Word choice Wednesday: Victorian fashion in 2017

In hyper-competitive niches, it can be tempting to cram in relevant keywords wherever you see an opportunity to boost your SERPs – but that’s not always a good idea, as this fashion headline raises more questions than answers:

Figure-flattering boot

  1. Did I just wake up in 1895?
  2. Is the comely turn of my ankle suddenly back in fashion?
  3. Can a boot really flatter my figure?

I thought it was safe to say the answer to all three is “no,” and this was clickbait. However, purely for research purposes I did click for the bait – and found over-the-knee boots that most certainly would not be figure-flattering, much less leg-flattering, for the majority, with the boots pictured sporting a circumference of 15 inches at the upper. I feel lied to – and that’s not what you want your readers to feel when they follow a promise.

Fact-check Friday: Several can be an understatement.


adjective sev·er·al \ˈsev-rəl, ˈse-və-\

2. a :  more than one b :  more than two but fewer than many; c: (chiefly dialectal)  being a great many (Merriam-Webster, 2017)

several nuclear tests

This is not a dialectical argument, and the use of “several” is a severe understatement and incorrect in this context.

According to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), in 1962 alone there were 178 nuclear tests, the heaviest year of testing from Trinity (July 16, 1945) to date.

Vague language is not strong language. At best it’s lazy and at worst it’s slippery. You don’t want people thinking that you’re a politician, do you?

Is there a copy editor in the house? LinkedIn spell checker is broken.

Sometimes we have a great idea for driving engagement on social media, and in our excitement to fire it off right away, we completely and utterly forget to check for those squiggly little red lines that tell us we’re doing something terrible to the English language.

leadeship aresenal

I am reasonably certain in my translation of “leadeship aresenal” to “leadership arsenal.”

This is a PSA to stop and take 15 seconds to spellcheck your social media post before you release it into the wild. If your copy is healthy, it will be better able to survive and thrive on its own.

Fortunately, this person’s followers seemed forgiving.

Fact-check Friday: When your content doesn’t match your featured image.

Now, Vanessa Bayer and Chelsea Clinton do look a little bit alike, and I would not be surprised if an algorithm designed to look for facial matches in a photo repository as deep as CNN’s turned up a few false positives from one of these womens’ files when looking for the other. But if you don’t double check an algo’s work, you can end up with:

mistagged photo

I did an image search to see if this happens often, and it does seem that a few offshore newswires are confused about the difference between Chelsea Clinton and Vanessa Bayer (hint: one is involved in American politics, and the other was involved in satirizing American politics). This leads me to believe that the mistake above might be an editorial error rather than an algo one, but either way, this type of copy-image mismatch is easy to avoid. Even if you’re not sure exactly who Vanessa Bayer is, it doesn’t take more than a couple seconds to Google and find out.

Bad webmaster, no cookie. Your CSS is having a panic attack!

Code is a fickle beast, not least because it relies on you to tell it exactly what to do and when. If you get the “what” but miss the “when” part in a carousel, this is what happens:

CSS carousel error

As you might be able to tell, the above carousel intended to present at least four slides – but since the code isn’t describing the desired order, you get everything all at once.

Is there a copy editor in the house? Businessmen are suddenly breaking into song.

Transposition is a common error in content writing. It can either turn a word meaningless, in which case spellcheck will likely catch it, or it can turn a word into an entirely different one, in which case spellcheck will skip right over it. Behold:

Singing a letter of intent

Although business transactions in the US would be a lot more interesting if we moved towards karaoke meetings as is common in parts of Asia, I sincerely doubt this particular entrepreneur sang his letter of intent as indicated in the copy.