To Tell Or to Zip It?

By Cyberquill 08/10/201024 Comments

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. (Jesus Christ; Luke 6:31)

It happened again. I perused someone else’s latest blog post, and there it was, in full plumage, staring me right in the face—a typo. How to proceed in this oft-encountered and delicate situation presents the horniest of dilemmas.

Oops. Thorniest. Caught that one myself.

Personally, I find it rather impolite and inconsiderate when a reader detects a typographical error—or, for that matter, a slipshod grammar gaffe or an ungainly English-as-a-second-language-type blooper—in any of my writings and omits to apprise me thereof. Call me anal or whatever popular psycho-babble term of art you deem fitting, but I don’t want any typos on my website.

Spell check provides some protection, but the slip of the finger by the aforementioned blogsmith, for instance, wouldn’t have been picked up by a spell checker: It is better to make a decision and move on that waste precious time trying to get it right. Having struck a wrong key and the result to remain on view for all posterity may not rise to the level of earth-shattering import to that particular author, but given his ostensibly spick-and-span web presence overall, I presume he’d prefer a than to a that.

So to tell or not to tell? Shall I do unto others as they should do to me and face the backlash my Cafeteria Christianity may entail, since all people may not wish to be treated like yours truly?

City of New YorkOf course, anytime I, myself and belatedly, discover a flub of my own making that has been on public display for a long time and—judging from the number of clicks on and responses to the blunder-ridden screed—must have been espied by a minimum of zero plus one set of eyeballs, without interrogating the suspect(s) it is difficult to determine whether my mistake has gone universally unnoticed, or whether it was indeed caught, but the catcher(s) opted to clam up, in which latter case he, she, or they shall be beaten with many stripes. (New York law carries no statute of limitations on premeditated negligence when it comes to typo reporting.)

Paradoxically, aside from sheer indolence, it is the very desire to be polite which drives people into rude and reckless failure to notify. More often than not, this civility fetish stems from the mother of all fears, the mortal terror of rejection, which, in turn, hails from our primal childhood dread of one or both parental units withdrawing their affection from us. Hard to put a number on it, but I would guesstimate that upward of 75% of all human behavior derives from this perennial angst.

Sir Isaac NewtonWhen it comes to sharing typo intelligence, the fear of affection withdrawal is by no means unfounded; and accordingly, all experience hath shewn that few things will land one in the doghouse faster than pointing out—no matter how discreetly and congenially—a scriptural solecism to its perpetrator. Howsoever diplomatically one may couch the tiding, the recipient is apt to interpolate a silent even, thus converting, in his or her conscious or subconscious mind, the most innocuous instance of error notification into a withering You can’t even spell, and an equally withering defensive reaction is bound to ensue (Newton’s Third Law in the context of human interaction).

Thus conscience does indeed make cowards of us all. In order to trim the risk of ending up at the working end of such defense mechanism in response to my good-faith compliance with the Savior’s edict—including but not limited to being cast as some pitiful drip who cannot maintain his brittle sense of superiority but by highlighting little flaws in others (few of us look forward to getting slapped with that diagnosis)—even I occasionally do to others as they should not to me, i.e., I find a typo and leave its maker in the dark about its existence.

TCRs (typo catch-and-runs) are particularly tempting when, as was the case in the example presented at the outset of these remarks, nothing else in a given composition jumps out at me that I feel warrants my input. I intuitively shy away from generic commentary, such as Brilliant post or You moron without supplying specifics. Trouble is, when you’re like me and your middle name is Molasses, specifics require a non-trivial time investment to be wrought into presentable language. Put differently, I may not be in the mood to sit there for two hours and explain specifically what I liked or disliked about what somebody else wrote. I’d rather briefly comment upon some detail that caught my attention.

And sometimes the detail that grabs my attention is a typo—then what? I may have no spontaneous and non-labor-intensive commentary regarding substance, but in the spirit of do unto others I feel a sense of duty to report my discovery, and so my impulse is to do precisely that, no frills attached. Irrespective of how appreciative the author himself may be of my notification, it is a foregone conclusion that at least one follow-up commenter will call me a douche. (In fact, I’ve been appointed a douche twice last week alone, under slightly different yet related circumstances.)

In this particular case, in preparation for giving notice of said typo, I posted a truncated version of all the above in the author’s comment section, the author thanked me, corrected his typo, and thus far no one has called me a douche. Got off lightly this time. Had I skipped sharing my concerns about typo notification and simply gone for a terse and plainspun “Your that should be a than,” the author still would have corrected his typo, but I wouldn’t be expecting flowers in the mail.

Here’s a fascinating example of a slogan conspicuously displayed on the homepage of a somewhat public figure who hosts her own radio show and who frequently appears on national television. At the time of this writing, the following has been posted in this form for at least several weeks (no idea for how long it’s been posted in all):

I suppose President Lincoln holds no posthumous copyright on the sequence of his prepositions, and let’s also ignore the missing serial comma. Serial commas are debatable (AP v. CMS), although I happen to subscribe to the mac & cheese line of argument in their favor.

What strikes me as a mite puzzling, though, is why the purveyor of the site, with her name brightly festooned across the top of every page, fails to be bothered by the capitalization pattern here, if only to head off write-ups like this one by inveterate douche bags like myself. After all, these aren’t just just a couple of plain old typos in a tweet or hidden amongst thousands of characters in an ephemeral blog post. These words are on display for the long haul smack on the cover page of her commercial product, rendered in a deliberately chosen baroque font, and amplified by a flashy red background. (Depending on whether you believe the For should be lower-case or the of and the by should be capitalized, this could be considered one typo or two typos. Given, however, that it says Of, For, and By the People on the lady’s current Twitter page background, for consistency’s sake, I’d say the version on her website features two typos.)

Of course, pursuant to Luke 6:31—and also because the lady had issued a general request for feedback on her new web design—I dutifully reported the capitalization snafu and promptly received this in response:

See what I mean about Newton’s Third Law?

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

Come to think of it, this verse may not apply to the handling of XX carriers. Jesus may have said men for a reason.

One more reason to take the Bible literally.


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  • Peter Practice

    Fantastic! (Gonna type no more for risk of misspelling.)

    • Cyberquill

      Thanks for your kind word. Very much apricciated.

  • Thomas Stazyk

    Great post. You sent me straight back to my last to posts in search of typos.

    I am of the school that the cause of most typos is honest mistake, but that the effect is to convey an impression of ignorance, laziness or carelessness. So I’m happy for corrections.

    • Cyberquill

      Your last to posts only? Why not your last tree, for, fife, or sex?

      I am of the school that mistakes due to ignorance, laziness, or carelessness are, in fact, honest mistakes, as there is nothing particularly phony about these qualities.

      • Thomas Stazyk

        LOL how true. I’ve cultivated a life of honest laziness and ignorance come to think of it!

  • jenny
    • Cyberquill

      Indeed I do. I actually came across that article a few weeks ago. People’s book ideas never cease to amaze me.

      Going on a cross-country typo hunt sounds dangerous, though. Pointing out little mistakes is often perceived as an act of hostility expressed as gratuitous nitpicking, so I’d be worried about scoring a load of buckshot upon approaching a Texan farmer about that extra s on his No Tresspassing sign.

      I once worked at a NYC restaurant on Ninth Avenue, and on the menu in the window, instead of Parma Prosciutto, it literally said Parma Prostitute for months. Even upon being alerted, the owner showed very little urgency to take corrective action.

      Talk about typopathy.

  • Richard

    You won’t object, therefore, if I pull you upon the spelling of, say colour, favourite, thru …

    • Richard

      Alright, put the comma in.

      • Richard

        All right, put the comma in.

        • Cyberquill

          Color. I said it. What comma? And what does it mean to “pull somebody upon”? I’m not familiar with this particular idiot.

          • Richard

            There! U are some body after al.

            • Cyberquill

              I know. She really loved Al. I am but a chunk of meat to hold her over until Al returns.

  • Lauren

    Lol. I like your blog. Simple as that.

    If you happen to visit my site and find a typo (or a myriad errors), please don’t judge me (*fears rejection, and humiliation*). I still have many rounds of editing to go; however, please do inform me because I, too, want that done unto me…lol.


    • Cyberquill

      You want it to? Maybe we could share a therapist and get a discount.

      • Lauren

        Do you still work as an editor? And if so, what’s your rate?

        • Cyberquill

          No and none. Never really worked as an editor except for a brief gig at a magazine where I was tasked with turning soporific press releases about fundraisers into entertaining little articles; sort of an editing/writing hybrid deal.

          • Lauren

            Oh, I see. I almost tried to hire you to proofread my editing site (I often miss my own mistakes), lol. Well, I thought about attempting to hire you then wondered where I’d get the money. Haha.

            Anyway, great site. Will return.

  • Glittered Cupcakes

    lol silly pantz ..

    • Cyberquill

      …, ma belle,
      Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble,
      Très bien ensemble …

  • Brighid

    I have just reasoned via your post that my typos Are due to ignorance, laziness, and carelessness. Thank you for the enlightenment, I shall try to correct them in the future.

    • Cyberquill

      I’ve been puzzling over your capital Are for a little over 72 hours now, and I officially give up.

  • Kara Peters

    This is absolutely beautiful. In every possible way, it is exactly what I needed today (aside from, perhaps, a nice gin cocktail and some calorie-free chocolate-covered fruit).

    I happened upon your blog via; I am suddenly and eternally grateful for my mind’s previously frustrating inability to come up with another synonym for “protection”…

    Get ya’ll’s mind outta the gosh-danged gutter; the article’s about car insurance. 😉

    Wonderful blog. Thank you.

    • Cyberquill

      Obviously, protection is the best insurance against getting knocked up in a car. What do you mean by “gutter”? And where do you get calorie-free chocolate-covered fruit? At the frictionless ramp store?

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