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Copy editor, where art thou?

Two common headline errors  drive me crazy. The first involves misplacing the word “only.” The second announces something being done where it wasn’t — and couldn’t  — have been done.

For example, The Huffington Post in its Jan. 10 online issue proclaimed, “Mariah Carey only eats two foods.” An oddity to my way of thinking, considering she can well afford to eat any food she chooses regardless of how expensive or exotic. Yet knowing that entertainers may follow unusual rituals to maintain their looks and figures, I accepted the statement at face value despite a menu which, if strictly adhered to, would rob her of ever enjoying such goodies as fruits, vegetables,  ice cream and licorice allsorts.

Who would not be intrigued to know which two foods comprise this performer’s daily menu? If they do such wonders for her svelte frame, would they have possibilities for me?

Her two foods turn out to be Norwegian salmon and capers.

Why only salmon, and particularly Norwegian salmon? Google claims all salmon fished from Atlantic waters, whether wild or farmed in net pens as in Norway, are Atlantic salmon.

Capers I guessed to be a smaller fish, similar to Newfoundland capeling, or Skeena river oolichan. I began to think of Carey as another Garfield or Sylvester.

I was way off the mark.

Capers are the pickled flower buds from the Capparis spinosa shrub which grows in the Mediterranean. Picking the buds by hand,  before they flower, makes them fairly pricey. The buds are dried in the sun, packed in wine vinegar, brine or olive oil and used to add a distinctive sour/salty flavor to many savory dishes. In Carey’s kitchen capers might enhance the flavor of the Norwegian salmon.

Carey’s repetitious dining on two foods wouldn’t entice me back for a second invitation. Still, I was less put off by that than by the headline with its misplaced “only.”

As the headline reads, it means Carey only eats two foods. She doesn’t shop for them, prepare, cook or serve them. She doesn’t store any leftovers in the fridge. Outside of forking them into her mouth, she’s strictly hands off.

“Only” is one of the commonest misplaced words I run into while reading articles or posted comments. Watch for it in TV ads, too. You’ll hear lines like, “Dave only buys Ford vehicles.” Which means Dave wouldn’t rent a Ford while vacationing overseas, borrow a Ford from his brother-in-law until his own truck was repaired, or drive a Ford under any circumstances. He’d rather walk, take a bus or bike, although he’d happily drive a Chev, rent a Buick or borrow a Nissan. Anything so long as it isn’t a Ford. If Dave is a mechanic, he might be too choosy to even repair a Ford.

Come to think of it, how does Dave dispose of all those Fords he buys? Dole them out as birthday gifts to family?

The second type of headline that riles me is frequently found in reports of court cases. The headline might read, “A 56-year-old man was sentenced to two years in jail for molesting a toddler in a B.C. court this morning.”

I’d bet the assault never took place in court — this morning or within the past year , thanks to our constipated court dockets — or within any court room. However, noting the offense before the sentencing appearance says that in court is where  the offense took place.

I never hunt for headline bloopers. They jump out at me.

— Claudette Sandecki

Claudette Sandecki, 81, began as a writer by penning letters to the editor of various newspapers. In 1988, she was invited to write a weekly column, “Through Bifocals,” for The Terrace Standard in Terrace, British Columbia. She aspires “to write funny like David Sedaris or Dave Barry.

Reflections of Erma