or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, September 18, 2009

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

I guess it's Fashion Week again, or something, because Slate has re-run a couple of pieces from 2004 and 2005 about it. Down at the bottom of the latter piece is the following:

Correction, Feb. 6, 2008: This article originally São Paulo incorrectly. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Your corrections shouldn't need corrections. Your corrections that do somehow need corrections should probably have been corrected more or less at the time they were originally published, so that they aren't still incorrect twenty-one months later.


But this does not surprise me, because here is a sentence from a rather more recent Slate article, this one datelined yesterday, about news coverage of a recent murder at an American university:

Gristly crime stands in disconcerting relief against their vaunted reputations—and the resulting cognitive dissonance has news weight.

There's no way Jack Shafer wrote "gristly" and didn't notice it and submitted the piece for publication and managed to get it published without anyone else noticing, is there? And yet he can't possibly have meant "gristly", can he? He must surely have meant "grisly", right?

I hate it when that happens. I groused once about a writer who used "glowering" instead of, I assume, "glowing". A writer of, say, fiction can use words with vague or multifarious meanings to add richness to their work, but a journalist is expected to write accurately and precisely so that there's no doubt about their intention. It's just barely possible, maybe, that Shafer meant to write "gristly": maybe the crimes in question have lots of cartilage and sinew flung about. But "grisly", which I have covered in some depth here, is (to say the least) much more commonly used to refer to crimes. No, I'm pretty sure it's a simple error on the writer's part--an error which another reader would have caught. After all, this one did.

Once again, it's the sort of mistake that someone might easily make, that a spellchecker won't ever catch, but that an editor of some sort would, which once again points to the short-sightedness of publications in getting rid of any and all editorial oversight as an affront to the bottom line.


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