Wednesday, January 11, 2006

We all make mistakes…

Editors live in fear of typos hitting the press. We dream about all the horrible things that can happen when we commit type to paper. We wake up in a sweat, fearing the annual report is going to hit people's mailboxes and that we've left the "l" out of "public." We make printer reps and designers crazy as we read bluelines letter by letter.

"How could this have happened???" reverberates in our heads as we imagine a man in a suit standing in our doorway with smoke curling out of his ears.

So I pity the editor of The Chronicle Review. While I was on hold yesterday, I was studying the cover of the November 25, 2005 edition folded on my desk. I read the 40 point headline: "The Challeges Ahead for Higher Education."

I think when this first came out, my eyes filled in the missing letter. Sitting doodling as I waited for someone to answer my call, however, the typo jumped out at me.

Mistakes happen. All the editors and proofreaders have gone home and the designer has to make a last-minute adjustment to the type. Her finger slips and deletes a letter. The designer is the editor and mental fatigue sets in.

No matter how carefully we proofread, we will always miss something. I like to have as many eyes as possible look over a piece before it goes to the printer. I like to put important pieces down and read them again the next day.

One of my English professors, dismayed at the number of typos he had found in our work, handed out pieces of cardboard and scissors to the class one evening. He made us sit and cut out a hole the size of a line of type on letter-size paper. We were told for our next assignment we were to hold this frame over every line and read it twice. We would fail the assignment if we had one misspelled word, one comma out of place.

Of course, looking for typos can be an obsession. At restaurants, I enjoy scanning the menu looking for errors. One of my favorite usage errors hung on the wall of a post office, where I learned that a person's disappearance may have been the result of "fowl" play. I imagined a flock of hens attacking the poor soul.

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