Thursday, October 4, 2007

"On-coming" errors

Hi, everyone. These sentences were taken from emails sent out to all UHM students.

This survey will help us better understand the engagement of students in activities on campus.

My version would be "This survey will give us a better understanding of the activities students are participating in on campus."

We value your opinions and look forward to your participation in the on-coming survey.

I think they meant "upcoming." "Oncoming," which shouldn't be hyphenated, makes me think the survey is going to hit me head-on at 25 MPH because I'm on the wrong side of the road. :P

Again, mahalo for being such good hosts to our guests over these past several days and for enabling this event to be a success for them, for our campus, and for our Islands.

"Enabling" sounds strange to me in this context, so I think I would say something like "...over these past several days and for making this event so successful for our campus..." I also don't think "Islands" should be capitalized, and to be honest, I don't really see how hosting Toyota at UH benefits Kauai, Maui, or the Big Island, so I would have just left that out altogether.


Pat said...

This is what happens when writing has a subtext (an underlying meaning or message).

What exactly does "engagement of students in activities on campus" mean? Your version reflects one possible interpretation, emphasizing activities.

I don't think the administration is interested in these activities, though; they already know what they are. What they're interested in is the degree to which students "engage" in campus activities. This helps them anticipate and gauge reaction to things like the concert.

The use of on-coming and upcoming reminds me of something I read about the Wall Street Journal: one of the top people sent a memo to staff saying that if he saw upcoming in the newspaper one more time, he would be down-coming to someone who would be out-going :)

I think the use of upcoming here is fine and certainly preferable, as you've explained, to on-coming.

Good analysis of the last sentence. Corporate think often produces sentences like this, and that is why we copyeditors are sometimes at odds with the policymakers. In part, the sentence is (1) pointing out that not everyone protested the concert and (2) thanking those people.

ceruleanjen said...

Ah, I didn't understand the whole "engagement of students" thing at first. It makes more sense now. I also had no idea that "upcoming" is considered unacceptable in some scholarly circles. Good to know.