Friday, January 16, 2009

A-choooo! (I'm allergic to crappy writing.)


This picture, which JEANNE spotted, is a CDC-related error. She found this on a box of tissues, (whose footnotes led her to the CDC source, which was listed on the bottom of the box), and she thinks this was given away (to a doctor's office, perhaps) by someone who works in health care. JEANNE says: Since they made mouth and nose the subjects, one would expect to have the verb go with them, right? Instead, I keep picturing a mouth and nose going in the trash...

Freakin' hilarious. Thanks, JEANNE, for sending in this picture!

16 comments:

Editrix said...

I know this is going to sound overly nitpicky, but if the CDC were instructing sick people to throw their mouth and nose away, they would say "drop THEM in the trash," not "drop IT in the trash." (Now, if the sentence began with "Cover your mouth OR nose with a tissue," that'd be a different story.) Still I, like Jeanne, went to a face-mutilation place when I read that text, and nobody wants to go to a face-mutilation place, particularly when they're already sniffly and grabbing up tissues and feeling like crap. How much better things would be if the CDC had said, "Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze, and drop the tissue in the trash."

P.S.: I just took another glance at the picture, and I'm wondering why the ellipses come before "During Influenza Season" and not after. Geez, this tissue box is really effed up.

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Editrix, you're totally in the right place for being nitpicky! :)

Yeah, this tissue box is kind of a disaster, writing-wise. Here's hoping the CDC does a better job dealing with diseases than they do writing...

Suzie said...

Well, since this is all about being nitpicky, I'll speak up too.

Unless my coffee-deprived state is getting to me, the "mouth and nose" are not the subjects, they are the objects (which are to be covered). The subject is the implied "You" of the imperative (who is asked to do the covering).

John Roach said...

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree. The subject isn't "nose and mouth," it's the implied "you." Pretty common in imperative sentences.

As "tissue" is the immediately preceding noun, I think the pronoun is perfectly OK.

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

I'm thinkin' this might not be technically *wrong*, but it does sound just a wee bit awkward...at least to my ears/eyes...

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected... but my mouth and nose still want to go to the trash (not really).
Sorry, it's been a few years since I homeschooled my kids. I doubt that we dealt with anything quite like this.
Jeanne

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Regardless, there's a better way they could have written this. It's one of those things that you've gotta read over two or three times because it sounds so weird...and if you have to do that, I don't think it's effective writing. It may not be wrong, but it is also not the most effective way for it to be written.

Suzie said...

The problem with the original is that the noun to which 'it' was referring was not the direct object of the sentence, so it's use seemed awkward.

While I don't think the original was terribly wrong, a preferable construction would have been something akin to: "Use a tissue instead of your hand to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, then be sure to drop it in the trash." With the tissue as the direct object, and a comma in the appropriate place, it's more clear what 'it' is.

LadyStyx said...

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one that pictured noses and mouths being tossed into the trash.

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Suzie, I think the CDC should hire you to write for them. Your version is much better than theirs!

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Nope, LadyStyx, you definitely weren't the only one! :)

Brian said...

You know...

This is how the end of the world gets started.

Some 8 year old comes back from an African safari infected with the lethal Rift Valley fever virus.

His/her mother does the responsible thing, goes out and gets the newest high-tech tissues for their child to use.

And because some government employee with a Grade F in English pay grade puts incomprehensible instructions on the box, they're used improperly, an epidemic starts, a nuclear winter sets in and the human race is wiped off the face of the planet.

Stay in school kids, save the world.

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

No, no, no. We'll know the world is ending when Yahoo, AOL, and CNN start shaping up and not making grammatical errors on their websites. That's when you'll know the apocalypse is right around the corner.

Suzie said...

Thanks GRAMMARPHILE. As a physician and grammar geek currently not working due to family obligations, that would be a perfect part-time, home-based gig for me. The extra bucks could come in handy. Care to hook me up? ;)

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

If I ever run into anyone from the CDC who needs a copy editor, Iwill let them know that I know of the perfect person! ;)

Suzie said...

Thanks! It needn't be with the CDC, nor need it be medical subject matter. I used to copy edit for extra cash while in grad school, but as I no longer have that huge pool of faculty to pull work from, referrals are always welcome.

Oh, and since I just e-mailed you one of my favorite flubs, now you have my address in case something comes up!