Who put the S upside down?

Are the North Koreans responsible for the upside-down S on Sony’s Hollywood headquarters? I think we should be told.

A little too much like me?

Hooray! Most members of the US congress have an age/gender/ethnicity/orientation/education just like me! Wait a minute, is that a good thing?


A view into the design process

Following discussion of the annual tax summary in the media, I looked up the report of the design process (of the full interactive service, not just the chart above) on the Government Digital Service pages. Who do you think the ministerial involvement comes from?

‘The service is being delivered by an agile multidisciplinary team who have conducted user research on a range of users. The service is simple and intuitive enough for a user to succeed first time unaided.

‘There was a considerable degree of ministerial involvement in the design of the original prototypes and policy teams initially indicated that changes from these designs would not be accepted. The service team used the evidence they collected from user research to make iterative improvements to the service that were accepted by the policy team. It is of particular note that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has not only used the alpha service but he has seen the results of user research and watched videos of users interacting with the service. The service team must be commended for their work to engage with such senior stakeholders in the iterative development of the product as a result of user research.’

¶ You might also like to read this critique – of content, not design: George Osborne’s Crooked Tax Breakdowns

Making your mark count

Would the above have been valid ballot papers in the Scottish referendum yesterday? Yes or No?
You can find out how counting officers interpret voters’ intentions in The Chief Counting Officer's guide to dealing with doubtful ballot papers.

Infographics v. information

The Scottish government’s arguments for independence are presented in documents and a web presence that are well-crafted, but they fall into the marketing trap of thinking that graphically presented information needs to be cute and charmingly retro rather than genuinely present a statistical argument. The work of Isotype shows us that social information can be both central for the exercise of democratic choice and also present complex data interactions clearly. And the current myth-busting How well do you know your area site is a great example of offering the public statistics that challenge assumptions about the profile of local society. So why does Alex Salmond’s team rely of the factoid approach? The people of Scotland deserve better graphic design than this.

 ¶ In the example above we see bald statements of numbers: no comparisons, no indications of whether these are steady states or moving targets (proportion under 15), and blatant disregard of whether the ‘statistic’ is a current fact (5 universities in the top 200) or an assumption (Scotland might be the 29th member of the EU). Is that figure of 83% of Scots with a Scottish national identity higher or lower than the equivalent espousal of identity by citizens of Catalonia or Bali? Are the 20% and 83% identity reporters nearly mutually exclusive or is one a subset of the other? And so on.

Some notes on the colon-dash combination :—



The first long sound of each vowel is exemplified in the following words:—
John Ogilvie. The imperial dictionary. 1876 (originally published 1851)


The  OED uses the combination :—, in a bold type, to indicate ‘normal development of’ in an etymology (1884). But this was a symbol, rather than a piece of punctuation.


The marked vowels are shown in the following line, which is printed at the top of each page:—
Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary. Chambers, 1912 (originally published 1901)

1905–1933 (see 1956 in Against)

When necessary these have been indicated in the following way:—
F Howard Collins. Authors’ and printers’ dictionary. OUP, 7/e 1933 (originally published 1905)


[concerning use of a dash]
With colon or other stop before a quotation.
11. Hear Milton:—How charming is divine Philosophy!
12. What says Bacon?—revenge is a kind of wild justice.
H W & F G Fowler. The king’s English.  OUP, 2/e 1919

1949 (see 1963 in Against)
Note the passive construction:—
     The servant was told to open the window.
A S Hornby. The advancer learner’s dictionary of current English. OUP, 1/e 1948



The vowels are as follows:
      a, like a in far or ask.
Charles Annandale. A concise dictionary of the English language. 1886


The colon has a further purpose in directing attention forward (we have one golden rule: look before you leap), and there is much to be said for confining it to this. The dash — is sometimes used for the same purpose, but in the form :— it is superfluous and should be omitted
Brooke Crutchley. Preparation of manuscripts and correction of proofs.  CUP,  2/e 1964 (originally published 1951)


With a colon to introduce a substantial quotation or a list (e.g. as follows:—). This, though common, is unnecessary since either the colon or the dash can do all that is needed by itself.
Sir Ernest Gowers. The complete plain words.  HMSO, 1/e 1954, transcribed from

1956 (see 1905–1933 in For)

When necessary these have been indicated in the following way:
F Howard Collins. Authors’ and printers’ dictionary. OUP, 10/e 1956

1963 (see 1949 in For)

Note the passive construction:
     1. He was elected king.
A S Hornby. The advancer learner’s dictionary of current English. OUP, 1/e 1948

1983 (but also much earlier!)

Omit the dash when the colon is used to preface a quotation or other matter, whether at the end of a break-line or not.
Hart’s rules for compositors and readers at the University Press, Oxford. 39/e 1983