Me, myself, and you. And a cow.

Frankie, Johnny, and myself are going to tip a cow.

When did myself start being used as a substitute for me (or I)?
The Urban Dictionary defines “myself” as an idiot’s substitution for the words “me” or “I”.

For those idiots, who are surely not reading this blog, the simple solution is to think about what you’d say if you were the only one in that sentence.
I am going to tip a cow.
Frankie, Johnny, and I are going to tip a cow.

Just before you go pick up your partners in crime, you read the Huffington Post.
According to research from the University of British Columbia, simple physics suggests the force of a single person is hardly enough to cause a standing cow to topple over. Using Newton’s Second Law, they found that not one or two, but at least five people would be needed to exert enough force to push over a cow.

Now you’re thinking, I need help.
[Frankie, Johnny, and] I need help.
(Seriously. Professional help.)

You’re going to need at least two more people willing to risk the wrath of PETA, so you call Harriet. Harriet is a strapping lass. And she has a rather hefty mom.
“Harriet, can you and your mother come help [Frankie, Johnny, and] me?”

Frankie, Johnny, Harriet, her burly mom, and I go to jail.

a many of


Such a pretty word. Sadly, misused myriad times.

Many, people. It means MANY.
[Technically, it means ten thousand, but let’s not go there.]

Would you say, “I have worn my underpants inside out a many of times”?
Of course not! You would not admit to something like that, would you?


In one of my other lives I’m a yoga teacher. But because I’m also a fontidious perfectionist, I was horrified to learn that I’ve been misusing lie and lay in my classes.

I had been saying, “Let’s lay down on the floor.” The schoolteachers in my class were undoubtedly thinking, “What is it that she wants us to lay on the floor? Each other?”

So unless you want to create a spectacle of yourself, you lie down on the floor.

Public humiliation. Nothing like it to help one remember the correct usage.

Here’s the short version of how to remember this: you lie down. You also may lie, but that’s your problem. If you’re placing an object, you lay it down.

Grammar Girl and other websites go into detail about present tense, past tense, and past participles. You should go read them. Do that before you lie down.


Measure = the number of characters (letters and spaces) in a line of type.

If you’re hoping that a live person might actually read your writing, make it easy on them. A measure of more than 78 characters and your reader is likely to go watch an episode of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” between lines.

Here are the commandments from the bible of typography, The Elements of Typographic Style:
•    45 to 75 characters is a good length for a single-column page
•    66 characters is ideal
•    For multiple columns 40 to 50 characters is better

This is, of course, dependent on your type size. Average size for a printed publication is 10 to 12 points.You would not want to write lines of text 60 characters long in 36-point type. The publication would be the size of your car.


straight or curly?

Hair? Er, no. Today let’s talk about quotation marks.

Curly quotes (AKA typographer’s quotes or smart quotes) are used in good typography. Straight quotes (dumb quotes) make you look unprofessional, reckless, and just plain dumb.

straight small 3

In traditional typography, all quotation marks were curly. But when the damn typewriter came along, the curly quotes were replaced by straight quotes to save a slot for another character. Undoubtedly something stupid, like Q.

Computers are not constrained by space issues, so you can always find curly quotes. In some programs, such as inDesign, you can set your preference to typographer’s quotes. How do you do this in other programs? What, do you think I’m a typography expert? Google it.

Why does it matter? Curly quotes are more legible, and, like gravity, they’re not just a good idea. They’re the law.

The Botchionary

My smart and funny botch makes up words. Really brilliant words. Sometimes she inspires me, too, and sometimes our texts make up words when we’re not looking (e.g., botch. As in, “Where’s your party at, botch?”)

She was the one who coined the term fontidious (fastidious about fonts) after I went off on our other peep over his (in my opinion) misuse of italics.
(see also fonticular: particular about fonts)

Here are some others:

  • Fuzzidue: the line of dust left over after you sweep stuff into the dustpan
  • Slugma: the trail left by a slug
  • Stupendify: “I had a great idea this morning. It’ll be a big seller. I’ll be on Oprah. I’ll make a million dollars!!”
  • Badnification: taking such a negative view of whatever is happening that an average event has now become a significant problem (antonym: stupendification)
  • Perfectionalysis (perfection + paralysis): the inability to begin a project caused by the fear that whatever you’re about to do won’t be perfect
  • Crapsmanship: what happens when *I* try to build something
  • Factulator: one who spews facts
  • Boraborating: elaborating in an extremely boring way
  • Horrorscope: what I read each morning, so I will be ready for the impending disasters of the day
  • Frilliant: freakin’ brilliant

apostrophes don’t swing both ways

[Headline appropriated from i love typography]

An apostrophe is the same character as a closing single quotation mark.
this is an apostrophe

Blame the “backwards” apostrophe on applications like Microsoft word that use an opening single quote where a word or term begins with an apostrophe, like ’til or ’60s. The software incorrectly interprets the character as the start of a quotation. You will have to manually fix this. And when you do, the typographic gods will smile upon you.

Use an apostrophe for contractions, REGARDLESS of where in the word the missing letters fall.


Using an apostrophe incorrectly can have dire consequences:






Brilliant design by Tom Gabor,

Don’t forget, designers use bullets.

the apostrophic epidemic

I often wonder who patient zero was.

I imagine that some lowly shopkeeper went out to paint “Bananas $3” on his sign, and was stricken with an uncontrollable urge to add an apostrophe. And soon his banana was the proud owner of $3. Not to be outdone, his rival down the street advertised “Banana’s 2 Dollar’s.” Then someone from the town full of affluent bananas went on a trip, carrying the contagion with him. “Train’s Departing Every 5 Minute’s.”

The pandemic had begun.

weight and scale

There’s a depressing topic for mid-February. But let’s leave thoughts of liposuction aside and concentrate on type.

Previously I talked about one of the principles of design — contrast. Use it for emphasis, to create hierarchies of importance, to catch the reader’s eye, or simply to liven up your design. Without it the reader is likely to doze off after a couple of your scintillating sentences.

Contrast can be created by mixing serif and sans serif faces (see the Jell-o post). But for those of you itching to use all those cool fonts that came with your computer, get a grip. It can also be done using only one typeface. Various weights (e.g., light and extra bold) and dramatically different sizes will create a clean, dynamic layout.

something caught