As I was working the other day, I happened upon a website for a production company. I’m not going to say which one, but it’s a serious company that has produced at least one film which garnered Academy Award attention in the last few years. But goodness, their website is awful. I don’t mean in a design sort of way. It’s very simplistic, but I think it does everything the company really needs from their website. No, it’s awful because in the six very short paragraphs which describe the company and its vision, there are no fewer than 13 grammatical mistakes to go along with some generally sub-par writing. I’m sure I make grammatical errors from time to time, but these were so blatantly obvious. This is a professional company! This website is their public face!
So this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to transpose the text in question below (removing, of course, any identifying names) and go through each and every error I found. Then I’m going to rewrite the sections to remove the grammatical mistakes and improve their overall quality. Oh, and for later reference I’ve marked issues with colored numbers. Red numbers are grammatical errors, yellow numbers are for examples of particularly poor writing.
Without further ado, here’s the text. First, from their “About” section.
“Formed by the Academy Award nominated producer,1 [Executive Smith].2 [The Company] is an American feature film production company based in Los Angeles, CA. [The Company] focuses on developing a unique slate with the goal of finding stories3 that resonate.4
[Smith] produced the comedic feature [A Funny Film], which played at the Sundance Film Festival;5 as well as [Another Movie], a spaghetti-style western starring [Actor A] and [Actor B],6 which was distributed domestically by [One Distributor] and internationally by [Another Distributor].
[The Company], with [Smith] at the helm, has also extensively collaborated7 with hometown friend8 and actor/writer/director [Friendly Man]. These projects include the multi-award winning short film,9 “[A Short],” followed by the feature,10 [This Feature They Made], which screened in over 36 festivals and garnered numerous awards. [Our Big Movie] marks [Smith] and [Friendly’s] third project with their longtime friend, writer/actress [Lady Jones] (“Miss Character”), who had11 starred in their previous two films.”
And now from their “Content” section:
“[The Company] is currently collaborating with producers, writers, and directors in development of12 it’s13 2012-2013 slate.
The focus of [The Company] is feature films14 with a human element that resonates emotionally with an audience. The universal truths and questions we all must all face.15
[Our Big Movie] is a great example of the films16 [The Company] strives to make; however17 our slate is quite diverse. It18 ranges from a psychological thriller about a mother protecting her son to an inspiring,19 true story of a married, interracial couple who created and lead20 an entire nation against all odds.”
And now for the errors. A reminder: red numbers are for the things that are flatly wrong. Yellow ones are for things that aren’t necessarily wrong, but reflect poor writing in some way.
- Boy, two errors right off the bat. The “the” earlier in the sentence is the key to this first one. It makes the producer’s name the subject of the sentence rather than an appositive phrase (as the comma would suggest. “The Academy Award nominated producer” is a phrase which acts as an adjective for the proper noun of the producer’s name, and thus, there should be no comma.
- The sentence is a fragment. With this grammatical construction, there ought to be a comma after “[Executive Smith] to connect it to what would be the rest of the sentence.
- “With the goal of finding stories”? Really? That could all be replaced by the word “of.”
- There’s nothing grammatically wrong with ending the sentence, “stories that resonate.” The problem is that things aren’t usually just resonating. They’re resonating with something, like a tuning fork with a particular pitch. We have no idea how these stories are resonating. Are they resonating with a particular pitch, too? We can reasonably infer that it has something to do with emotions and an audience, but the construction makes it really unclear. And it just sounds awkward.
- “Which played at the Sundance Film Festival” constitutes an appositive phrase, describing or re-naming “[A Funny Film].” Thus, it should terminate in another comma rather than a semicolon.
- There should not be a comma following “[Actor B]” since the parts of the sentence it seeks to connect are already parts of the same phrase.
- To be fair, this is probably the nitpickiest issue of the lot. It just sounds better to say “collaborated extensively” than “extensively collaborated.”
- As constructed, the sentence suggest that [Friendly Man] is [The Company’s] friend rather than [Smith’s]. Given, I don’t know that this is the case, but it seems far more likely that [Friendly Man’s] “hometown friend” is a person, not a company.
- This one’s almost exactly like #1. No comma is needed prior to the introduction of the film’s title. It’s part of the sentence, not a separate phrase.
- See #7
- The word “had” is fairly unnecessary. “Starred” already communicates the past tense, and there’s no reason for the verb to be passive. It could be trying to emphasize that they had already worked together on the past collaborative projects, in which case substituting “also” for “had” might be a preferable choice.
- “In development of” is both passive and clunky. “To develop” is cleaner and it emphasizes the strength of the company.
- “It’s” means it is. “Its” is possessive.
- “The focus is feature films” just sounds a little weird, due, I think, to the switch from the singular “focus” and “is” to the plural “films” (you can ignore “of [The Company],” which is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adjective).
- Another fragment, plus “all” is repeated unnecessarily.
- The plural “films” does not agree with singular “is” and “[Our Big Movie].”
- Here the semicolon is actually used correctly, but there should be a comma following “however.”
- It’s a little vague exactly what the “It” is referring to.
- The comma here is unnecessary.
- The present “lead” does not agree with the past tense “created.” It ought to be either “create” and “lead” or “created” and “led.”
So revised the whole thing might read something like this:
“Formed by the Academy Award nominated producer [Executive Smith], [The Company] is an American feature film production company based in Los Angeles, CA. [The Company] focuses on developing a unique slate of stories that resonate emotionally with audiences worldwide.
[Smith] produced the comedic feature [A Funny Film], which played at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as [Another Movie], a spaghetti-style western starring [Actor A] and [Actor B] which was distributed domestically by [One Distributor] and internationally by [Another Distributor].
[The Company], with [Smith] at the helm, has also collaborated extensively with [Smith’s] hometown friend, actor/writer/director [Friendly Man]. These projects include the multi-award winning short film “[A Short],” followed by the feature [This Feature They Made], which screened in over 36 festivals and garnered numerous awards. [Our Big Movie] marks [Smith] and [Friendly’s] third project with their longtime friend, writer/actress [Lady Jones] (“Miss Character”), who also starred in their previous two films.”
“[The Company] is currently collaborating with producers, writers, and directors to develop its 2012-2013 slate.
[The Company] focuses on feature films with emotionally resonant human elements which explore universal truths and questions all people must address.
[Our Big Movie] is a great example of the kind of film [The Company] strives to make; however, our slate is quite diverse. Our lineup of films ranges from a psychological thriller about a mother protecting her son to an inspiring true story of a married, interracial couple who creates and leads an entire nation against all odds.”
Grammar may be annoying at times, but it’s important, folks.