If proof were needed that the Silly Season is upon us, it turned up in our mail box a few days ago. Slowly ripping open the envelope housing last week’s Economist, I noticed an ‘x’ peeping out at me from the partially-revealed cover. Excited by the prospect of ‘tax’ finally having hit the headlines of the world’s most venerable newspaper, I rapidly finished the job, the publication falling unceremoniously onto the kitchen table.
Well, it seems that tax doesn’t sell newspapers at airport newsstands in midsummer. The normally sober Economist had gone for the lowest common denominator, running a feature: ‘The Sex Business’. Having seen the article, all I can say is that there will have been a lot of disappointed vacationing punters out there who would not have been able to get their money back because, by the time they realized their mistake, they were half way round the world.
If the Economist can be silly in August, so can I.
Something that has been bothering me for ages is the complete lack of respect for the English language in certain tax publications. My firm subscribes to a number of leading journals. Most are pure hardcore professional jobs that pay no attention to format, but provide their product in a raw and timely manner. However, there is at least one (which I will not mention by name for fear of reprisal), from a highly respected stable, that presents itself as a glossy, ‘hip’ magazine. Sixty pages, lots of colour pictures, a ‘funny’ (spare me, please) back page, plenty of adverts and a $200+ cover price (in fairness, internet access is thrown in). The articles, generally written by tax professionals who I assume are not paid, are often highly informative, justifying the subscription. But, what I cannot abide, is the wanton lack of editing which, frankly, is more-or-less all that is left for the editors and publishers to do.
Here is a recent example:
As those involved in the OECD’s base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project reach for the halftime oranges and energy drinks, our special BEPS feature looks at the progress made to date and explores the hurdles that litter the track ahead as the bell rings to signify the last lap in this race against an ambitious timeframe to produce meaningful outcomes.
Oh dear! This would have got me a miserable fail – and a whack round the head – in primary school. Apart from the lack of punctuation (one comma in an unforgiveably long sentence), the metaphor is horribly jumbled; although no great athlete, I do not recall half-time in races – even marathons. I could go on and on, but I will not try your patience.
The saddest thing about this ‘sentence’ , apart from the enormous angst it must have caused the myriad readers for whom English is not their mother tongue, is that it was part of the introduction (the rest was no better) to a full-blown feature section. With no appetite to proceed, I dipped into the first article, which included in the first sentence the expression “most well-known’. Unless he had been paid by the word (and well-known counted as two), the average mortal would have gone for the better recognized: ‘best known’. At that point, I realized: ‘Houston, we have a problem’, and made a mental note to take 2 aspirin half an hour before attempting to read on.
It is high-time they took some of their income from the advertising and $200+ cover price to employ a good copy editor. If currently between books, E.L. James or Danielle Steele would do a wonderful job with the syntax and punctuation, at the same time coming up with unthought-of teasers for a three-letter word ending in ‘x’ (in case you were wondering, I was referring to ‘tax’).
And before you start gratuitously red-marking this post – rest assured that, when you start paying me $200 a shot for this Blog, I will employ a copy writer.
Happy Silly Season.