The Curious Case of the Missing “T”

Not too long ago I sent a news release to the local newspaper about a Girl Scout in our parish who completed a meditation garden on church property as her Silver Award project. I try to be conscious of the fact that small town papers are notoriously understaffed and will usually print something that is decently written and provides solid information and quotes. Photographs are almost always welcome, especially if they show action instead of a posed shot with people lined up like smiling bowling pins. Anything the submitter of the news release can do to make life easier for the editor is a good thing and enhances one’s chance of seeing a story in print.

I was delighted to see a week later that the paper had printed our story in its entirety with minimal editing–photo included. It looked like every “i” was dotted and “t” crossed. But wait! Surely not! Oh, yes. The omission of one lower case letter “t” in the headline had changed our lovely m-e-d-i-t-a-t-i-o-n garden into a m-e-d-i-a-t-i-o-n garden.

Most people probably never even caught the error. Our eyes and brain cover a multitude of proofing sins. Yet all it took was the careless omission of one letter to change the meaning of an entire headline. It was an error that eluded the spell checker and the copy editor, and truthfully it almost eluded my own eagle editing eye.

So what’s the point? Proof. Proof. Proof some more. Never assume that spell check has your back. Find the best strategies for proofing your work word by word. I prefer to read from the end to the beginning one word at a time when copy editing. I also find it helpful to read aloud when hunting for mistakes and grammatical errors.

Mistakes happen. Some are more costly than others. Minimizing the potential for careless errors through diligent proof reading is crucial–whether you are a copy editor at a small town newspaper, a staff editor at a major publishing house, or a blogger. Make the most of your words and treat them with care. Oh, and don’t let random letters go missing.

I suppose one could participate in mediation in a meditation garden. The only question that comes to mind is this one: could the result be silent mediation or lively meditation? Perhaps we’ll never know. That may be just as well.

(Photo by Looking Glass used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)

2 responses to “The Curious Case of the Missing “T”

  1. I was proofing a government publication a few years back and everything was fine. It had gone through several prior proofs and a copyedit. The only problem was the title because it became obvious to me that no one had taken a good look at it. The word PUBLIC was in the title, but the letter L was missing. Glad I noticed before they printed several thousand copies đŸ™‚

  2. Now that would have been quite the blooper! Funny how we’ll pore over copy but miss the big picture in headlines and titles. Remember that saying about ass/u/m/ptions…making a “you know what” out of you and me? It’s tough to remember to never assume anything in the copyediting world.

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