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John Jenkins Nov 10

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Magazine

The November column from the former editor of Writers' Forum

John JenkinsAs a publisher and editor I have been answering queries from writers for something like 20 years and as a result I have recently published a book FAQs and the Answers for Ambitious Writers.


A Way with Words

by John Jenkins

I spend a lot of time trying to persuade would-be writers and journalists to proofread their work several times – and not to rely on the computer spellchecker. Unfortunately, every day in every newspaper and public notice I see things which would appal me and anyone else who has any regard for the English language.

I introduce them to excellent style books produced by the Guardian and other newspapers, not to mention specialist dictionaries for authors and printers. I can understand anybody being puzzled by Tokyo and Tokio, Muslim and Moslem but not your for you‘re, or prevaricate when they mean procrastinate.

At one moment I feel like I am doing a pretty good imitation of Victor Meldrew and then I see the Queen described as Her royal Highness and a polo playing chum of the Royal family killed in a helicopter crash described as royal in a Times headline.

Humour is a good way to alert the mind so cast your eyes down this list and thank heavens that you will never make such silly mistakes.

Did I read that correctly?

Did I read that sign right?

TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW

In a Laundromat:

AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT

In a London department store:

BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS

In an office:

WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN

In an office:

AFTER TEA BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD

Outside a secondhand shop:

WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING - BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC.

WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?

Notice in health food shop window:

CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS

Spotted in a safari park:(I sure hope so)

ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR

Seen during a conference:

FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN'T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR

Message on a leaflet:

IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS

On a repair shop door:

WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR - THE BELL DOESN'T WORK)

From actual hospital charts.

1. The patient refused an autopsy.

2. The patient has no previous history of suicides.

3. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

4. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

5. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

6. On the second day, the knee was better, and on the third day disappeared.

7. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

8. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

9. Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

10. She is numb from her toes down.

11. While in ER, she was examined, x-rated, and sent home.

12. The skin was moist and dry.

13. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

14. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

15. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

16. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

17. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

18. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

19. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

20. The pelvis exam will be done later on the floor.

21. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities

And as for headlines:

Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn't you say?

Man kills self before shooting wife and daughter

Something went wrong in jet crash – expert says

Police campaign to run down jaywalkers

Panda mating fails: vet takes over

Miners refuse to work after death

Juvenile court to try shooting defendant

War dims hope for peace

If strike isn't settled quickly, it may last

Cold spell linked to temperatures

Enfield couple shot: police suspect murder

Red tape holds up new bridge

New obesity study looks for larger test group

Astronaut takes blame for gas in spacecraft

Kids make nutritious snacks

College dropouts cut in half

Hospitals are sued by 7 foot doctors

Typhoon rips through cemetery - hundreds dead

 

John Jenkins' October column was entitled Following in Byron's Wake.

 

If you have a question you would like John to answer please email it to:

John@jayjay1.demon.co.uk

The latest book from John Jenkins is FAQs and the Answers for Ambitious Writers

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Publisher: Cooper Johnson Limited
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