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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mos Eisley Cantina

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: The space bar.

Friends, this is a sad day. I did not think it would come to this. After all, the space bar is not really punctuation. Even my six-year-old son has figured out how to use it. How hard could it be?

When I opened yesterday's paper, this was the first thing I saw:

Former Yk’er tries
for B.C. Liberal

city councilor, has
thrown his hat in the ring for the
Liberal Party nomination in British
Columbia’s Saanich-Gulf Islands

But Spence will have his work
cut out for him. Hemust conduct
much of his campaign from Pakistan
where he is working on contract
with an American agency to
“restore democracy.”

Another hurdle is rival Briony
Penn, a beguiling activist who
made a name for her self in 2001
after riding horseback in the buff
through downtown Vancouver to
protest logging on Salt Spring

We will ignore the fact that this entire story is clearly nothing more than an attempt to increase the nudity content of the local news. The problems here go far beyond bad journalism. No, "hemust" is not a cool new way to say "he must", and "her self" is not the classy new way to spell "herself". After the federal government's insidious attempt to co-opt the word "download", we must all be on guard against the incursion of non-words into our vocabulary. Don't worry: I brought my beheading knife on holiday with me. It caused a few problems at the border, but I just explained that I need it for a religious ritual, and that my religion is so enlightened that the border guards hadn't even heard of it. Naturally, they let me right through.

Moving through the paper, I discovered that the environment minister "wa sin" Alberta and that apparently slash marks and ellipses now require spaces on one side but not the other. I am guessing that a computer spell-checker indicated that there were spelling errors without the spaces. These would apparently be the only times a spell-checker was used in the production of the entire paper.

But I was willing to overlook these problems until an unsolicited e-mail dropped into my inbox to offer me a free "phoneline". AAAAAHHHHH!!!! This cannot continue. There is absolutely no reason for this type of error to creep into print. Good heavens, vulnerable people are reading this! What if you confuse someone? I'm no fan of spell-checkers because they can be wrong, but they can help you avoid errors like these.

Because I am constantly going out of my way for the common good, I offer this handy reference guide for writers:

  1. Find a dictionary.
  2. If you don't know how to spell a word, look it up.
  3. If you can't find the word in the dictionary, consider the possibility that it is actually two words. Experiment with different ways to split it into two words until you find both words in the dictionary. For example, you might discover that "wa sin" is not listed, so you could try to split it into "w asin", "was in" or "wasi n".