Being a professional editor lends itself to the occasional moment of hilarity. Sometimes in the rush to write up a project and get it done on deadline, it is all too easy for the original writer (or blogger) to leave out a letter, put in the wrong letter or make other similar mistakes.
I was recently reminded of this fact when I wrote a blog post that mentioned Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts. I finished writing the blog post and started re-reading it prior to publishing it, when I realized that I’d written about the House of the Seven Tables. Whoops. (Having visited the house, I can say that house does have at least seven tables…and chairs…and other very nice furniture, and a great secret passage.) That typo would have sneaked under the spell-checker radar, so I’m glad I snagged it before it got uploaded for public viewing.
I once started a LinkedIn discussion in a writer/editor group, asking people to tell about the funniest proofreading errors they caught in their careers. The answers were hilarious. The most memorable one was a newspaper story headline concerning a story about a problem with a bridge. The headline should have read “Bridge Stuck Open, Traffic Backed Up For Miles.” Somebody goofed in proofreading and left the “G” out of “bridge” so it became “Bride Stuck Open, Traffic Backed Up For Miles.” Ouch.
Don’t even get me started on historical editing errors. There was a historical Bible printed in London in 1631, where the printers accidentally left “not” out of “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. It’s known as the “Wicked Bible” and cost the printers a big fine and their license to print.
(I have to wonder what any parishioners thought upon seeing the copies that escaped the recall. Did they snicker or just say “Whoo-hoo! Let’s PARTY!”)
Sometimes editing is just about being sharp-eyed enough to spot a missing letter, a number in the wrong place, a word in the wrong place or an extra space between words. (Useful tip: Doing those find-a-word puzzles is handy for editing because they sharpen your visual acuity.) Other times, it’s about instinct and a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right and needs double-checking.
Case in point: Once when I was on Twitter, I saw a tweet mentioning a social media workshop from one of my followers. I clicked the link to read about the workshop. It had contact info, the location, the time and the date. At first glance, everything looked fine.
I noticed, however, that the year in the workshop date wasn’t right. It was for last year, not this year, so technically the workshop had already ended before it even started. I didn’t want to publicly embarrass the poor guy by tweeting him, so I sent the tweet’s owner a tactful message (thank goodness for Twitter’s direct messaging — so discreet). He fixed it and sent me a thank-you tweet.
The beauty of blogging and other digital communications is that you can go back in and fix an error that accidentally gets published, unlike printed flyers and posters. Thank goodness.