What the L?

A reflection on a typo.

april coverIt’s every editor’s worst nightmare. You’re on deadline. Stress is high. You’re racing toward the goal. Your eyes are crossing as you go over and over and over the material. What if you make an error, a typo – and it gets into print? And what if it gets printed – gulp – on the cover? There isn’t an editor alive who won’t cop to feeling terror, fleeting or otherwise, when taking that first glance at a printed work in its forever form.

You’ll understand then how we felt yesterday at The Writer offices when our April issue arrived and on the cover was the word “storytellling.” Yes, you read it right (and my spell check just tried to correct it). Storytelling with three Ls. We all love a good long story, but by any measure, that’s one L too many. And it gives us one L of a pause.

To start, we apologize to all our readers and subscribers who trust us to be models of the very field we cover in our pages. We abhor errors, celebrate meticulousness and take it seriously when accidents like this happen. Let me assure you: We hold ourselves to very high standards when it comes to rigorous attention to detail.

But this one got by us. And by us, I mean me. Of course our dedicated internal team reviewed and signed off on the cover. But in the end, the error belongs to the chief. I’m the one to blame. I should have caught that errant L.

Our April issue was mailed to subscribers, bookstores and newsstands yesterday. So the horse has left the barn, and we can’t correct the print editions. Our digital versions will have corrected covers. And we encourage you to enjoy the look of the perfectly spelled online version provided here. If you can’t stand the sight of the issue you have, print this out, tape it on and get back to writing.

But also learn from our mistake, please. We live in a fast world. That’s not an excuse or even an explanation. It’s the truth. A successful editor embraces that pace, and still has sharp focus, ruthless vision and an uninterruptable commitment to scrutiny. As a reminder to myself and to all the editors and writers who are wincing while reading this, I humbly offer the following. Slow down. Take breaks. Don’t let the noise in. Don’t let patterns trick you. Add more eyes.

And try not to beat yourself up when bad stuff happens anyway.

There is, after all, a human element to our work regardless of how much muscle the digital imperative has exerted. Frankly, we value that human element, but we also know it’s, well, human.

Please accept my apology for this embarrassing error. The irony of misspelling a word at the very heart of our mission as a magazine about the craft of writing is not lost on me. Or on you, I imagine.

Thanks for sticking with us. And for those of you who stick it to us, we get it. Unequivocally. (Two Ls only.)

4 thoughts on “What the L?

  1. Totally agree. We are all human. I’m not the best proof reader going myself, and I tell everyone that up front. But typos worry me a lot less than grammatical errors. Too bad about it being on the cover, but, you know s%@t happens. I was almost responsible for a spelling error in French on the cover of a national farmer organization’s annual report. Luckily I had someone just take a quick look at the proof and still remember hearing her scream! Three thousand copies of it had already printed, but at least it hadn’t yet been glued onto the book. We were able to reprint the cover.

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