On Writing – The Writer’s Nemesis . . . Oh Those Dredded Typoz
Yes, I misspelled the title on purpose. I’ve had a busy few weeks, and I confess that I’ve been a bit careless on my posts. Not too long ago I sent one out, and it had a typo in the first few lines. THE HORROR. I’m thankful that you can ‘edit’ blogs even after they are out for the world to see. Seven hours after it posted, the hubs mentioned the mistake almost in passing as he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Besides wanting to strangle him for not saying something sooner (but I didn’t think that would end the night well), I also wanted to crawl under my duvet and never write a blog post again. OK – so obviously I moved on . . . but I did have flashbacks of my job in PR/Marketing where I first met my enemy – the DREADED TYPO.
After getting my BA in Journalism/Communications at university, my first job in marketing threatened to be added to a list of things I hate like creepy spiders and slimy okra. Actually, it was a person (not the job), a woman I called ‘Crouching Tiger’. She was my boss, and she liked to pounce. Jumping on her prey was usually unexpected, unless you knew you had messed up; in fact, she was the queen of lavishing praise which made it worse when the ‘pouncing’ happened.
One minute you ruled the world of marketing; the next, you were quite uncertain whether you were still employed. Her moods coloured the department, and when they were dark, no one dared to enter her cave. I had been in the department for several months before I had my first encounter with her, so for a while I thought it was only a myth. I was wrong.
One afternoon, ‘Crouching Tiger’ called me into her icy, dimly lit office. She suffered from hot flashes and kept the temperature slightly above Arctic conditions. Shivering, I sat small in my chair.
‘Yes, Mary, you called me in? I finished all the projects from yesterday,’ I said, hoping for a little approval.
‘Oh, good, Jeannie. I can always count on you can’t I?’ she replied with a manipulative gleam in her eye. ‘I have an emergency, and you are just the person for the job.’
Mary described a simple but urgent task of creating temporary signs for a new building. High-up administrative types were taking a tour the next morning, and the actual signs had not arrived.
‘Right away, Ma’am,’ I replied. ‘I will have it done by the end of the day.’
It was a quarter to five, and I didn’t want to stay late. Mary closed up her office to go home as I entered my tiny cubicle. I made paper signs from the list she had given me, and I drove over to put them up on the new site. Proud of myself, I went back to my flat, bragged to my housemate and dreamt of the coming raise I was sure to receive.
The next morning, I got in earlier than everyone else in hopes of continuing to impress the boss. The door was ajar, but I noticed none of the other co-workers had arrived. On my desk sat several scrunched up balls of paper, the signs I had made the evening before. I swallowed, my stomach began its slow descent to my feet, and sweat appeared in beads beneath my fringe.
I had to wait until after lunch to be fed to the tiger. She called me into her lair, and I received the humiliating tongue-lashing about what I had figured out on my own: I hadn’t used spell check. The word most prominently used on the signs was ‘administration’, and my version had an extra ‘i’.
I recovered from ‘Crouching Tiger’ that day; she was no longer a myth and I’d had firsthand experience of being devoured. I barely escaped by keeping my job but, for years I obsessively used spell check on every document I typed. And typos became my writer’s nemesis.
I’m probably going to pursue an MA in Creative Writing next year. When I was chatting with a lecturer in the department on specific scholarships, he told me the sad story of a woman who almost received a full scholarship but a typo in the first sentence cost her thousands of pounds in funding. Ouch.
So may we continue to fight our noble wars against the always present nemesis, the unyielding typo, with spell check, grammarly, and the old-fashioned weapon of going through your piece a bizzillion times.
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