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Book Review: A Good Laugh at Other People’s Mistakes

Just My Typo: From “Sinning With the Choir” to “The Untied States,” by Drummond Moir, provides lots of hearty laughs. As I read the book last night, I caught myself repeatedly snickering at the errors proofreaders had missed and feeling grateful that I had not made or missed them.

Just My Typo
The jacket copy of the 181-page book describes it accurately as “a charming collection of typographical errors, slips of the pen, and embarrassing misprints.” Below are bits of that collection that made me smile.

From a section called “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You”:

I am a rabid typist.

I worked for 6 years as an uninformed security guard.

As part of the city maintenance crew, I repaired bad roads and defective brides.


From the chapter “To Be or to Be: Typos in Literature”:

Late that same evening after a vain search all around the village, Mary found the dog dead in the garden. She curried the body indoors. [From Life in Barnsthorpe by Patricia Cox]


From the chapter “The Fourth Mistake: Typos in the Media”:

Report: Armstrong Used Rugs [From a CBC News caption about Lance Armstrong’s admission]

Before the verdict was rendered this morning “Miss Mexico” told interviewers that if the court freed her, she would become a nut. [From Chicago Daily Tribune]

He and his wife Gillian, who is a teacher, have three children, Gaven, aged 13 and 11-year-old twins ugh and Helen. [From Orpington News Shopper]


On weddings:

Here the bridal couple stood, facing the floral setting, and exchanged cows. [From Modesto News Herald]

Mr. & Mrs. Garth Robinson request the honor of your presents at the marriage of their daughter Holly to Mr. James Stockman. [From a wedding invitation—I had to look twice to catch the error.]

And they were married and lived happily even after. [From Church World]

Punctuation problems led to many gaffes cited in the book:

Rachel Ray Finds Inspiration in Cooking Her Family and Her Dog. [From Tails magazine cover]

Prudential—were here to help you. [Advertisement for insurance]

The legendary gangster, movie star and sensitive art collector Edward G. Robinson . . . .” [From Guardian Corrections and Clarifications. It should have read “gangster-movie star.”]

And sometimes a simple missing letter made all the difference:

Welcome to Hotel Cosy: Where no one’s stranger.

Text Trust proudly lists “the 15 million we pages spell-checked over the past year.” [From a company press release]

Fresh pain throughout [From a real estate blurb]


Parking will be fine photo


One of the scariest errors was described in a correction slip and press release on the Easy Sky Diving Book:

On page eight, line seven, the words “state zip code” should read—“pull rip cord.”

The chapter “Autocorrect Dystopia: The Future of the Typo” features hilarious text exchanges, all of which are too X-rated for this blog. But I recommend them for a hearty laugh or guilty giggle.

The pubic for public error appears several times. The costliest example involved a ballot proposal on “pubic employment.” Reprinting and distributing the ballots cost $40,000.

The most embarrassing such error appeared on the 2012 commencement brochure of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of “Pubic” Affairs. I strongly recommend that everyone (except medical office staff) add an autocorrection to their grammar and spelling checker, automatically changing every pubic to public.

The book’s “Note to the Reader” gives these instructions:

If during the course of reading this book you think you spot a typo, you haven’t. If you think you might have spotted one all the same, you haven’t.

No typos will be corrected for future editions.

Wouldn’t it be terrific if we could all include such a note on our documents? Maybe, maybe not.

If you would enjoy a quick read with lots of humor, get Drummond Moir’s Just My Typo: From “Sinning With the Choir” to “The Untied States,” published by Three Rivers Press and retailing for US$11.99.




Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

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