Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Writer Ready to Spell out Error of Ways

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Writer Ready to Spell out Error of Ways

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union columnist

Ernest Reid, a retired air traffic controller, cares about English the same way some people care about football.

He breaks down sentences. He analyzes words. He sits in his Orange Park living room and cringes when a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire passes on a multiple-choice question that asks how a gerund ends.

"I-n-g," Reid said. "This guy was a lawyer. They gave him i-n-g, i-s-m, i-t-e and another one. And he just had to quit. He lost a lot of money."

Reid, 71, has spent some of his own money trying to preserve English, mailing dozens of "Goof Cards" to people who misuse the language in print or on the air.

I know, because I recently received one.

On the front of the postcard, it said: "Here's a constructive suggestion from a member of The Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL)."

On the back, it said:

"In your column on July 30, 2002, you wrote, '. . . the America that Bob Hope died in is very different than . . .'

"You should have written: . . . very different from . . ."

I handled this criticism in a very mature manner. I went to the Internet and, after finding that there is indeed a group called SPELL, spent about 58 1/2 hours trying to find a goof on the Web site. One goof, any goof. Alas, there were none. Uh, was none.

I eventually did what I should have done in the first place. I grabbed my copy of The Elements of Style, flipped through the section about misused words and came to Page 44.

"Different than . . . one thing differs from another, hence, different from."

I then reached for the phone book, found Mr. Reid's number and called to thank him.

I'll admit that my first reaction to the Goof Card was something along the lines of "don't you have anything better to do? …

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