Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Smart People, Foolish Typos

In his new blog on the Baltimore Sun site, John McIntyre explains the dangers of having a brain.


MuPu said...

It should go without saying that a multilingual publication (such as a book on linguistics) needs to be proofed in all of its constituent languages.

Take John McIntyre's article as an object lesson.

The body is written in well-proofed English, but with a paragraph of logically jumbled text which, unfortunately, contains several errors. The jumblese portion was apparently not proofed to make sure that it was correct within itself.

It reminds me of the pictographs that were incorrectly set for the simple substitution cipher in one of the Sherlock Holmes novels. The book actually went to press with a ciphertext that made no sense. The typesetters had rearranged the pictographs (which were stick figures holding flags in various poses) at will, not understanding the underlying structure.

Just as importantly as properly proofing foreign or invented words and phrases (and ciphers), copy editors (et al.) need to make sure that "intentional typographical errors" are "correctly misspelled."

nc girl said...

B ill,

Sorry - this is off today's topic, but I couldn't get my e-mail to go through.

I'd be interested in hearing more about hyphens. I work at a magazine that hyphenates noun+participle combinations (as in wine-growing region) and adjective+noun combinations (small-business interests), but does not hyphenate noun+noun combinations.

I've sometimes wondered about this. The first goal, I think, should be clarity, and sometimes clarity requires that two nouns used as modifiers by hyphenated. A noun+noun example that came up for us is "instrument-flight conditions," meaning conditions that allow instrument flight. I think the hyphen here helps the reader.

It's important to note that the nouns in such cases actually aren't acting as nouns, but as modifiers.

I'd even argue that the noun+noun hyphen can be more essential than one in something like "wine-growing region" because "wine-growing" has the ring of familiarity and isn't likely to confuse the reader.

If you've talked about this could you steer me to the spot; if not, could you weigh in a tad?


Steve said...

For the information of those lucky enough to have been spared it until now, the paragraph in jumbled up English is an old bit of flim-flam, discusseed here:


One would hope that a style guide would be subjected to the most diligent proofreading. Alas my copy of the Oxford Manual of Style is so full of glaring errors that I feel I cannot trust it on anything. One Greek quotation (used as an example) was clearly never checked by anyone who knows any Greek before it went to press.

H. Philip Aster said...

To nc girl: Bill has been known to go on a bit about hyphens. Brace yourself. (I assume you've already purchased copies of Lapsing Into a Comma and The Elephants of Style?)

NeverLandMall.com said...

I am always amazed when I come across a professional website that has typos through the entire thing. Often they are in the main description. Here's a couple interesting one's I ran into lately. I looked them up in the dictionary and came up with every spelling was right for the same word. For Example: Collectible is also spelled collectable. Fairy is also spelled faerie (in the "Magickal" world) Magical is also spelled "Magickal referring to Pagan Magick. Interesting.