Thursday, March 19, 2015

Proof-Reading Redux

I got asked a while back about my "obsession" with typos and so on. Well, sometimes typos have expensive consequences: here are a few examples at Mental Floss. I have a memory, but cannot run it down, of legal papers settling a dispute that were filed and finalized with a typo that reduced a very large award by 90%, as well.

It's also true that I have a strong professional interest in accuracy. I really don't want some piece of expensive equipment damaged or a software installation hosed because I screwed up in a document.

Here's a comparatively minor example from the Times, an error in the obit for trainer Allen Jerkens:
Although known to fans as the Giant Killer, Mr. Jerkens, not given to hyperbole, preferred the more simple tag Chief, as he was called by track insiders. His horses won more than 3,800 races and garnered nearly $1.3 million in purses.
So I would hope that those numbers would raise the eyebrows of anyone who knows something about horse racing: 1.3 million divided by 3,800 = $342 and change. That won't keep a racehorse in oats and a barn for a week, and I sent email to the author alerting him to the issue. It's now been corrected, and Jerkens's horses' correct winnings are actually around $104 million, a much more impressive number.

I give the Times a break on this kind of thing; it is impossible to be 100% accurate in a fast-paced production environment where you publish a small book's worth of material on a daily basis. It's harder to give breaks to, for example, an opera company whose professionally written and produced program notes identify Liu, the seconda donna in Turandot, as a mezzo-soprano role.*

Updated: I fixed a typo.
Update 2: I added some snark.

* I'm looking at you, San Francisco Opera. This was a couple of bring-ups ago.

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