Raining on parades

raining on parades2To compliment someone, say that she loves everyone, she never met a stranger, or her smile would light up a room. The world loves cheery, trusting, optimistic people.

Sadly, the Internet provides a vehicle for infinite ways to prey on those day-brighteners. People who always see the best in others. Who always believe the sun will come out tomorrow. If you’re one of those, I’m going to drop some precipitation on your parade.

Often, no harm will come to you if you believe a scammer. Well, unless you count snickering from your friends and family. But some tricksters draw you in and then they go after your money or information.

Examples:

  • I saw the most heartwarming/scary/simply AMAZING video clip!

Some are true, but many are staged. Did you ever wonder how someone just happened to be there with a camera to capture it? (Especially if it’s shot inside a car?) Harmless, unless you’re invited to contribute to some “cause.” Clicking or sharing can place you on a targeted list for other scams.

  • Statistics show that my new blog/music video/website has views from all over the world!

Most likely spiders, bots, and web crawlers used for indexing. Or cybercriminals after your identity or credit card information. Your web stats just record total hits, not necessarily instant worldwide fame. Do you honestly think Russia and Eastern Europe constitute your fan base?

  • Congratulations! You’ve been named one of the Top Hundred Excellent [fill in the profession] in your state!

For $19.95, you can purchase a plaque with your name on it, and for $39.95 you can buy a book listing the Top Hundreds for every state in the country. Buy one for each of your children! Who nominated you? What is the “organization” conferring this honor?

If you point out that the emperor has no clothes, you risk being perceived as negative and pessimistic. But if you have any sort of Internet presence that tracks comments, you know how much spam and other deceptive communication is out there.

Most (spam) comments I receive involve cheap knock-off sunglasses, fake designer handbags, and SEO services. The subject line is eye-catching, but the message is gibberish. Some are unintentionally, but genuinely, hilarious. The goal is simply to get you to open the message.

So enjoy your parade, but take an umbrella. And remember that this message, like many others I deleted, appeared in the stats for this blog:

This system helps cat owners understand their cats better by discussing reasons why cats urinate outside their litter box.

I don’t even have a cat.

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗  Dear readers  ∗∗∗∗∗∗∗

amazon coverThe last weekly post to this blog will be July 3, 2016. After that, see TextCPR on Facebook for occasional new posts. Thanks for nearly four years of readership and engaging comments.

The spirit of this blog is now captured in a book: From the Errors of Others, available online at these links:

Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble

Archway Bookstore

Richard Nordquist, Grammar and Composition expert for About.com, says:

From the Errors of Others is a refreshing alternative to those heavy handbooks we never opened in school…. Imagine that: a smart book about writing and speaking effectively that people will actually enjoy reading.”

Cotton-candy writing

cotton candyHappy childhood memories … the county fair, the school carnival, the baseball game! The junk food—hot dogs, caramel corn, and my favorite, cotton candy.

Kids love the spun-sugar treat because it’s light, pretty (don’t think about what’s in that food coloring), easy to eat, and completely devoid of nutritional value.

Online articles often make me think of cotton candy. Puffed up, spun around, brightly tinted, full of empty calories. They catch your eye with enticing headlines, but fail to deliver the content you expect. If you would like a career as a cotton-candy-article writer, or if you’re a college student who needs an essay – fast – be sure to use these techniques:

Adjectives and adverbs
great, many, quite, perfect, awesome, any, interesting, particular, incredible, amazing, very, really, usually, dramatically, just, especially, kind of, hopefully, probably

Clichés
At the end of the day
In the final analysis
When all is said and done
It is what it is
The bottom line

Meaningless phrases
It has often been said that
As I have mentioned previously
Certain unnamed sources have alleged that
In some circles it is accepted practice to assume that
To be perfectly honest

In the course of growing up to be a successful scientist, my brother was an excellent college student. But, like many of us, he awoke one morning to realize he had a writing assignment due in a couple of hours and he had nothing prepared. Armed with only a dictionary and a typewriter (before personal computers, no Internet, Google or Wikipedia), he had to spin something out of nothing … and fast. Using many of the techniques I’ve listed here, I’m sure, he cobbled together the required number of pages with no knowledge of the subject whatsoever. When the paper was returned, the professor had written in the margin:

Congratulations. I read your paper. I now know less about the subject than I did before.

It takes some work, but if you master cotton-candy writing, you can always go into politics.

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Giddy governors glimpsing groundhogs

groundhogIt’s that time of year, and it’s happening again. Just as it does every year, almost as if no one remembers that it’s happened – just this way – many times before. No, it’s not the movie Groundhog Day, it’s the actual Groundhog Day. When important-looking officials in top hats gather in Punksatawney, Pennsylvania, to witness the appearance (or not) of the worst attempt at alliteration ever … Punxsatawney Phil.

Apparently someone who did not learn about poetic devices from Miss Georgia Moore figured two words starting with the same letter qualified as alliterative. Edgar Allan Poe is somewhere cursing the whole thing. Problem is, when followed by the letter H, the letter P sounds like an F. The idea is to create a clever sound repetition that captures the reader’s attention and creates a mood. For all their efforts, the folks in Punxsatawney might as well have called their groundhog Larry.

Alliteration can be fun and it’s useful in naming things. For example, a dog show (Canine Capers) or a school book fair (Reading Rodeo). But when overdone, it can sound self-conscious and belabored. Anyone old enough to remember Richard Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, and his “nattering nabobs of negativism?”

Bad alliteration can also sound a little too precious. I remember a nursery school chain with a fleet of big yellow buses labeled Kiddie Kastle, Kiddie Kollege, and Kiddie Kampus. Not only is it cheating to change the spelling, but what kind of school deliberately teaches children to misspell castle, college, and campus … or anything, for that matter?

Just remember that alliteration is more about sound than spelling. But if you’re naming an event, please don’t call it a Psychic Pseminar or a Writers’ Wrendezvous.

You know, the groundhog folks could have solved the whole thing by moving the festivities to Philadelphia …

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