Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do Typos Really Matter?

cringe face photo: cringe engcringe.gif

I have, on top of my filing cabinet at work, a sheet of paper printed from a page of a hazard assessment document.

One it, towards the bottom, is an asterisk next to a bullet point that has a red ring around one word: “Hoise”. The E is crossed out, rather savagely, with a T written, rather legibly, above it.

It should be “hoist”. But it’s not.

This is a published document. It’s been out there for about a year and a half. With this rather embarrassing typo in it.

I could fix it. I could fix it in about fifteen minutes, if the document owner were handy. Fixing an editorial mistake like this is easy, per our process.

But I don’t bother. The error, pointed out by a fire protection technician, isn’t significant enough to warrant the $2.60 it would cost the company to fix it – if only my “labor” were factored in.
So I have to wonder: Do typographical errors matter?

Yes, this is coming from the Grammar Nazi, at least of this blog’s fame. And yes, this blog post is prompted by two rather silly homonymerrors I encountered in a post (the “10 Bad Apples of Digital Media” at

Read the article. The errors – substituting queue for cue and wreaks for reeks – would make any copy editor squirm.

But the article has been up since June 25, 2012. More than two years. And has been shared, if I’m reading things correctly, more than 3,600 times.

I thought briefly about emailing the author to point out the errors. But then I’d be That Guy, pointing out homonym confusion on a two-year-old throwaway listie blog post.

And I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first. I’m sure the author has received numerous emails pointing out the errors. I HOPE the author has received numerous emails pointing out the errors.

But the errors remain.

It’s not worth the author’s or’s time to go back to fix these two words, these two errors that make the copy editor in me cringe.

So back to my original query: Do typographical errors matter?

I’m not talking about errors in fact. I lost a job in journalism due to those, and the thought of those errors comes to me often – my shower this morning was a rather harrowing experience in which my brain, between half-hearted brushed with my loofah, replayed the emotions and potential consequences and what-ifs of those errors NINE AND A HALF YEARS after the fact. I felt so ill at ease I almost missed my bus and expressed, not for the first time and not for the last, that I must be a worthless human being for having made those mistakes.

Those are the kinds of errors that matter.

Typographical errors make one look sloppy, but they’re the common cold of the woes that plague the recorded word: Everyone gets them and no matter what kinds of defenses are put up, they’re going to get through to print (thanks to Yzma and Kronk for yet another illustration; your typical error-elimination plan).

No comments: