...and I'm just talking English, not policy!
Taking their cues from their boss, Kristi Noem's proofreaders also aren't showing up for work.
The South Dakota Republican Party has paid for Kristi Noem to send me three glossy campaign flyers so far. Each one of those flyers has contained a glaring textual error that makes me wonder if anyone with a college education reviews these ads before hitting "Print 100,000!"
Sample #1 stuck out immediately to an eager commenter last week:
"Cut and dry" is what the barber does to your hair. "Cut-and-dried" is an adjectival phrase you would use to compare a plan to making herbs or perhaps beef jerky. It means average, routine, unremarkable... or, more damningly, "prearranged or inflexible, completely decided in advance, so it lacks freshness, originality or spontaneity," rather like talking points handed to an unprepared and inexperienced rookie by party bosses. And if you still want to use the phrase to describe your plan, you still need hyphens.
Sample #2 shows a failure of parallelism by sloppy text formatting:
Step back a moment. See that bold orange heading, "Fighting to Prevent"? See the three lines in smaller black font below it? The conclusion to which that layout leads the casual reader is that we're reading three things Kristi is fighting to prevent:
- Kristi Noem is fighting to prevent enactment of a cap and trade national energy tax. (Her opponent, Matt Varilek, is not advocating any such policy, but the attack is at least consistent with GOP paranoia and disregard for truth.)
- Kristi Noem is fighting to prevent cutting federal government spending two years in a row (uh oh...).
- Kristi Noem is fighting to prevent supporting South Dakota farmers and ranchers (rewrite!).
The three lines together might have sounded good in the interns' bull session—fighting! cutting! supporting! Yaaarrr! But when they put those lines on the screen, someone forgot that to carry their punch, those three parallel participles needed to be visually parallel, in size, weight, and placement. A brief fit of careless layout makes the reader think the parallel terms are enactment, cutting, and supporting. Those three words misalign grammatically (noun, participle, participle) and graphically (staggered by centering, they would hang together better left-justified).
Sample #3 hit my mailbox yesterday afternoon. It shows that Noem's people aren't learning from their mistakes. They are getting worse, whiffing three strikes on one page. First, to compensate for the lack of hyphens in Sample #1, they commit outright hyphen abuse:
See that hyphen? It shouldn't be a hyphen (-). It should be an em dash (—). Ask the Chicago Manual of Style.
Sample #3 then delivers a combination of awkward and awful:
First the minor awkwardness at the bottom: "Vote No on Matt Varilek"? Don't we vote on ballot issues, but for or against candidates? And regardless of preposition preference, shouldn't Kristi's flyer positively shout, "Vote for Kristi Noem"?
But the line that draws every English teacher's flag is above that: "Put the breaks on big government spending." Brakes, Kristi, not breaks. What, did you type this ad on your cell phone?
I know, Kristi's not designing these flyers herself. She's too busy handing out coins. But if Kristi Noem cares this little about proofreading—or hiring someone to proofread—documents she's sending out to thousands of her employers, perhaps we should ask her how much attention she's paying to the legislation she drafts and votes on.