Below, another batch of interesting mistakes, all found recently in major newspapers:

  • A Pentagon spokesman on unneeded planes: “We’ve always frowned upon earmarks and additives that are above and beyond what we ask for.”

An additive is a substance, usually a chemical, that’s combined with another substance. The right word here is addition.

  • “Are we telling young adults it is alright to waste half their lives in a drug stupor and somehow it will magically work out?”

Notwithstanding the widespread use of alright in popular culture (The Kids Are Alright), the correct expression is all right. It’s two words, not one. Notes Garner’s Modern American Usage, an excellent style guide: “Alright for all right has never been accepted as standard in American English.”

  • “Demi Lovato… and Selena Gomez… are paired together for this comedy.”

This is a classic redundancy. The word paired tells us that the actresses are co-stars, so together should be omitted.

  • “Mr. Bowman, 47, appears to have crossed some unspoken line with his $400,000 in student debt and penalties, accumulated over many years.”

The problem here is a misused metaphor. The line the writer figuratively cites isn’t “spoken,” but rather is like a line on a map or one drawn in the sand.

  • “Sadly, there is a ton of good country music, but it is not being played on radio stations.”

This writer is guilty of a misplaced modifier that contradicts his meaning. The mistake is easily repaired by moving the adjective: “There is a ton of good country music but, sadly, it is not being played on radio stations.”

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.

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