Monday, January 14, 2013

Typos of the Year for 2012: The 10 Most Regrettable Errors in Print and Elsewhere

We all make them, but let’s face it: some errors are more significant than others. When  a typographical error appears on a magazine cover or in a huge news headline, someone at some point in the process really should have caught it. In the cases where a typo completely changes a sentence’s meaning to one that is drastically different from what was intended -- or possibly to something obscene -- you have to wonder if anyone’s proofreading at all these days.

I’ve excluded Twitter typos, even those that originated from big media outlets. I don’t know about you, but I have different expectations of 140-character blurbs spewed out at 3:00am while drinking bourbon than of full-fledged articles that were ostensibly checked by a copyeditor (at 3:00am while drinking bourbon).

Here, then, are the best (worst?) typos of 2012.

#10) Sylvan Learning Center needs their own tutoring services.

"Take an active roll in your student's education" reads the flyer.

As reported in a Book Dirt exclusive, a Sylvan Learning Center franchise sent out a circular encouraging parents to take an active “roll” in their student’s learning. This most likely involves tossing your kid’s homework on the floor and taking a tumble in it, which, on second thought, might be a better use of your money than hiring whoever proofed this ad.

# 9) The Titanic travels through time.

Photo via Poynter

A caption in the Ottawa Citizen gets the dates wrong for both the Titanic’s launching and sinking, placing both in modern times. It’s an easy mistake, I guess, considering how often the Titanic has been involved in time travel scenarios, hosting everyone from the cast of Time Bandits to the kids in the Magic Tree House books series. (A friend of mine says that no wonder the Titanic sank -- it was loaded up with time travelers.)

#8) The AP calls Jill Kelley a socialist.

A later-corrected story Associated Press story on the General Petraeus scandal referred to Jill Kelley as a socialist rather than a socialite. The story was picked up by a slew of media outlets before a correction was made.

#7) One in three black men did what?

Hypervocal called it “the greatest typo/correction in internet history.” It’s certainly one of the most cringe-worthy. Writer Amanda Hess’ failure to add an n to the word men led to the line “One in three black men who have sex with me in the District is HIV-positive.”

While this was my favorite typo of the year with a prurient bent, it was by no means the only one. Those who don’t have delicate sensibilities might also enjoy this commencement foul-up, a shocking sports injury, and a headline typo that turned a baseball player into a pretty sick fetishist.

#6) Misspelling makes a Vegas sheriff more like a plumber.

Photo via LAWeekly

Just one rogue letter t made the LA Times into the butt of jokes. The author of the article said that “butt cracks” did not appear in the copy he submitted. He’s not upset with anyone, though, admitting that the copy editors "have saved my ass so many times."

#5) The Daily Mail thinks it was about time Etta James died.

An absence of quotation marks completely changes the tone of the UK’s headline about singer Etta James’ death. “At Last singer Etta James dies” was later changed to something more somber-sounding, but not before it was saved for posterity, thanks to the power of the screenshot.

It’s a little reminiscent of the joke headline from The Onion’s book Our Dumb History: "Proust finally dies."

#4) Romney loves Amercia, and Amercians run with it.

Campaign typos weren’t confined to any one party, but the Romney campaign’s gaffe certainly ended up as the butt of the most jokes. The campaign’s mobile app encouraged voters to photograph themselves with superimposed templates saying “I’m with Mitt.” One of the template choices read “A Better Amercia,” leading tons of people to take and share joke photographs, not to mention a Tumblr blog devoted to the collection of “Amercia” photos. 

#3) The Brattleboro Reformer goes for the Triple Crown.

A local Vermont paper subscribes to the philosophy that if you’re going to do a thing, do it big. The “Let is snow” headline repeated the same typo three times in gigantic type, on the front page, no less, without a single staff member noticing. Gawker says that the Reformer has a history of laughable gaffes, once running a headline about a nativity collector which read “Away in a manager.”

#2) A correction needs correcting. 

The Toronto Sun misspelled “correction” when making a correction. No word on whether or not they issued another correction, or if, in fact, the paper is still caught in a never-ending series of correction-making.

#1) Thou shalt not forget to proofread.

If you think it’s embarrassing to make an error in a headline, try being the guy who makes a typo when carving in a giant slab of granite for posterity. Actually, try being the guy who makes three typos (carvos?).

The monument in question was installed (for a total cost of $20,000) at the Oklahoma State Capitol, and it wasn’t long before observers noticed the misspelling of both “sabbath” and “maidservant,” as well as a missing apostrophe. A rep for the memorial company blamed Old English and the fact that people aren’t used to it, not realizing that the King James translation used on the monument is well past both Old and Middle English, and is in fact Early Modern English.

If it were Old English it would look like this, which is a pretty far cry from “Thou shalt not steal”:

Noticed any typos lately? Share the wealth.

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  1. BWAAAAAAH one in three black men who have sex with me

    Priceless. Almost better than the Amercia one, but I'd heard that one and hadn't heard the me/men one.

    Gonna giggle about this all day. :)

  2. Saw this post mentioned on Bill Crider's blog and had to check it out. Wow what a great list! Shared on Twitter.

  3. A judicious use of "ostensibly" there. If you believe in copy editors, it has been a while since you were in a newsroom.