Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Don't mova muscle.

Is 2017 going to be my year of pet peeves on this blog? Oh, yes, it sure looks that way so far.

What's wrong with this headline?


If you said the single quotes around 'Open for Business,' you wouldn't be exactly wrong. U.S. usage insists on double quotes for quotations. But newspapers have always fought for ways to squeeze more words on the page, and this is one of their tricks. We let them pass on that. The real problem is the stationary.

Stationary means the state of being still. Stationery is froufrou paper products. A stationery store sells monogrammed paper, sealing wax, and fancy pens. A stationary store does not move around.

I see this error all the time, and it irks me. Irk, irk, irk, all day long.

The following was from an e-book I was reading, which I cannot identify since I know people who work for the publisher and it would embarrass them:


That got past at least two editors and two copy editors.

Come on, people! Even your local CVS can get this right!


I know this is one of those frustrating things, words most of us don't use every day that are almost spelled identically but mean completely different things. It's the kind of error spellcheck will not catch. How can we remember which is which?

If you notice, I provided a mnemonic in the header; mova muscle gives you the A in stationary. Then again, move would normally be spelled with an E, so maybe that mnemonic sucks. How about this?

If stationery has an E
Writing letters you will be
If stationary has an A
Surely you will sit and stay

What? Don't give me that face. I'm an editor, not an SAT coach.

Try to find something that works for you. And I'll try to find a mnemonic to remind us all that the first M in mnemonic is silent. How about:

Pneumonia has a silent P
Mnemonic has its M
Take it out upon the Greeks
Who stuck us all with 'em

Ugh. I guess I'd better not wait for that call from Khan Academy.
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