Professional “Whoops!”

I’m here to say that even “professionals”, those who are paid to write, occasionally screw up the piece that they’re working on. There are many types of screw-ups that range from word usage through to grammar and spelling. The least common that I have found, though, especially while reading about featured news events: The misplaced phrase.

Teachers even warned about this sort of thing in school. It’s the whole reason for that month-long lecture about nouns, adjectives, proper nouns, and verbal phrases. Of course, some of us never got that lecture; others lectured ourselves.

Straight from the Yahoo! News website, posted on Monday, June 25, 2012, around one in the morning:

DENVER (Reuters) – A fast-growing wildfire in Colorado forced 11,000 people from their homes at least briefly on Sunday and threatened popular summer camping grounds beneath Pikes Peak, whose vistas helped inspire the patriotic tune “America the Beautiful.”

Just from reading it once… Are you able to spot the flaw? Can you identify where the writer should’ve chosen to place the phrasal accident? Is it an honest mistake, or was the writer too caught up in the event? Too personal, perhaps? — Maybe a comma is needed in order to break up the mixture of thoughts to help make more sense of what’s being shared.

No matter the reasoning behind the Whoops!, writers everywhere should stay aware of this mistake and should continuously search their own work for such errors.

If you haven’t spotted it, yet, consider these two phrases:

  • A fast-growing wildfire in Colorado forced 11,000 people from their homes at least briefly on Sunday and threatened …
  • A swift wildfire in Colorado forced at least 11,000 people from their homes on Sunday and threatened …

No, I wasn’t about to type out that whole breath-taking paragraph. I understand the effect of capturing the news in an instant, but there should be some type of grammatical pauses thrown in there, at the very least.

From the two phrases above, you should have a better understanding of the phrasal accident that lies within. All writers, novice to professional, personal to widely known, should be aware of this issue and avoid it.

Not only does this article carry this flaw, but it also introduces another that novice writers in particular should refrain from using. Notice that the first four paragraphs are a single sentence each.

Using single sentences usually enhances an event, so writers try to incorporate as much information as possible into a single sententce and try their hardest to make it work, though it might fall quite a bit short of what they’re actually trying to do.

If you read the above paragraph aloud, you’ll notice that the commas are spaced just so. The sentence continues on. The thoughts become mixed and each begs for attention. The same can be said for many other long paragraphs of single sentences.

The whole purpose of writing is provide information, of one subject or another, in a suitable fashion that readers will be able to understand what they’ve read. Break it down into smaller sentences if need be. Don’t attempt to drag your reader through the mud and wear them out before they begin. Readers don’t appreciate that, though they enjoy the information.

Also, since I’m on the subject: Don’t you hate it when a writer uses some philosophical word that just seems completely out of place? It likely pulls your eyes back to it every few seconds to question whether it should be there, or if another word would better explain. — Yeah, readers don’t like that either.

Novelists are prone to do such things. Article writers are usually less likely to toss in a word that you need a dictionary or thesaurus to figure out, unless the article is about an uncommon topic. Then, it’s understandable.

There are many other issues that are just as serious as the flaws pointed out in this little piece of work. No matter the severity: Keep your eyes open; you’ll begin to see the flaws that are unconsciously made. Take note and send the author a message. They may get prissy about it, but in the end, you’ll have helped to make them a better writer. In turn, that will help them better convey the message that they would like to share with others.


To read the news article in its entirety, please direct your web browser to: http://news.yahoo.com/colorado-fire-near-pikes-peak-forces-11-000-014551591.html or search the Yahoo! website for Colorado fire; surely it will be in the results.


This blog article was written to point out to other writers that even professional writers occasionally choose the wrong word or phrase to best get the point across. It happens to the best writers, no matter the skill level.

No offense is intended by this blog article, as it is simply a single personal opinion that has been voiced.

Perhaps I’m the one who’s made a mistake here by having read it wrong. Be sure to leave a comment below if the original makes sense to you. Share your opinion; let your voice be heard.

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2 thoughts on “Professional “Whoops!”

  1. My major problem with that excerpt is that the article is about 11,000 people being forced from their homes – a truly tragic event. But instead of delving more into that, the author – IN THE NEXT SENTENCE – starts talking about the beautiful vistas of the camp ground. The reader doesn’t care about how pretty the camp ground is. They want to know what happened to the people fleeing their homes!

    • Very true. That struck me as awkward as well, but every dark cloud has a silver lining; I’ve been told. Perhaps he’s attempting to lure in guests once the blaze is under control..? Some tourists love the smell of barbeque while camping out.

      Maybe in an update, the author will concentrate more on the people and less on the scenic views that are threatened by the blazes.

      Even waking refreshed, the author lost me a couple paragraphs deeper, when he began talking about multiple wildfires that have wreaked havoc in Colorado and Utah. Very sad story(ies).

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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