I'm not perfect, in writing or in anything else. There are errors on this website, maybe even on this page. But I try to do the right thing. I can't stand people who don't try to do the right thing, or don't care, or won't correct errors, or have very low standards for what constitutes "good enough."
I am frequently amazed at the mistakes I find in books, maps, websites, newspapers and magazines that could have and should have been easily avoided, or corrected later.
I used to write letters when I found a mistake, but I've stopped.
An employee at a map publisher that showed non-existent streets through many annual editions, told me that they'd sell just as many inaccurate maps as accurate ones, so there was no reason to improve.
A lot of the errors I've found are somewhat esoteric or technical in nature, and I have the feeling that editors assume that the author was an authority who should be trusted. That's often not the case.
When I read books, I often mark errors I find, and I record the page numbers in the back of the book. I never had a plan to do anything with my evidence of incompetence, but now I have a place to put it — this page.
I hope readers will notice my errors and tell me about them. Unlike the map maker, I will fix them. Thanks.
In the 6/22/08 issue of The New York Times, there's an article about the Mad Men TV series. Writer Alex Witchel says that Matthew Weiner, the show's creator, producer and writer "approves every actor, costume, hairstyle and prop." Entertainment Weekly said there's "a team of researchers who ensure period accuracy on all fronts."
Weiner goofed on one prop. The suburban New York bedroom of the main character Don Draper has a GTE Starlite phone in a color chosen to go with the green velvet headboard. Unfortunately, in the 1960s, that headboard would have been located in AT&T territory, not GTE territory. And since this was before a Supreme Court ruling that allowed freedom of phone use, it would have been illegal to use that phone.
The February 2009 issue of Automobile magazine said that Thomas Edison said, "Mr. Watson, come here." Actually, Edison was the guy with the light bulb, moving pictures, phonograph and concrete houses. Alex G. Bell was the one who spoke to Watson on the first telephone.
Outskirts Press publishes books for writers who can't or don't want to be published by traditional publishing companies. Its publishing packages include editing services, but the company's own publications can use better editing.
On the second page of the foreword to Self Publishing Simplified, Outskirts Press boss Brent Sampson refers to "off-set" printing, with a hyphen between the "off" and the "set." The term also appears on four other pages in the book.
That's a really stupid error, especially for a book publisher.
The correct term is "offset," and it's been that way for over 100 years since offset printing was invented by Ira Rubel in Nutley, New Jersey.
On his company's website, Sampson urgers writers to use an editor and he says, "Errors in your writing cause readers to question your credibility." I question his.
The back-of-book bio says Sampson is an "accomplished artist and writer." His personal website has a stupid typo: "earn up to tens-of-thousands a dollars." So far I'm not impressed with his writing accomplishments.
The book has a foreword written by Sampson -- which goes against the book publishing rules I've learned. Forewords are not supposed to be written by the author. Sampson should have called it a preface or an introduction or hired someone else to write the foreword.
According to Sampson, "Peter Mark first published the Thesaurus in 1852," strangely ignoring the much more famous Peter Roget who published his Thesaurus in the same year. Actually Mark was the middle name of Peter Mark Roget, so Sampson was two-thirds right.
A special Lifetime Achievement Award must go to my nearby New Haven Register. It's hard to find an issue without a blooper, including misspelled words in giant headlines. One of my all-time favorite issues had two different dates printed on two pages. Another issue dealt with a Civil War veteran who died in the 1700s. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Another Lifetime award goes to a whole class of people, all those writers and editors who misspell the name of the audio equipment company as Harman-Kardan. It's KardOn. This has been going on for 40 years or more and will probably never stop. The error is common in electronics magazines and newspaper ads, and Google shows nearly 5,000 online bloopers.
And as long as I'm talking about advertising, here's a loud BOO to Danbury Porsche-Audi, who did radio commercials that mispronounced "Porsche." Unlike English, in German, the final "e" is pronounced. It's "por-sha," not "porsh."
Another car commercial BOO goes to Jaguar, recently sold by Ford to Tata Motors of India. There are different ways of pronouncing the name of the car, on each side of the Atlantic; but the pronunciation should at least be consistent within a commercial. I heard one that spoke of both "jag-you-were" and "jag-waah."
Every November, without fail, at least one talking head on TV will refer to the Macy's Day Parade. The name of the holiday is Thanksgivings Day, and the event in Manhattan is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, you idiots!
Another common New York broadcast blooper, at least for beginning broadcasters, is Port of Authority. The real name of the organization is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And as long as I'm being a stickler for accuracy, there is no such thing as 12AM during the day; and the nighttime 12 could be considered to be either AM or PM. It's much better to say 12 noon or 12 midnight. The "m" stands for "meridiem," the Latin word for the half way point in the day. The "a" is from the Latin word "ante," meaning "before," and the "p" is from "post," meaning after.
From Wikipedia: Since the word meridies means noon or midday, it is, strictly speaking, illogical to refer to noon as either "12AM" (12 ante meridiem, 12 hours before noon) or as "12PM" (12 post meridiem, 12 hours after noon. On the other hand, midnight could logically be called either "12PM" (12 post meridiem, 12 hours after the previous noon) or "12AM" (12 ante meridiem, 12 hours before the following noon). In the United States, largely because of the preponderance of digital clocks and computers, which change from AM to PM (and vice versa) when changing the hour from 11 to 12, noon is often called "12:00PM" and midnight "12:00AM", as at the beginning of a day.
Strangely, this common usage is contrary to the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual, which recommends the opposite: "12PM" for midnight and "12AM" for noon.
It would be much easier if we all used 24-hour "military time."
For some unknown reason, Newsweek seems to be much sloppier than Time magazine. Many issues of Newsweek include a correction paragraph in the letters section with a "Newsweek regrets the error" statement.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Orange County Choppers: The Tale of the Teutuls by Keith & Kent Zimmerman has silly geography errors. It's disturbing that three Teutuls plus two Zimmermans plus fact checkers and editors at Warner Books could let obvious errors get printed.
On page 11, Paul Senior talks about his parents charging people to park in their driveway on Cooper Street in Yonkers, to watch horse races in Yonkers Raceway or baseball games in Yankee stadium, which were within "walking distance."
While the track is just a few blocks away, the stadium is about 8.5 miles south. The 17 mile round trip is not "walking distance" for most people. I hope he calculates more precisely while building bikes.
Twice on page 15, Senior mentions his house in "Muncie", New York. Muncie is in Indiana. The Teutuls lived in MONSEY (which is pronounced like Muncie). --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In Against the Odds. Inter-Tel: the First 30 Years, author Jeffrey L. Rodengen claims that in the early 1970s, "there were no domestic phone system manufacturers except AT&T.
He inexplicably ignores GTE (with roots going back to 1892), Stromberg-Carlson (1894), ITT (1897), Northern Telecom (founded in 1895 in Canada and operating a US factory since 1972), and Rolm (1969). Jeff also misspells company names, and seems to confuse intercom systems with phone systems.
In Desperate Networks by Bill Carter, an otherwise excellent book, there is this strange sentence on page 366: "What do expect for this?" What the heck does that mean? There's also sloppy editing a little earlier on page 359, where it says "...Les could get eventually get control of the studio." I'm only an amateur, but I found these flubs. Where are the pros who get paid to find and fix them?
In So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star by Jacob Slichter, another book I liked very much, there's also some silly stuff. On page 237 it says, "...and did whatever the man in the headsets shouted at them to do." I've been using and selling headsets for years. I've even designed a few. But in all my experience, I've never seen a man who wore more than one headset at a time. Most men have two ears, and one headset will take care of both them just fine.
Steve Vogel's The Pentagon, a History is an extremely good book and I recommend it highly. Alas, it, too, seems to have some imperfections. On page 302 Vogel describes a 1,000-foot-long vehicular tunnel illuminated by rows of neon lights. Neon lights are used for signs. I'd bet $20 that the tunnel was really illuminated by fluorescent lights. On page 276 Vogel says the original Pentagon phone system had "68,600 miles of trunk lines." I'd bet $100 that's not true.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joshua Levine's The Rise and Fall of the House of Barneys is a very interesting retail history that details the destruction of a once-powerful institution by the dysfunctional family members that followed its founder. (At least it's very interesting to me, and I read a lot of retail histories.)
On page 147 we are told that "inventory shortage is the term applied to discrepancies between the inventory recorded as sold and the actual depletion of stock on hand." The proper term is "shrinkage," not "shortage." Retailers know this, and so should writers and editors doing a book about retailing.
On page 186, Levine mentions "people called factors," who advance payments to stores based on accounts receivable. It's possible that hundreds of years ago factors were individual people, but during the Barneys era, factors have been companies.
On page 244, Levine tells us that Fred Pressman "didn't have the kichas for it... a Yiddish expression for intestinal fortitude." The proper term is kishkes. This error is unforgiveable for a writer with a name like "Joshua Levine." The word originally meant "intestines," and is now slang for "guts."
In a Wall Street Journal article published on April 2, 2008, Amy Schatz wrote, "The Carterfone rule required traditional wireline phone companies such as AT&T to allow consumers to use any phone they wanted in their homes, instead of renting or buying a phone from their local carrier."
The Carterfone decision was in 1968, but at that time the phone companies were renting, not selling phones to their customers. Sales did not come until much later, probably in the 1980s, as a defensive reaction to retailers who were selling phones that could now be legally plugged in. (Disclaimer: some smaller phone companies may have sold some equipment earlier, but not the Bell System.)
Actually, the Carterfone decision did not permit massive private phone ownership. That was enabled by a Supreme Court decision in 1977. And even then, people could not "use any phone they wanted." Phones had to meet FCC standards (basically dictated by AT&T), or else they had to be connected behind a protective coupler device.
Back on December 12, 1988, the New York Times published an article by Calvin Sims about the aftermath of the 1984 Bell System breakup. Sims wrote, "consumers have to decide whether to buy their telephones or rent them in a market where dozens of telephone manufacturers offer equipment of varying quality." While that statement was true, it had absolutely nothing to do with the demise of the Bell System. As I stated above, freedom of choice goes back to 1977.
Sims also wrote, "Consumers must choose among the nation's three long-distance carriers - American Telephone and Telegraph, MCI Communications, and U S Sprint." While those three companies had captured the majority of the long distance calling business, there were dozens of other regonal, national, and international competitors, including ITT, Metromedia, RCI, TDX and Allnet. And if consumers did not want to make a choice, a long distance carrier could be assigned arbitrarily by the local phone company. Also, long distance competition existed as far back as 1970, long before the Bell breakup.
Sometimes reporters and editors get into trouble when they think they understand what someone said, but they really didn't understand.
Years ago, theNew York Daily News reported on a teenage fashion trend: "wearing pumice."
In reality, high school kids were not wearing lumps of volcanic rock that are normally used as an abrasive to remove calluses from feet. They were wearing Pumas, a brand of sneakers.
The Essential Guide to Telecommunications by Annabel Z. Dodd does a pretty good job covering the subject, but has some silly errors. On page 40 she says, "Rotary telephones, called 500 sets, were introduced in 1896." Actually the 500 model designation was not used until after World War 2. Before that were the 300, 200 and others.
Because the letters on Linotype keyboards used for printing presses were arranged by letter frequency, ETAOIN SHRDLU were the first two vertical columns on the left side. Linotype operators who made a typing error could not easily delete it, and had to finish the line before they could re-key a new one. Since the line with the error would be discarded and its contents didn't matter, the quickest way to enter enough letters to finish it was to run a finger down the keys, creating a nonsense phrase.
Occasionally, however, the phrase would be overlooked and get printed erroneously, as in the example above from The New York Times of 15 February 1967. (from Wikipedia)