Year-end goofs and gaffes

From time to time, I share embarrassing mistakes writers shouldn’t have made. I don’t target well-meaning amateurs — only professional writers and editors who should know better. Some recent examples:

A September political newsletter from the Indianapolis Business Journal referenced a candidate forum by noting, “It wasn’t a true debate persay; all of the questions came from the audience and the candidates didn’t have rebuttal time.” If you’re going to use Latin expressions, you should know how to spell them correctly — particularly when the expression is as widely used as “per se,” which means “in itself.”

The Kokomo Tribune’s editorial writer chose the wrong word in a column and effectively changed the meaning of the opening sentence. “Eight years ago, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation that allows judges to fine public officials who deliberately flaunt public-access laws.” The word “flaunt” means to show off or present something in a particularly blatant display. The word the writer meant to use was “flout,” which means to openly disregard a rule or a standard. If those public officials are flaunting the law, they’re making sure everyone knows they’re using it correctly.

Finally, a likely spellchecker gaffe tripped up an Associated Press reporter quoting a public official about a mid-December tornado outbreak: “It was total chaos,“ Norwood told reporters. “We had to make due the best we could.” I’m not sure how you “make due,” but when you accomplish the best you can with what you have, you’re “making do.”

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