With New Blog, Retired South Florida Reporter Becomes Chief Of The 'Grammar Police'
Author and former Palm Beach Post reporter Eliot Kleinberg says people might judge you by how well you write. So why not get it right?
There’s no denying that COVID-19 has changed the way we communicate. And well before the pandemic, many people were already embracing video conferencing, online chats and text messaging as a substitute for in-person conversations.
But is all this reliance on technology destroying our grammar and spelling skills?
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Last year's combination of COVID isolation and retirement gave author, and former Palm Beach Post reporter, Eliot Kleinberg the time to pursue a pet project. He now publishes a blog about bad writing — and how to fix it.
It's called "Something Went Horribly Wrong!"— an incongruously serious title for a project tackling common writing mistakes with a sizeable dash (or maybe a comma?) of humor.
"That was just about my favorite cliche and a lot of reporters used it," says Kleinberg. "And eventually if everybody uses it, it goes from a clever line to something that's stale to something that — you just want to roll your eyes."
To fuel the blog, Kleinberg is reaching out to the public to send him photos of writing errors we see in daily life; on menus, street signs, TV news chyrons and print news headlines. He's in search of the sort of "oopsies" that elicit facepalms from students and veteran editors alike.
And he's collected some doozies so far. Like the eatery that advertised "The More Best Hotdog In The World." Or the sign over the grocery store freezer that read "Hispanic Frozen" (the section actually contained frozen Latin cuisine.)
Kleinberg refers to the people who send in photos as his deputized “grammar police."
Their motto? “To protect and correct.”
But he's careful not to make the blog a platform for public shaming; if, for instance, Kleinberg receives a photo of an unintentionally hilarious misspelling on a restaurant menu, the name of the establishment is blacked out.
"Our goal is not to embarrass you or humiliate you; our goal is to make you a better writer," said Kleinberg.
With everything that's going on in the world today, Kleinberg doesn't expect everyone to agonize over every dangling participle, misplaced modifier or misused apostrophe.
"Every day people are judging you by how you speak and how you write and you probably don't realize it," he says. "You don't have to write for a living to be a great writer."
But how will Kleinberg handle it if a reader points out mistakes — factual or grammatical — that he might make on his own blog?
Actually, it happened quite recently.
"We run our segments every two weeks. And someone sent something in and I wrote, 'Here's more examples' instead of 'Here are more examples,'" said Kleinberg, with a laugh. "So I had to do a mea culpa in the next column!"