RICHARD ORD: To err is human and part of the job description
Had a letter from a reader this week praising Yours Truly for spreading a little light and laughter into his life.
A satisfied customer! We should have him stuffed (copyright: Fawlty Towers).
While it’s always nice to hear kind words, they rarely arrive without caveats.
A bit like praise at home. “Thanks for cleaning the kitchen Richard. Just the bedrooms left to do…”
Or “Thanks for cooking the tea. Would you like me to tell you where we keep the salt and pepper for next time?”
Or the classic: “You look good … for your age.”
Though, I hasten to add, I don’t even get the last one these days.
So it came to pass that Lancelot (not his real name) couldn’t help but, while praising my work in his letter, have a dig at the spelling mistakes and dodgy headlines he had spotted in the paper.
His sentiments are shared by many readers (not the praise for Richard Ord, that truly is a rarity, but the concern for errors).
He said: “In fact reading these articles and finding the best mistakes gives as much pleasure as the puzzle pages.”
Ken, I’ll let you into a secret, they’re not accidental mistakes … they’re deliberate.
We’ve been in this game long enough to know the value of an error-strewn product. While our professionalism may take a hit, it’s all done for the benefit of the reader.
Dropping in a spelling mistake every four pages is done to make readers, like Lancelot, feel good about themselves.
That feelgood factor can come in the shape of schadenfreude (taking pleasure out of other people’s mistakes), or the simple sense of superiority afforded by reading errors you would never make.
In fact, it is not unusual to be summoned before the editor to explain how a copy had made it onto the streets without any mistakes in it at all!
Poor grammar, wrongly captioned photographs and the occasional split-infinitive are carefully placed onto pages to boost the self-esteem of the reader. When we miss a day, we’re hauled over the coals.
If there’s a week of error-free publications, we have to press the nuclear button to redress the balance … and we publish the wrong crossword (Boom!).
We are nothing if not putting our readers first. First for news, first for entertainment and first for the occasional gaffe to make you feel good about yourself.
So if you do find a mistake in this column or anywhere else in the newspaper today, please, there’s no need to thank me, just doing my job...