Monday, April 26, 2010

Muphry's Law

Muphry's Law is the principle that any criticism of the speech or writing of others will itself contain at least one error of usage or spelling.

Coined by John Bangsund in The Society of Editors Newsletter, 1992

Examples and Observations:

* "Muphry's Law is the editorial application of the better-known Murphy's Law. Muphry's Law dictates that

(a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written;
(b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
(c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault;
(d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent."

(John Bangsund, "Muphry's Law," Society of Editors Newsletter, Mar. 1992)


Recently, a columnist for The New York Observer spotted a redundancy in the sports pages of The New York Times . . .:

"We all know that the verb "reverted" contains the direction "back" in it. To add "back" is thoroughly redundant. . . . To return is to turn back. Adding the word "back" may appear to solidify your meaning but it only exposes your ignorance."

To which an even more observant reader replied:

"Now, we all know that the verb "contains" already contains the meaning "in it." To add "in it," as Phil does, is thoroughly redundant. Adding the phrase "in it" may appear to solidify your meaning but it only exposes your ignorance."

(Grammar Gurus in Glass Houses, Dec. 3, 2008)



"In neither taste nor precision is any man's practice a court of last appeal, for writers all, both great and small, are habitual sinners against the light; and their accuser is cheerfully aware that his own work will supply . . . many 'awful examples.'"

(Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right, 1909)

3 comments:

  1. Allow me to reiterate once again...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Allow me to once again reiterate.....

    ReplyDelete