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The little O-shaped pasta in a tasty tomato sauce that kids love

Gentle Readers will be aware that Your Humble Blogger is a former stickler. That does not, however, prevent me from noticing actual errors when I see them, particularly when printed and distributed in a manner that really ought to require not just proof-reading but actual copy editing.

Take, for example, the microwave instructions printed on a can of SpaghettiOs. I reproduce it here in its entirety:

Microwave: Microwave ovens vary. Time given is approximate. Heat, covered in medium microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1½ to 2 minutes. Careful, leave in microwave 1 minute, then stir.

It seems to Your Humble Blogger that the use of careful is a grammatical error. But I’m not exactly sure what kind of error. It seems to me that it is standing in for Be careful, which is the sort of thing that English allows sometimes, although in that case it shouldn’t be conjoined with a comma to the rest of the sentence. The error is clearly not simply substituting the adjective form for the adverb; they don’t mean that we should carefully leave [the bowl] in the microwave.

See, the thing about errors of grammar is that it should be possible to re-write the sentence in such a way that that the grammar is correct and the sense is correct, too. And I know what the sense is, but I can’t seem to make a better sentence. Leave in microwave 1 minute, then carefully remove cover and stir seems to be all right, but wordy (and the space is limited). There’s probably room for Being careful, leave in microwave… which (a) still sounds wrong, although it seems to diagram properly, and (2) implies that you could grammatically take out the being, which gets us back where we started.

How would you, Gentle Reader, correct the SpaghettiOs can? Because Your Humble Blogger’s ability to enjoy SpaghettiOs is already limited enough (although it is at least something I can contemplate swallowing with equanimity, and represents a change from chicken soup—a change for the worse, certainly, but imagine how good the chicken soup will taste next meal) without being irritated by issues of grammar and wording.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

This is one of those special class of problems in which a perfectly-acceptable speech construction is hard to shoehorn into nice-looking grammatical writing. If this text were being spoken, careful would be an interjection, and as such I think either gets the pause-in-speech comma as written on the can (which you've declared unsatisfactory) or its own sentence with exclamation point (submitted for your approval):

Careful! Leave in microwave 1 minute, then stir.


How about:

Microwave: Microwave ovens vary. Time given is approximate. Heat, covered in medium microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1½ to 2 minutes. Leave in microwave 1 minute, then stir.
?


How about heating it for less time so you don't have to be careful?

Microwave: Time given is approximate. Heat, covered in medium microwaveable bowl on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir and enjoy.

Or

Microwave: Microwaves vary. Times vary. Taste buds vary. Welcome to life. Heat it up, stir it, wait a minute, and eat!


I like the idea of careful as an interjection, but somehow I don't like the comma join, and the exclamation mark seems hectoring. I think it requires something more materteral, perhaps Careful, now, leave in microwave...

Frankly, I think the microwave instructions might be better written as something like this: How long do you think it will take on the stove? I mean, seriously, what's your rush?

Thanks,
-V.


I don't like the comma join, and the exclamation mark seems hectoring.

...I think that sums up this entire class of problem quite nicely.

(I like your latest version the best, although I think I would see it as less clever and more precious if I happened to consume a lot of the product in question.)


How about:

Please, for the love of all that's holy! DON'T EAT MEEEEEE!!!!


I like the first option of leaving out the word Careful entirely. It is an unnecessary addition. However, I will offer my own version:

Microwave: Microwave ovens vary. Time given is approximate. Heat, covered in medium microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1½ to 2 minutes. Be careful: processed food is carcinogenic and artery-damaging, and irradiation with micorwaves will damage what little nutritional content remains. Leave in microwave 1 minute while you think better of it, then throw away.


I'm pretty sure the error is a comma splice. There should be a semicolon instead of a comma.


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