Rantings of a sub-editor

February 23, 2010

The inner pervert

Filed under: the inner pervert,word choice — substuff @ 9:30 am
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Lurking Tourette’s syndrome: we all have it. My keyboard expressed it for me on Friday, by omitting the crucial ‘o’ in “the opportunities are countless”. Yes, the crucial ‘o’ – not either of the ones in ‘opportunity’. Anyway, now I have my shiny new keyboard (which is disappointingly silent and cannot be clattered upon, no matter how hard I bash), I’m safe – right?

Wrong!

In the words of Sage Davies: “We all have it latently and our subconscious is constantly trying to express it.”

It’s true. The BBC had a ‘pubic’ on its homepage the other day, where it should have had a ‘public’. And a member of our subs desk recently transformed Richard Pennycook into Richard Pennycock in a headline (rectified before publishing – and no comment, one presumes, on Mr Pennycook).

That same person – let us not dillydally over what may or may not be weighing upon his/her mind – also recently wrote the following headline. Bear in mind this is in nice big print and the eye takes in the first line first…

Shuddering over past cock-
ups and mistakes? They
formed your best training

This was, I think wisely, changed to the following:

Shuddering over previous
cock-ups and errors? They
formed your best training


Last week, in his online Q&A, The Times’ chief revise editor Richard Dixon admitted:

At the Telegraph, I innocently wrote a cricket headline: “Willey stands firm for unbeaten 97”. It is memorable, at least to me and the poor chief sub who let it through.

And the chief sub here owns up to having had a rather red-faced moment as a trainee at the Reading Chronicle:

Willy gets cocky

It was a story about a little boy – called William – who dressed up as a chicken for a birthday party. Luckily, the proofreaders intervened.

The conclusion? Whether you know it or not, you have an inner pervert just waiting to get out. And the less you look like one on the outside, the more embarrassing it will be when it happens. How to avoid it? Put your dirty head on and look again!

Finally, I couldn’t resist. The cock-up headline was just begging to be rewritten as a haiku – you know it. So, here’s my offering:

Shuddering over
Cock-ups and errors now past?
They were your training.

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