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Issue 7
February 2017
Nitpick
Nifty tips on how to write and speak more effectively
 
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Ten movie titles I’d love to edit
 
Patriots Day hit theatres recently. This movie about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing didn’t nab any Oscar nominations, but I doubt that’s because punctuation purists in the Academy were ticked over the missing apostrophe in the title. (It should really be Patriots’ Day, and I’d bet the apostrophe was nixed by the studio’s marketing department.)

What other film titles flout the rules of grammar and punctuation? Here are some standouts:

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Featuring Hilary Swank as an amateur boxer, this film won four Academy Awards but its title is missing a hyphen. It should read Million-Dollar Baby.

Two Weeks Notice (2002)
Another missing apostrophe. The title of this romantic comedy with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock should really be Two Weeks’ Notice.

This “oversight” obviously irked Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation), who was photographed correcting the movie’s poster.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Without a question mark, this reads as if someone named “Who” framed Roger Rabbit. (Maybe someone from Dr. Seuss’s Whoville?) The movie is based on the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (note the question mark) by Gary Wolf.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Okay, the misspelling of “happiness” could be forgiven here. After all, actor Will Smith actually points out this misspelling on a wall outside his son’s daycare in the film.

Wish I Was Here (2014)
This title needs the subjunctive mood and should read Wish I Were Here. “The subjunctive expresses an improbable condition, one contrary to fact, or a wish, command, or desire,” says Words Into Type, one of my go-to grammar books.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) 
At least they got the comma right in this title but they used the wrong form of the past tense. One fix would be Honey, I Shrank the Kids (the simple past). Another would be Honey, I’ve Shrunk the Kids (the past participle “shrunk” goes with the auxiliary verb “have”).

The Ladies Man (2000 and 1961)
Yep, another missing apostrophe in these unrelated comedies. The title should read The Ladies’ Man.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Did the filmmakers leave out the colon on purpose? It’s puzzling because Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Nemesis are correctly punctuated.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Oops! What happened to the first hyphen? This title should read The 40-Year-Old Virgin. A second hyphen was added when the movie came out on DVD. For the inside scoop on this hyphen heist, see Seth Abramovitch’s post on now-defunct gawker.com.


Photo (above): © Can Stock Photo/damedeeso
 
 

 
 
Sara Bedal is a writer, editor and plain-language specialist. She helps organizations tell their stories clearly, creatively and concisely.
Photo: Angela Durante Dukát, DUKÁT PHOTOS
 
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