I was never an English major in college, but I suffer from a malady that afflicts most majors of the English variety: I can read nothing without proofing it for typos, misspellings and bad punctuation. I’ve probably (obsessively) proofread more copy in my life than the head editor for the Ladies Home Journal who does it for a very good living. Menus, signs, banners, newspaper columns, paperback books, magazine articles; it doesn’t matter. When it comes to finding typos and hiccups, I am the Great White (Typo) Hunter. Of Paulden.
The truly sad result is that I frequently find errors, even in professionally produced communications. Not to mention bad grammar uttered by national radio and TV personalities who really should know basic English. Just this week, my wife and I spent a couple of days in Pinetop, Arizona. Pinetop is a beautiful little town in the White Mountains with lots of greenery, lots of trees, lots of flowers and, I noticed, lots of typos.
I actually scored my first ever trifecta in one day running typos to ground. The first discovery was a typed notice in the kitchenette of the cabin in which we stayed. The notice was signed by “The Mangement.” I’ve seen this error before so I wasn’t particularly traumatized to encounter a word one vowel short of its fullest potential. I mean, management didn’t actually pay someone to create this notice, I’m sure.
My second “kill” was shocking since the owner of the local business in question presumably did pay someone to design and hand letter a small sandwich board sign promoting the business. The sign proudly announced that many “varities” of the featured product were available. I was tempted to ask the owner to see her “varities,” but I didn’t have the courage. Even this wasn’t the ultimate “Duh!” moment of the day.
I bagged my third typo in a gift shop. The inspirational inscription on a ceramic tile read: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; Do no be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go.” Someone wasn’t looking over the typist’s shoulder to make sure the spelling was correct — and I think you know who that “Someone” probably should have been!
Many hunters display their most astounding accomplishments above a fireplace or doorway thanks to modern taxidermy. I’m regretful that I haven’t made a collection of the typographical missteps I’ve snared. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as typo taxidermy, I don’t think.
It’s about time, however, that I admit to my own seemingly endless litany of typos and errors when I was working in the ad agency business. No matter how many eyes proofed a galley or a graphic layout before it went into production, some lexical laxity would camouflage itself until the printing was complete. Then it would literally spring off the page and smite us between our chastened eyes.
I remember hearing on the radio about a major literacy initiative of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office back in the 1980s. Well, the radio report was actually about the press release launching the program which misspelled the word “literacy.” Ironically, I don’t remember hearing anything further about the alleged literacy effort.
Much to the chagrin of mankind, typos have been around as long as type itself. William Caxton was the merchant who set up Britain’s first printing press in 1476. He was so bad at spelling he would ask his own readers to “correcte and amende where they shal fynde faulte.”
Please feel free to correcte and amende if you fynde faulte herein by emailing email@example.com.