But if you’re in the editorial world -- and I can speak to this because I’ve known a lot of people in the editorial world -- your reaction to a typo is much more visceral. To an editor, a typo is like a zit on prom night. It’s like seeing someone walking around with their fly undone. It’s like an opera singer hitting a horribly flat note during an aria. It’s just so, for lack of a better term, wrong.
Emotions can run high in this business. Here are some typical editorial reactions to a typo:
- Fear. This one comes up most often if your job is to catch typos and you’re reading through the “final” version of something and you spot something you missed. It’s a terrible, sinking feeling, and many editors find religion as they wonder if there’s time to catch the copy before it goes out the door.
- Embarrassment. This is the worst. You’re convinced the copy is clean and you’ve told everyone as much, and then someone -- whose job is something other than catching typos -- comes to you and points out something you missed. It’s like your entire world falls apart. Your heart sinks to the floor. You humbly mark up the offending word, and then you’re immediately filled with …
- Doubt. Was that the only typo you missed? Were there others? Now fear rears its ugly head again, as does embarrassment as you ask for the copy back to take one last look at it. You can feel your credibility slipping away as you double-check and triple-check your work, hoping against hope that it was a lone typo and not the end of your career.
- Anger. This happens when you diligently mark up copy and make it perfect, and then it comes back to you with STET written everywhere, and half of the approved edits not made. It becomes an editorial tennis match -- you tell them to fix it, they don’t, you tell them to fix it, they don’t. It’s not too long before the screaming begins.
- Resentment. This is the natural by-product of anger. Because they didn’t accept your edits, you immediately start to wonder why you even bother. You’re the editor, after all. This is your purview. If they want their copy to look stupid, fine. But then anyone who knows that you had a chance to look over the copy is going to blame you. Assholes.
- Joy. Rare, but it happens. You take a really rough piece of copy, you polish it, massage it, tweak it, and scrub it free of typos. You hand it over, all of your edits are approved and made, and in the end, you get to see a clean, gleaming version of the mess you originally tackled. And you immediately start checking it for typos.
By Steve Boudreault