Tag Archives: Typos

HSE in typo-ridden, grammer-challenged style guide shocker!

In-house style guides are there to keep publications clear, consistent and accurate so shouldn’t they be proofread for spelling, grammar and punctuation themselves?

You’d think so, but it seems the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland forgot to check its work (or it hired the worst proofreader in the world) when it published a Plain language style guide for documents.

You can see the pretty long list of the errors on the document in Stan Carey’s post: HSE – Who proofreads the proofreaders? There’s also a good discussion going on in the comments.

My experience is that this kind of work can easily fall between the cracks in a big organisation. It is often the comms people who create the copy and the illustrators who lay it out. Technical points or queries about sense will most likely be run past a subject matter expert.

But basic proofreading is often passed on to the person in the department considered to have a good grasp of English. This is like giving the company accounts to someone who likes numbers, or layout to someone who is good at drawing.

Big orgs seem unaware of (or unwilling to prioritise the budget for?) proofreaders. But proofreading is a skill. Not only does it keep spelling, grammar and style points on track but, through accuracy and better readability, it builds trust in the reader.

I’ve only worked for two public sector organisations and both had previously just done the proofing themselves. In some cases, they didn’t do a bad job. But when they saw the level of red pen marks of a qualified proofreader, then they realised the difference between a quick read-though and a proper markup.

Still, the HSE errors are particularly surprising – even an automatic spellcheck should have picked up many of the issues that Stan highlights.

But, yanno, whatevah! I’m sure HSE is not the only outfit in the land with a dodgy style guide. I remember a superbly accurately Radio Times style guide that was completely unusable because it was the size of a doorstep.

Anyway, enough finger-pointing. Here is a LOLcat to rebalance the universe.

Nose abatement – not quite the new Wanky Balls

But still a rather lovely headline typo NOT spotted by the subs of the Birmingham Post and another indicator that inaccuracies can a story make (cf Wanky Balls). It’s getting comments so maybe it will stay. Spotted by Getgood.

Nose abatement headline

See, typos can be good.

Storking the typo-makers

You can publish then edit all you like but, beware, the original may still be ‘out there’ – and there are people willing to spot it, tweet it, snap it, blog it and generally announce it to the world. Like this one from Tom Ackroyd who took a snapshot of a 3News headline typo tonight (since corrected) and uploaded it to Twitpic before tweeting me:

Too heavy for the stalk: newborn weighs in at 6.4kg

Beauty. It makes me think fondly of all those job adverts for sub-editors asking for the ‘ability to spot a literal at 50 paces’.

Even funnier is that the original 50-pace typo spotter uknzguy has pointed out that the error has been immortalised in the URL.

Note to self:  check my permalinks! Thank Buddha, there’s an edit function in WordPress for just this kind of cock-up.

Head: Holy misplaced apostrophe, Batman!

SELL:  Criminals or crusaders for the saviour of the English language – could a cell of the Typo Eradication Advancement League be coming to a sign near you? 

As a fan of futile activities, I say all hail to the Typo Eradication Advancement League, or TEAL for short. This dynamic duo of two 28-year-old typo vigilantes spent their spring break correcting government and private signs across the USA in order to prevent the downfall of the English language.

Unfortunately for poor Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, their subbing of a 60-year-old handpainted sign at Grand Canyon national park has landed them in hot water [cliche: delete] up on vandalism charges. FWAP! And this week, they’ve been ordered to cough up a whacking $3,035 (KERPOW!) to repair the sign, as well as being put on probation for a year (ZAP!) and banned from national parks (meh!).

Oh the split loyalties! Criminal damage versus correcting misplaced apostrophes… I suspect that while the court sentence may put paid to TEAL in its current format, the movement may be driven underground. Judging by the fallout on various forums - here’s one example of the sort of Max Gogarty bashing meets Giles Coren noshing that is going on - it has caught the public imagination.

In fact, I’m thinking of putting a spotlight on my roof with a ‘delete sign’ mask to shine out across the city. You know it makes sense… just hook these guys up with the mayor, Batman-style, to do the dirty work of cleaning up grammar in our cities. They’d have spotted Birmingham City Council’s goof of putting a Birmingham/Alabama skyline on a recycling leaflet for sure. Hell, I’ll even join – I hate sedentary work and what an anti-RSI measure!

Until then, I’ll keep googling ‘apostrophe vandalism’ and keep an eye out for caped crusaders packing Tipp-Ex and Magic Markers at a sign near you – pernicketty correction lives on, people, yes indeed.