Glitz and Grammar

The red carpet treatment as proofreading gets sexy

Lee Dickinson Word Wise copywriting

By Lee Dickinson

Giving apostrophe abuse the red carpet treatment is a headline-grabbing act worthy of an Oscar.

Step forward wonky-fringed actress Emma Watson at the 90th Academy Awards, into a supernova of popping flashlights. She could’ve used a great proofreading service to avoid her “Times Up” tattoo ‘blunder’, which would’ve changed it to the grammatically correct ‘Time’s Up’. So near yet so far, Emma. Those pesky apostrophes, eh?  

But wouldn’t proper punctuation have ruined things? Weren’t those flashlights and the media focus on her ‘gaffe’ the aim?

Her reaction suggests not. The Harry Potter star, 27, tweeted: “Fake tattoo proofreading position available. Experience with apostrophes a must.”

Nice but niche work, that. Pre-Oscar tattoo reading’s not on the Word Wise list of services, but only because it’s so specialised.

I suspect Emma wouldn’t have employed a proofreader anyway. They’re often nerdy – and that’s not Hollywood cool. Dictionaries feature rarely in the glamorous world of film, when they’re confined to bookshelf cameos and obscured by stars like Emma.

Rightly so. Grammar’s not sexy like the Brit actress in her sparkling Oscars neckpiece and velvet dress. It was an appearance summed up by one glitterati expert when he said she’d “taken Hollywood by storm”. The A-lister even managed to boost her column inches with a wobbly fringe that had some speculating on who’d hacked their way across her English rose forehead. Maybe it was her tattooist or, more likely, her publicist?

Word Matters, the blog, is here.

It all combined to make the Hermione Granger actress the most talked about celebrity at the annual gossfest. The fringe, dress and diamonds played their part, for sure, but paled in comparison with that dodgy tattoo.

The cynical might suggest it was a clever move. Grammar’s rarely if ever featured on the red carpet, but mistakes have had a starring role for years in everything from stage plunges to ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and Warren Beatty’s 2017 wrong envelope. Maybe this year was simply the turn of words to star, before a 2020 return to more traditional howlers?

After the headline-grabbing success of the claimed lacked of proofreading, time’s up for stunts which fail. The bar’s been set high by an absent apostrophe, which even prodded the anti-grammar movement into action. They claimed Emma’s forearm was correct. The hashtag for anti-sexual abuse group Time’s Up has no apostrophe, they argued, before retreating to a social media world where centuries of language convention is trumped by a naming protocol which stops the use of apostrophes anyway.

It got us debating, and surely that’s the point? It’s fabulous publicity for a movement which will only benefit from a spotlight on its great work.

Emma Watson, who studied at Oxford, is clever enough to realise that, and caring enough to do something about it. For someone with a degree in English, though, the game’s up on the dumb act.

Lee Dickinson is an advanced professional member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP, formerly SfEP). He’s a former journalist who now works as a copywriter and editor. You can contact him here, at CIEP, by email via editor@bookediting.co.uk or through the platforms below.

Copyright © 2020, Lee Dickinson, Word Wise Web Ltd. All rights reserved.