It’s funny, I am renowned for spotting typing or spelling errors but I’ve been making a few of my own lately… more of that later.
Sometimes when I point out errors people take it personally and think I am criticising them or making fun of them or saying they are either thick or not good at their job. Of course, none of this is true because a) I don’t know these people from Adam and b) I’m not so arrogant that I would want to make out I was superior in any way to anybody else.
In my current job, as in my previous job as an Editor of various engineering magazines, attention to detail is crucial. You sure as hell didn’t want a magazine to go out with a single error in it, it had to be perfect and the minute you stopped bothering about that was the time you should consider another career.
A journalist who makes typos? A sub-editor who doesn’t spot them or introduces new ones? You might as well have a freelance photographer who supplies blurred photos or a printer who misses pages out of a book and doesn’t think it matters all that much.
Of course it matters. And social media does not give anyone an excuse to make less of an effort to get things right. In some organisations the size of their social media team is much bigger than a national newspaper’s editorial team and certainly bigger than a trade magazine’s entire staff. However, these so-called social media specialists have to Google who Martin Luther King is, so they may well believe that being a stickler for accuracy is an old-fashioned idea. After all, their teachers had the same approach, not correcting errors and producing a whole generation of people who simply have no idea how to spell, let alone construct a sentence.
So when I saw this tweet from the Financial Times (below right) I shouldn’t really have been shocked. A global newspaper with over six million followers on Twitter makes schoolboy errors on its posts. Well, the BBC makes them on a regular basis, as do many other bodies that you would expect better from.
Anyway, so why am I, the one with the curse that even has me spotting errors on road signs, now making my own? Why would anyone want to use a writer who makes mistakes (ah, as I just pointed out, apparently many people do already)? Is it my brain wearing out or my fingers failing to work as well as they used to? No, nothing so interesting. The culprit is a Bluetooth keyboard whose connection to its dongle is dodgy and so even though I type all the letters in all the words they don’t always show up on the screen.
It’s a pain but I persevere because I prefer to use a wireless keyboard and also because I am still enough of a pedant not to let the errors get through to the final written piece.
So I have a safety net but many others clearly do not. You’d think that would be good news for organisations like The Word Factory, people would be queueing up to make sure their copy was correct and not full of errors. Sadly, judging from the amount of howlers that are popping up in even the most respected outlets, I’m not sure that too many people care any more.
PS: You’ll be pleased to hear that I’m consigning this keyboard to the office cupboard as a spare and replacing it with one that does what I tell it to!