Nothing to do with health or nutrition …  just some stuff that caught my attention while I was surfing and cooling off between rounds of disc golf.

The last time I checked out Fat Head on YouTube was a year or so ago, when someone alerted me to the version uploaded by Gravitas, thinking perhaps it was yet another pirated upload.  (It isn’t.  Gravitas is our digital distributor, and they pay us for their YouTube version.)  At that time, there were just over 100,000 views.  Here’s what I saw today:

Suh-weet!  More than 300,000 views and counting.

When I put on my grammar-grump hat, you can bet on me making a serious typo in the same post, so go ahead and start pointing those out now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait …

… Okay, that’s long enough.

Anyway, I understand when, say, someone who runs a grocery store makes a grammar goof while painting a sign.  I don’t like it when I walk into a Kroger and see that tomato’s are on sale, but I don’t grind my teeth about it.  But it annoys the @#$% out of me when people who are (supposedly) professional communicators haven’t mastered elementary-school grammar rules.  Take a look at this ad, which was produced by Canon International, the camera company:

Now take a look at this paragraph from an article on CNBC:

That sound you hear is me grinding my teeth.  It’s means it isIts is possessive, as in hers, his, its.  The ad should read Photography At Its Finest, and the CNBC article should read … before it’s too late.

These are mistakes in basic grammar committed by people who get paid to write for a living.  And by the way, nothing makes it into print without at least one or two editors giving it a look.  When I worked at a small magazine, two editors approved and initialed every article before it went to the printer.  For an ad, the client and the creative director also have to approve.  So multiple pairs of eyes failed to spot those mistakes.  I guess that’s what happens when people from the MTV generation grow up and take jobs in the communications field.

83 Responses to “YouTube, It’s and Its”
  1. Lynda says:

    Ah… grammer. I’ve realised that I just need to get over it. People can’t spell now or use correct grammer. My pet peeve is “your” instead of “you’re”. This is simply used everywhere these days but I’ve decided life is too short to let it worry me. It’s just one of those things 🙂

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I saw a printed ad once for sunglasses. The tagline: “When Your Ready For The Look!” I nearly banged my head through the wall where the ad was hanging.

    • Sue says:

      “Grammer?” Really? In a complaint about how people can’t spell? Too funny!

      • Lynda says:

        Oh dear, now that was a mistake on my part!! Grammar is indeed the correct word 🙂

        • Tom Naughton says:

          When I worked at the student newspaper in college, we ran a story about how the English department had set up a grammar hotline for students working on papers. (This was pre-internet, of course.) The headline (which I didn’t write) announced the GRAMMER HOTLINE.

          Later, I saw that headline posted on the office door of an English professor. She’d written “Nice to be needed!” next to it.

  2. Michael says:

    I’m 52 (ugh) and when I was a teen I saw these kinds of mistakes. Relax, Tom. I’ll be okay. By “okay” I mean that most people are morons about most things, always were and always will be. Look, half the luminaries in the Paleo movement, definitely smart people, don’t even believe in global warming. The Earth will heat up and the economic and human cost will be multiples what it would have been had we dealt with it promptly like non-morons. That’s what I mean by “it’ll be okay.” 🙂

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Heh-heh-heh … you do realize I don’t believe humans are warming the planet, don’t you?

      • Jean says:

        I was left rather speechless at work recently when my co-workers brought it up as a matter of fact, catching me totally by surprise. I got very silent, and finally managed to croak out something like, “If it actually happens.” Unfortunately, that was the best I could do at the time.

      • j says:

        its all the know, from cows…i mean it’s ..

  3. Tanny O'Haley says:

    There was a manager several lyres above me who would get angry when people would mix affect and effect.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      That one annoys me too, and I see it all the time. (For those following at home, “affect” is a verb. “Effect” is usually a noun.)

    • Ha! That’s the one that gets me the most. Sometimes I feel like the two words had the definition of their uses switched, but I didn’t get the memo.


  4. Bob Geary says:

    I believe (or at least want to believe) that copy is still edited before it goes into physical print – you’d be hard-pressed to find even a small-town weekly newspaper confusing “its” with “it’s,” or “their” with “there.”

    But I think people (still) treat the Web as if it were email or a phone call – just dashed-off informal conversation. (Which it’s not, of course. That small-town weekly newspaper will be in a landfill by Saturday, but the Web is Forever…)

    What especially irks me about the basic common errors like this is that EVERY DECENT SPELLING/GRAMMAR CHECKER CATCHES THEM. Back in the 1980s, when I first started using a word processor, spell-checking was primitive – “its” and “it’s” were both English words, so they wouldn’t be flagged, unless you misspelled it “itr” or something. But all modern spell-checkers are context- and grammar-aware. Which means that not only are no human editors reviewing this stuff, but the people writing it aren’t using technology that’s been available for over a decade that would fix it.

    Human editors are still necessary, of course – it’s going to be a long time before a computer algorithm can tell you that the third sentence in that paragraph is awkwardly phrased and undermines your overall point, and needs to be reworked. But if you don’t have a human editor (or even if you do, out of kindness to him or her), TURN YOUR SPELL-CHECKER ON DAMN IT.

    Rant agreed with!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Agreed, accepted, and initialed.

    • Phyllis Mueller says:

      In order to fix most, if not all, problems flagged by software, the user needs to know how something is wrong, e.g., if the “he” and “I” are flagged in “between he and I” but the writer doesn’t know it should be “between him and me,” software won’t help.

      Copyediting staffs at big-city newspapers, many magazines, and many publishers have been decimated (if not eliminated) in recent years to cut costs. Publishing houses don’t hire proofreaders–that’s a job left up to authors. I was a freelance editor, copyeditor, and proofreader for more than 20 years. There’s not much work anymore, and the prices people are willing to pay today are what I charged when I was starting out in 1990.

    • Mark. says:

      Of course, the automated tools are not foolproof. I’m seeing the word “defiantly” a lot in on-line prose instead of “definitely.” This happens because many people use the spelling “definatly” and the correction software assumes that the A and N have been transposed and fixes that error instead of the real one.

      I suspect that most schoolteachers nowadays either don’t correct “definatly” or actually use that spelling themselves. I hope I’m wrong.

  5. Mrs.K says:

    I’m with you Tom. I work in the medical field and I am stunned by how sloppy grammar and spelling are gaining a foothold in this area. Medical records are considered legal documents, whether electronic or paper, and when their meaning becomes eroded or compromised by poor spelling or grammar it is serious – at least that is what we were taught when I went to school!
    Also, close to my neighbourhood, one can go to farms that sell “fresh strawberry” or “blueberry”. How about if I want to buy more than one? Do I drive in and ask the farmer if they have sold their [?only] “fresh strawberry”? ha ha

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I sometimes see basic grammar mistakes in emails from attorneys as well, which really ought to scare someone. As my attorney friend with excellent grammar skills will tell you, a misplaced comma can change the meaning of a sentence.

      • Suz says:

        I had a lawyer years ago in a personal injury case (multiple vehicle crash) that was sending letters out on my behalf and this sentence was in ALL of them(paraphrasing here) “Our law firm has been consultated by our client Suz, as a result of his injury.”
        “Consultated isn’t even a word and the messed up pronouns indicated to me that he was using a lousy form letter.
        I showed the lawyer the messed up correspondence and he knocked $6,000 off of his contingency fee.

      • Josh says:

        Yep. I call bad punctuation the lawyer’s full employment bill. For example:

        A woman without her man is nothing.


        A woman, without her, man is nothing.

        Two commas make a big difference. Yes?

  6. Similarly, in my first professional writing job, the corporate style guide forbid the use of “e.g.” and “i.e.”, instead preferring the equivalent “for example” and “that is”. Harder to mix up that way.

  7. Tom Welsh says:

    Many influences have converged to give this result. Not only have many people (for the last two or three generations) left school without learning to spell, punctuate, and use proper grammar – but many professors of English and linguistics maintain that whatever usage is popular is by definition correct. And lots of editors and subs have been made redundant -after all, why stickle for a higher level of quality than the great mass of readers is equipped to detect? Last but not least, nowadays the ability to write correctly is looked upon by many as a form of snobbery, and thus to be deprecated.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Then I hope my girls grow up to be snobs.

    • Dave says:

      Reminds me of the movie Idiocracy.

      As the narrator said, “Unaware of what year it was, Joe wandered the streets desperate for help. But the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valleygirl, inner-city slang and various grunts. Joe was able to understand them, but when he spoke in an ordinary voice he sounded pompous and faggy to them.”

  8. Dianne says:

    Years ago, when there was such a thing, I owned a typesetting and graphics shop. One person proofed the first draft, then we had two people proof the second (or third). Even so, typos were missed. That made me realize that every industry makes mistakes, even in the medical field (operating on the wrong knee, anyone?). At least when we made mistakes, people weren’t damaged.
    And yes, improper grammar, typographical mistakes, unclear wording in instructions drive me crazy. I end up proofing menus when I eat out. Luckily, I rarely eat out.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Typos on menus don’t bother me all that much. Actually, typos don’t bother me at all. We all fat-finger the keyboard now and then. But I don’t believe “its” and “it’s” are typos. I believe those result from not understanding the difference between the two.

  9. Lynne says:

    Communications…you keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.

  10. Kathy in Texas says:

    Thanks for this. I don’t feel so much like the grammar/pronunciation police now.

    My husband (almost 70) grew up dyslexic before it even had a name. How he ever graduated from high school I’ll never know. He can’t spell (which I can handle), but the way he pronounces some words (actually a lot of words) changes their meaning. I know what he’s saying, but before I can stop myself, I blurt out the correct pronunciation. Then I feel terrible. He’s a good man with a good mind who managed to be a success in spite of his ‘disability’. Shame on me.

  11. Elenor says:

    The thing that drives me a bit nuts (or is that nut’s?) is that the ‘editorial eye’ never sleeps! Pleasure reading gets kinda sloggy (not a word! {wink}) when I keep tripping over such carelessness!

    We editors (I’m a technical editor by profession) just roll our pained eyes and repeat (hopelessly) to each other that: “it’s an error” (now, “it’s one of a million errors”!) “that only a editor would notice!”

    Hang in there, Tom — it’s only gonna get worse!

  12. Judy B says:

    I also start the head banging when I see “should of.”

  13. Elenor says:

    Having now read the comments…please let me add: when I worked as an editor at a nuclear facility (!), I kept a file of court adjudications where someone was hurt/something bad happened and the courts found that the poorly written manuals / directions / warnings were partially (or fully) at fault.

    We had in our style guide, for instance (snicker) or rather, e.g., that all uses of the word “comprise” had to be replaced. Even if the writer had used it correctly, the reader quite possibly wouldn’t read it correctly — and at a nuclear plant, that could lead to a big problem! (BOOM!) (Try remembering, those of you not editors or well-educated: comprise = encompass. You would not write “the animals encompass the zoo,” nor “the zoo is encompassed of the animals”; so do not write “the animals comprise the zoo” or “the zoo is comprised of the animals.” The zoo *comprises* the animals; i.e., {wink} “is made up of” the animals.)

    Another goodie: “the procedure was used since the tanks were sealed.” Is that “since” intended to mean “since 1965 WHEN the (highly radioactive but leaking) tanks were sealed”; or “BECAUSE the tanks were sealed”? Could make a difference.

    Thanks for lettin’ me whine!

  14. Rae Ford says:

    I completely understand. It takes all the self control I have not to correct people when they interchange then, than, there, their, and they’re. It’s not about being superior or anything like that. I just don’t want to be the American stereotype. Otherwise I wouldn’t mentally kick myself after every time I reply to, “How are you?” with, “Good.” One day I WILL remember to say, “Doing well.”

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Stop kicking yourself. It’s fine to say, “I’m good.” I’m doing well, but I feel good — just as I feel happy or feel sad.

  15. Susan says:

    Sometimes, it’s all I can do not to respond with corrections as I read things online. But I realize I’ll just be flamed at as a grammar Nazi, so I bite my tongue (fingers?) and resist the urge.
    My least favorite misspelling lately is boarders rather than borders.
    The other thing I see all the time that makes me grit my teeth is the crazy spacing with commas and periods — either no space after a comma or period or a space before or a space before AND after. And what’s with people who think if one comma is good, three or more must be better.
    Uh-oh! You got me started now.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I apologize.

      • Susan says:

        Lack of subject/verb agreement is another one that sets my teeth on edge. I just don’t get why people have such trouble with that.
        I edit medical articles for both native English speakers and foreign researchers. Funny thing is, the native English speakers have as much or more trouble writing proper English as the non-native speakers. I often wonder how people who did well enough in high school and college to get into medical school in the first place can be such poor writers.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          I suspect people who learn English as a second language have to pay more attention to the rules than those who speak English because they grew up speaking English.

  16. Jean says:

    How many people do you know who want to ‘loose’ some weight?!

  17. Honeypig says:

    How about the rampant confusion about “loose” and “lose”? I should be used to it by now, but it still makes me cringe. And then there’s the local race that printed up shirts for its Memorial Day run that said “Veterans, we solute you.” As someone else mentioned, the spellchecker will tell you if what you’ve typed is not a word at all, but it will NOT tell you if it’s the WRONG word!

  18. Angela says:

    Using a spell checker is never enough. Proofreading is also necessary! I have an ESL degree and it’s embarrassing that so many people cannot spell or use proper grammar and punctuation. “A lot” is 2 words, not one!

  19. B35 says:

    Great post. Grammar mistakes drive me crazy as well, and I usually am the one that makes them. Is anyone considering having grammar lessons?

    Also, since I am new here, who is the The Annointed?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      A term coined by economics professor and author Thomas Sowell in the book “The Vision of the Anointed.” I mentioned him and The Anointed in this speech:

    • B35 says:

      To be honest I thought it was President Obama, or his wife.

      • Susan says:

        Based on their propensity to issue decrees, I’d say they’d qualify as some of the Anointed. At least in their own minds, and I think that’s what counts.

  20. Sarah Vogt says:

    I know I contributed to at least a few of those 300,000+ YouTube views!

    I have to thank you… your documentary was the first thing that got me thinking seriously about changing my life for the better by cutting out the carbs and adding in the fat. I am so much happier now that I figured it out! I know that I’m being sappy, but it’s 100% true. I have so much more energy to run around after my busy toddler now.

    You are hilarious! Please don’t even stop doing what you do. You are truly gifted and the world needs more people like you!

  21. Cindy says:

    My pet peeve is insure vs. ensure. It especially annoys me when the government says it wants make sure we all have access to health insurance when what they really seem to think they can do is provide all of us with health “ensurance” They’ve done such a good job so far with that one :-).

  22. Ed says:

    One of my biggest gripes is that no one seems to know the difference between loose and lose.

  23. Josh says:

    Their, they’re Tom. Don’t get yourself upset. Nobody isn’t going to get upset over a few grammar mistakes. Their is a reason for people not speaking English good.
    English is hard. Where else do you drive on a parkway, and park on a driveway?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      And it what other language would through, though, bough and tough not rhyme?

      • PJ (RightNOW) says:

        “would through, though, bough and tough not rhyme?”

        And my friend Glenda points out, you left out hiccough! Pronounced “hiccup.”

  24. Jean says:

    I know an English teacher who has a t shirt that says ‘I’m silently correcting your grammar’.

  25. gallier2 says:

    The worst offender in the category of grammatical errors is ‘would of’ instead of ‘would have’. It doesn’t make the any sense at all and I’m not even a native english speaker.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Sometimes people who aren’t native English speakers have the best grammar, because they actually learned the rules while learning the language.

    • derek says:

      Isn’t that just a case of a dropped H, and being spoken quickly?

      i.e. “would’av” said quickly enough sounds like ‘would of’.

      However in written form…

  26. SB says:

    I feel like I’m in an 80’s metal band. So much head banging…

  27. Don in Arkansas says:

    I am a grammar nazi as well. I get annoyed with my children and grandchildren when reading all of the mispelled words and grammar mistakes in their Facebook posts. I have corrected them in the comments so many times that it has actually made a difference. A recent post by my Granddaughter had a note that said “It’s spelled correctly Grandpa, I looked it up!” 🙂

  28. Bret says:

    “I guess that’s what happens when people from the MTV generation grow up and take jobs in the communications field.”

    I’m more inclined to give the credit for this substandard quality to the managers of these government-subsidized media companies. Interestingly, these government-subsidized companies hardly ever seem inclined to criticize the government. Except when the subject is the military. Or Republicans.

  29. derek says:

    Well if one wants language quibbles, a couple which bug me are:

    1) “Off of” when “from” or “upon” would fit
    2) Using “Leverage” when “use” is meant.

  30. Ed says:

    One additional thought. I think that at least part of the problem is people using dictation software. It is definitely getting better, but still requires considerable proof reading and correction.

  31. NM says:

    Some people find it a little confusing. I explain to them that it’s actually very easy: the apostrophe always does just one thing: it shows that you’ve left out some letters or are shortening a word. Always. Even in possession!

    We all know that apostrophes are used to show abbreviations. Like ’90s short for 1990s and so on. And “isn’t” being a contraction of “is not”. But we also see apostrophes as indicating possession. And we feel that it has a different function in that respect.

    In fact, as with Latin (and German, and many other languages), the possessive used to have different endings for every noun. It was called the “genitive case”. So, you would say “the ball of the dog”, but then, something like “the dogges ball”. There would also be different endings to show that a noun was a subject or an object, and so on. Eventually, scribes got tired of writing all the different endings, and would just show the key final letter. So “dogges” became “dog’s”. And other endings (like the ones to show subjects and objects) got dropped completely. Except in a few cases – for example, who hits whom, and he hits him (or hem, as it sometimes was). Those pronouns are the last vestiges of “morphological case” in English.

    So people see something like ‘the ball of the dog = the dog’s ball’ and think “ok, so the apostrophe shows possession, so to be consistent, I should say ‘the ball of it = it’s ball’ “. The reason they think this is that they don’t realise that apostrophes only really show contraction or abbreviation. In the first instance, doggess (or similar) was being contracted to “dog’s”, but we forgot that in the mists of time. And in the second case, NOTHING needs to be contracted, any more than we’d feel the need to say “The ball of him = hi’s ball”! If you say “it’s ball”, then you should also say “hi’s ball”. But you don’t, because you know that “his” is a word unto itself, just as “its” is. Unfortunately, “it is” contracts to “it’s”, and we’re so used to seeing ancient contractions as indicators of the genitive that we get it wrong.

  32. Firebird says:

    I still like the TV commercial where the groundskeeper misspells the Kansas City Chiefs and writes “Chefs” in the end zone.

    Gogally Mogally.

  33. Firebird says:

    Also, have you noticed on the news that the anchors are leaving words out of sentences, especially verbs?

    “Channel 6 at the scene” instead of “Channel 6 was at the scene”?

    They’re taking short cuts with grammar in order to make room for more content.

  34. Paul Cunningham says:

    Erm, maybe it’s an American-UK issue, apostrophe ‘s’ is used as possessive over here, as well as to indicate a missing letter. Using ‘s’ alone indicates plural…

    There are lots of Daves
    This is Dave’s car
    Dave’s going to work.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yes, same on this side of the pond. But “it’s” is not the possessive form of “it”; it’s the contraction of “it is.”

      “It” is a pronoun, and pronouns don’t use the apostrophe-s possessive form. His, hers, its, mine, yours, ours, theirs — those are all possessive without an apostrophe in sight.

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