When righting news reports, get it write

  • IANS

    IANS | New Delhi

    April 7, 2017 | 8:01 am
GDP

(Getty Images)

I just spelled a word so badly that even autocorrect was like, "Sorry, man, I got nothin'".

But at least it wasn't as bad as my friend who went on a business trip with a staff member and misspelled a postcard to his wife: "Having a lovely time, wish you were her."

The high court in Delhi a few days ago blamed "a typo" after they let a convicted murderer loose. Their judgment sentenced him to "time served" instead of the long stretch of time he should be serving. Police are looking for him, hoping no one will end up with "killed by a typo" as an epitaph.

Luckily, in most cases typos (short for "typographical errors") usually just embarrass reporters and amuse readers.

Going around the Internet this month was an apology from the Morning Sentinel, an Illinois newspaper which printed an article on a church musician: "We reported that Henninger's band mate Eric Lyday was on drugs. The story should have read that Lyday was on drums." What a difference a letter makes.

So does a comma. One of my favourite authors, Ann Patchett, wrote to the editor of the New York Times after it reviewed her book: "The review mentions topics ranging from 'her stabilising second marriage to her beloved dog' without benefit of comma, thus giving the impression that Sparky and I are hitched. While my love for my dog is deep, he married a dog named Maggie at Parnassus Books last summer."

Sometimes we journalists mess up so badly that corrections need corrections. In May, 2015, the US broadcast news station NPR printed this: "In a previous correction on this post, we corrected something that was actually correct. So we have corrected that correction."

Canada's Toronto Sun once misspelled the word "correction" in a one-word headline over a correction: "CORRERCTION".

One type of correction journalists actually like is when complainants demand changes that make them (the complainant) look worse. The Irish Times described a man named Ed Miliano as "a designer and illustrator", but he demanded a correction: "Mr Miliano is an artist."

The best errors conjure up interesting images. Like this one from New Yorker magazine which makes a writer seem like an ageless wizard: "Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the number of years E.B. White wrote for The New Yorker. It was five decades, not centuries."

Or this startling word-picture from the Canberra Standard: "They travelled via the Cape on the Queen Mary, with 10,000 troops and 16 officers sharing a two-berth cabin."

Asian names often puzzle English-speaking reporters, as shown by this correction in the Auckland Star: "Mai Thai Finn is one of the students in the programme and was in the centre of the photo. We incorrectly listed her name as one of the items on the menu."

In our defence, journalists work so fast that errors are inevitable. In December last year, someone at the AP newswire sent out a report on French politics that clearly wasn't ready. "Hollande will/won't seek re-election," the news flash told puzzled readers.

Meanwhile, one of my condescending colleagues always points out everyone else's spelling mistakes. And probably wouldn't like me revealing that he checks his own spelling on Google first. Heh heh heh.

Related Articles