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Thread: Rigors of private planning practice #12: Spelling mistakes and other embarrassments

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    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Rigors of private planning practice #12: Spelling mistakes and other embarrassments

    How many of your colleaugues, either in your firm or from the competition, regularly spell planning-related terms incorrectly? The main one I've come across is "charette" for "charrette." I had a former colleague tell me about a housing advocate that wrote "infield development" in a grant application, instead of "infill development." I post this thread because of inspiration from a Planetizen article that has two words spelled incorrectly in its title: Mississippi's Governer Learns A New Word: 'Charette'. Not a big deal, and I don't like being a Grammer Natzi, but wow, wouldn't you assume that a planner should know how to spell governor and charrette? I'm not trying to pick on Chris Steins here, I am sure he is really busy, but it was funny to come across this article. It happens, I know.

    I guess more to the point, in discussing our profession, have you ever looked at an old document that you wrote and noticed for the first time important words that were spelled wrong? I haven't had this experience yet (knock on wood), but I did have an embarrassing moment with a client at a meeting when we reviewed a draft chapter for their master plan (not final version, thank goodness!), and the planning commission chair of Ruraltown Township asked me, "What's this bit about Cafohogs Township? That's not our Township." Hoo-boy, I flubbed on the spell checker that morning! Not good! I got out of it (I think) by admiting the mistake, apologizing, and emphasizing all the goals and action items were written specificly for Ruraltown Township.

    Do you have any good stories to share? (Perhaps this thread will die a quick death because consultants never want to admit their misteaks. )

  2. #2
    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    Not a big deal, and I don't like being a Grammer Natzi, but wow, wouldn't you assume that a planner should know how to spell governor and charrette?
    It's spelled "Nazi"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I think charette or charrette or whatever it may actually be is a pompous and unnecessary word to begin with and should be avoided whenever possible. It's right up there with "indubitably." It's just a silly word... it's sound does not reflect its function, if that makes sense. In my mind the sound of the word is something akin to a jamboree or hoedown or other weird event. It's just strange. There is a disconnect, though this is merely my perception of it. I inherently dislike words that I feel are inappropriate to their meanings.

    Spelling is a fairly straightforward idea. Either you do it correctly or you do not.

    PostScript: To my knowledge, neither charette nor charrette are included in the Oxford English Dictionary, implying that an argument could be made for either being correct. Personally I've seen charette (one-R) more often than charrette (two-R).

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    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by javabean
    It's spelled "Nazi"
    I love the irony! Did you also catch "grammer" and "misteak"? All three words were misspelled incorrectly intentionally.


    Off-topic:
    Mods: Is this discussion worthy of it's own thread?

    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    implying that an argument could be made for either being correct. Personally I've seen charette (one-R) more often than charrette (two-R).
    Perhaps so. But I wonder if charrettes are more mainstream that we planners give them credit for? Consider this, when I google "charette" most of the hits have links with "charrette." When I google "charrette" none of the hits give me "charette." In the Architectural Record, the editors have decided that it's "charrette," and at the University of Michigan it's spelled the same way, too. I am of the mind that the word is spelled "charrette." Ultimately, I don't care, since most of us probably know what one is and the spelling won't change a thing, but at the end of the day, I do hope planners care how "charrette" is spelled. I will agree that "charrette" is a misused term. However, having participated in a charrette myself, I am convinced this is a unique process and is distinct from many of the other techniques for public input and participation.

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    Cyburbian jmf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    Do you have any good stories to share? (Perhaps this thread will die a quick death because consultants never want to admit their misteaks. )
    I have to be very careful when advertising a pubic meeting.

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    Cyburbian geobandito's avatar
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    I somehow always end up being the writer and the editor anywhere I work. Spelling is always an issue, but I have three other problems with trying to reconcile different people's styles.

    1. To hyphenate or not to hyphenate - multi-modal, sub-consultant, land-use planning, .... (I personally wouldn't hyphenate any of these)

    2. Overcapitalization - This is especially a pet peeve in my current job with a consultant, writing lots of proposals. We are American/Canadian, people, not German. Not every noun needs to be capitalized. I suppose it's to emphasize how great our Project Team, led by our Project Manager, is at preparing the Detailed Design in Pavement Engineering, but really, it's not necessary.

    3. The serial comma - The fact that I have a strong, emotional opinion about the serial comma probably tells you why I end up becoming the editor.... The last two places I have worked have gone AP style and don't use it. I really don't get it. It's one little comma - what are we saving by not using it? It makes sentences so much easier to read. Especially big, long-ass planning sentences.

  7. #7
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Well, I am not in the private sector, but these sorts of mistakes are made by everyone. Since us public sector employees write so many staff reports for boards and commissions there is a high level of "boilerplating" occurring.

    I make the mistakes of not fully reviewing the lastest boilerplated report and I have wrong names or addresses in them. Though, I usually don't have a problem with misspelling.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    The French word is spelled "charrette." Unfortunately, I can't figure out how that term came to be applied to a public meeting, except through the mind of a pretentious architect.

    The story I hear from DMZ is that it's a term for architecture students who work right up to the bell (and climb aboard the cart on which their project is loaded so they can keep working) and according to one dictionary I have "faire une charrette" is an idiomatic phrase for "burning the midnight oil," as it were (Je dois faire une charrette ce soir or something), although I couldn't find the phrase (with any conjugation of faire) used in that capacity on google.fr so I assume it's pretty rare.

    Interestingly, the top hits for "une charrette" in google.fr come from its use as a planning term (apparently it has been re-adopted back into French):

    Une charrette sur l'avenir des églises de Montréal
    A charrette on the future of the churches of Montreal

    La Société immobilière du Canada a organisé une charrette le week-end dernier en vue d’étudier les concepts de planification et de subdivision du site de Franklin Yard
    The corporation of apartment buildings of Canada held a charrette last weekend in preparation to study the concepts for planning and subdividing the Franklin Yard site.

    And here's a definition of it:
    Une charrette de conception intégrée est un exercice dont se servent des concepteurs – comme des urbanistes, des architectes, des architectes-paysagistes, des ingénieurs et même des étudiants – pour faire naître des idées sur la façon de résoudre des problèmes complexes de conception d'immeubles et d'aménagement de collectivités.
    A charrette of integrated conception is an exercise which serves conceptualizers - like urban planners, architects, landscape architects, engineers and even students - to create ideas on ways to resolve the complex problems of creation of apartment buildings and the planning of communities. (believe it or not, the french is even more pretentious)

    Interestingly these are all Canadian sources, so it apparently hasn't filtered back to France yet.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    How many of your colleaugues, either in your firm or from the competition, regularly spell planning-related terms incorrectly? The main one I've come across is "charette" for "charrette
    wanigas, I have seen it commonly used both ways.

    thanks JordanB

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Fun topic! I recognize many of the spelling errors and other mistakes already cited. Like geobandito, I'm usually the designated editor wherever I work. Somebody has to do it! In proofreading a proposal the other day, I found at least one instance of "pubic" meetings and several examples of inconsistent capitalization. I can't stand it when I discover that a proposal, letter, or report has been sent out without being proofread first. My boss may be one smart guy, but he is one of the worst offenders.

    My favorite story comes from my former place of employment. We were hired by a community to do some administrative work involving a federal grant program. My boss had to enter reporting information into a software package that had been developed by a government agency. The program was not Windows-based and tended to be "glitchy." My boss was constantly having to find ways to move to the next point in the program without completing the prior section, because obtaining the reporting data was not necessarily a linear process.

    Well, my boss finally made it through this nightmare of a reporting program, generated and printed out the report, and forwarded it to the client for review. We assumed that the report could then be forwarded to the feds. After the printed report had been mailed to the client, however, my boss learned that a phrase he had typed into the program in frustration -- "Not finished yet, ***hole!!!" -- had never been deleted. So it had been included in the printed report. We had a good laugh over that one. The client didn't find it so amusing.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by geobandito
    ... 3. The serial comma - The fact that I have a strong, emotional opinion about the serial comma probably tells you why I end up becoming the editor.... The last two places I have worked have gone AP style and don't use it. I really don't get it. It's one little comma - what are we saving by not using it? It makes sentences so much easier to read. Especially big, long-ass planning sentences.
    I am in complete agreement with you on this one. It is environmentally responsible of your employer to seek to reduce the amount of ink used in printing, as well as the energy inherent in having a comma appear on a computer monitor, but these savings are not justified by the result. Readableness of the document should be the goal.
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    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I once knew a planner who developed a promotional brochure for a town sponsored economic development project. Instead of reading "1000 new jobs" it read "1000 JEW jobs." I believe it was caught before it was too late.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    I once knew a planner who developed a promotional brochure for a town sponsored economic development project. Instead of reading "1000 new jobs" it read "1000 JEW jobs." I believe it was caught before it was too late.
    OMG!!! lol

  14. #14

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    No joke -- I once wrote a report that went before City Council asking for the authority to use TIF funding for pubic infrastructure improvements. My co-workers teased me relentlessly after that.

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    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by geobandito
    I somehow always end up being the writer and the editor anywhere I work. Spelling is always an issue, but I have three other problems with trying to reconcile different people's styles.

    1. To hyphenate or not to hyphenate - multi-modal, sub-consultant, land-use planning, .... (I personally wouldn't hyphenate any of these)

    2. Overcapitalization - This is especially a pet peeve in my current job with a consultant, writing lots of proposals. We are American/Canadian, people, not German. Not every noun needs to be capitalized. I suppose it's to emphasize how great our Project Team, led by our Project Manager, is at preparing the Detailed Design in Pavement Engineering, but really, it's not necessary.

    3. The serial comma - The fact that I have a strong, emotional opinion about the serial comma probably tells you why I end up becoming the editor.... The last two places I have worked have gone AP style and don't use it. I really don't get it. It's one little comma - what are we saving by not using it? It makes sentences so much easier to read. Especially big, long-ass planning sentences.
    I have to admit that I have difficulty with all three of those items! I tend to be quite thorough, and make sure someone proofs my work. My problem is that after spending hours on a staff report and rereading (see, does that need a hyphen?) it, it is all one big blur.

    There is nothing worse than having a consultant with many errors. I am paying you the big bucks to produce a good document and I shouldn't have to spend hours proofing the thing for spelling errors. I don't mind a few here and there, but when there are at least three on every single page, I get very irritated.....names withheld to protect the not so innocent

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    Cyburbian IlliniPlanner's avatar
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    Then there's the usage of "ensure" and "insure".

    When you're wanting to proof your work and you're ONLY looking for spelling errors, they say it's best to read your document backwards.
    One lot of redevelopment prevents a block of sprawl.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by IlliniPlanner
    Then there's the usage of "ensure" and "insure".
    No kidding! I constantly see this. Insure is what you do when you take out a policy. I once had somebody try to tell me than "ensure" was not even a word.
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    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    Here in Michigan, as I'm sure Wanigas and PBD and other consulting planners can tell you, we have too many types of jurisdictions. We have cities, we have villages, we have townships, we have charter townships, and of course, counties. It's easy to get 'em mixed up and if you are not from the neighborhood, it's easy to misidentify them. For instance, Howard City is not a city, it's a village, and if you call it the City of Howard City, you will be called to the carpet. Many incorporated cities and villages are adjacent to townships with the same name; you can be in Ypsilanti city or township and not know the difference, but you better be sure your reports and memos state the proper jurisdiction or you might earn a reproach.

    The other thing consultants have to worry about is using model language from other clients and forgetting to update the names.

    (Oh crap, I just gave away a consultant secret. Strike the above, all work that comes from THIS office is completely original.)
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    Charrette

    In the DoD realm we use / over-use the term Charrette quite a bit. Its a buzz word these days, that people love to say and use when speaking of planning.

    that said, we did an exhaustive search within our office to ensure we were spelling it correctly and determined that it is in fact spelled with two r's. I was in a meeting just this morning with the state DMVA regarding a project called "Master Planning Charrette" for some facilities in Grand Junction.

    I remember the first lady in my old office to use that term, and how I hated her for it.....I really felt like she was being overly pompous...turns out a few years later, she was just really ahead of the buzzword wave.

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    Thanks...

    Thanks for the correction, team. I've corrected the spelling in the headline on Planetizen... Keep the corrections coming, and don't hesitate to email me directly at steins@planetizen.com when you find errors. We do our best to avoid mistakes, but we know that they crop up all too often.

    Chris

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    Member CosmicMojo's avatar
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    tired of it

    arh, my pet peeve! My boss is a school-of-hard-knocks guy and very gregarious--those are his assets. But he has horrible grammar. But he doesn't *think* so. I have not figured out the way to say: "you have horrible grammar and are in no position to review my writing." sigh.

    He's the sort who overuses "and I," not realizing there are times when one *should* us "and me." (Am I the only one seeing this more and more these days? It seems like few people understand the difference anymore.) This one makes me cringe on a daily basis.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    I HATE bad grammar!

    I find that the easiest way to tell whether or not an email is a virus/scam is to look at the spelling and punctuation. These hardcore hackers and programmers cannot spell worth a squat
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  23. #23
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    Personally, I hate the last comma in a serial and I don't use it. Like many others, I use boilerplate documents my boss once created to start new reports and memos. The first thing I do is remove all of her commas, all her superflous "thats" and swich dates to the American way (February 13, 2006) from the snotty European way she uses (13 February 2006).

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by Greenescapist
    The first thing I do is remove all of her commas, all her superflous "thats" and swich dates to the American way (February 13, 2006) from the snotty European way she uses (13 February 2006).
    FYI: that is just not "snotty European". It is also what the American military uses and I often write dates that way.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Their, they're, and there.

    Professional writers (i.e., planners) must get this right. You will lose credibility with just about any audience if you write, ".....and there attributes include......" -or- ".....the opposition stated they're case very well......". These mistakes are distracting, irritating, and can really detract from the substance of the argument. A few notorious offenders frequent this site and I hope they address this shortcoming in their professional work.

    Principle versus principal.

    Principle dwelling just doesn't cut it for me. It's not as bad (or funny) as infield development but c'mon.

    What's up with practical versus practicable. Everything seems to be practicable (and no longer practical) these days. ??

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