not.

Hopefully, there’s someone out there wearing a button or a t-shirt that says, “Kiss me, I’m a veteran.”

If you come across someone with it, give a kiss.

Or at the very least, a thank-you and a salute.

Until next time! Use the right words!

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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