For example, perhaps you’ve heard about the hapless headline writer and his (or her) editor who allowed the following blooper to slip through and get onto the front page of the newspaper: MAN HELPS DOG BITE VICTIM. (The missing hyphen between dog and bite gave the headline an unintended and, though humorous, misleading twist.)
I’ve been on all three sides of such editorial oopsies, having read such mistakes, having written some of them, and having missed them as an editor. So I can both laugh at and enjoy them and yet commiserate and empathize with those who make them.
When I was an author for a major Christian textbook publisher, I was amazed by how often “obvious” errors slipped through the various editorial sentries that we had in place and got printed. We had a virtual army of watchful pickets and guards against such intruders’ attacking the quality of our products–authors, editors, proofreaders, etc.–and yet the buggers still got through.
It happens because we’re all human. Try as we might to be detail oriented and to catch errors both big and small, we’re still sometimes their victims. As an author, I had read and reread the same material so much during the research, writing, editing, and proofing stages of the publication process that my mind automatically and subconsciously supplied missing letters, words, punctuation, etc. It refused to acknowledge repeated words. When my work went to the editors, all of whom were meticulous, detail-conscious, and well-qualified professionals, even they missed some things. Similarly with the proofreaders. Sometimes compositors or even illustrators caught some errors, although that wasn’t even their responsibility, because they had a distance from the text that allowed them to spot such things.
What amazes me about the publishing world is not so much the fact that errors often slip through unnoticed until the readers point them out, but rather that we are able to catch so many of them. But readers don’t call or write to tell us how many errors we didn’t allow to get past our watchful eyes.
In case you didn’t catch it (the print is a little small), I’ve circled it in the second photo.
This editorial oversight is no big deal in the vast scheme of universal history, but it does matter because quality matters. And if we writers and editors expect quality anywhere, it’s in publications that focus on publishing, writing, and editing.
No, I won’t call or write to E&P to point out their oversight or cancel my subscription in self-righteous protest of editorial laxness, but this example is a reminder to me that even the “big guys,” the movers and shakers in our industry, sometimes make mistakes. Some of the mistakes, like this one, are no big deal, but others can cost big bucks and perhaps even jobs.
It is also a reminder that I, as a professing Christian, should be even more vigilant about the quality of my own work. The Bible teaches me that I should do my best in everything I do, that I should do it heartily, as unto my Lord and not only for fellow humans who might read what I write. I am to “give of my best to the Master.” He gave His best, His own Son, for me; giving Him my best in return should be a given.
Yet, even the best that I do will still fall short of perfection because I am only human. That awareness should make me less hasty in condemning the mistakes of others. Whenever I point my index finger at an editorial oopsie made by someone else, whether writer or editor, I should remember that my other three fingers are pointing back at the errors of omission and commission in my own work.
So let’s get a good laugh together at the honest but inadvertent mistakes that we and others make. But let’s also learn from them and be sure to examine ourselves and the quality of our own work to ensure that it’s the very best we can make it for our Master.
[Now I will sit back and wait for all of you eagle-eyed editor types to email me with a list of all the mistakes you’ve found in this blog post!]