Still Living in Fear of the Dreaded Typo

Any of us who do any kind of writing — for fun, for occasional income, or as a full-time living — have our own personal horror stories involving typos … typographical errors. They’re easy to create – all it takes is inadvertently hitting the wrong letter on the keyboard – and damn hard to spot. Sometimes impossible. At least until it’s too late.

It’s not so bad if you accidentally type witg instead of with. Most of the time, even proofing quickly, you eye will spot something glaring like that.

But what if the typo actually makes some king (not kind) of sense? Not so easy to spot.

My personal horror story goes back many years when I was working at Iolani School in Honolulu, one of Hawaii’s top private schools. I had multiple responsibilities, one of which was writing and editing the Iolani Bulletin, the quarterly magazine that was mailed to parents, alumni and friends of the school. It was, if I may say so, a good looking publication and, as a matter of fact, it won top prize in statewide competition on two occasions.

One issue featured a special report by the headmaster, which was included as in insert bound into the center of the magazine. Close to the beginning of the report, to give it the import it deserved, the headmaster had written the following sentence (reproduced here as accurately as I can remember):

“Thanks to the efforts of countless alumni, parents and friends, Iolani’s new science center is now a reality.”

Unfortunately, my own personal little typo caused his words to appear in print as “ … our new science center is not a reality.”

I personally spent a good part of that weekend blacking out the word “not” in 12,000 magazines with a marking pen, thus causing the sentence to say simply that “… Iolani’s new science center is (black blob here) a reality.” The headmaster was mollified, but remained very displeased.

I am still scarred from that experience and will probably have trouble getting to sleep tonight.