Christine Rowlands Writing and Editing - language

By: Christine Rowlands  09-12-2011
Keywords: Writer

News of an unveiling of a statue dedicated to Emily Carr, a famous BC artist known for her paintings of West Coast forests and coastal villages, got sidetracked by the glaring typo in the statue’s inscription:

Dedicated to honour BC’s best know citizen,

Pre-eminent painter and awarded writer, Emily Carr.

Hoo boy. The typo was spotted immediately at the unveiling – and contrary to the calls for “spell check!” by the husband of the artist who created the statue, “best know” would not be picked up a spell checker, because that tool doesn’t check the context of a word or its usage.

This could be just a comment about what a real human, trained proofreader can do – avoid costly mistakes like having to get a bronzed plaque redone – but it’s more than that. I mean, look at the clunky copy: “pre-eminent” – try famous or well-known; “painter” – artist would be more appropriate; and “awarded writer” – was she awarded to someone? No, she’s an accomplished writer, an award-winning writer – or better yet, an author.

As a copy writer, I can tell you that the fewer words you have to work with, the more work you have to do to make them count.

Let’s see if I can do this in 15 words or less (the above copy is 14 words):

Dedicated in honour of Emily Carr (1871-1945),

famed artist, author, and citizen of British Columbia.

OK, 16 words. But my line lengths are about the same. How’d I do?

Keywords: Writer

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