Tag Archives: Quality control


I misspelled misspellings in all capital letters on purpose.

Today is Easter, 2018. Last night I went to the Easter vigil at my church—a beautiful service, but hard on an editor. The printed order of worship contained the word SOLENMN in all capital letters. The misspelling wasn’t half as distressing as knowing a likely contributing cause: Microsoft Word’s default spellcheck setting of “Ignore words in UPPERCASE.”

If you’re using Microsoft Word, you can find this setting under the proofing options. I solenmnly urge you to turn it off.


Don’t ditch the system when things get tight

One thing I learned many years ago from a company called EEI (originally Editorial Experts Inc.), where I worked as a temp and later as an instructor, was “Don’t ditch the system when things get tight.” To maintain quality in publications, you have to have a system—that’s why it’s called “quality control.” Quality doesn’t just happen; it happens because we maintain control. We run a spellcheck and we use checklists as part of a system, for example.

However, you’ve probably found that publications production can fall behind schedule, with copy arriving late, changes to layout, or things totally out of your control such as severe weather or a power outage. That’s when it’s tempting to skip the quality control system. As Charlotte Brontë wrote in Jane Eyre, “Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation.” Or as the character General Lee said in the film Gettysburg: “Things will get out of control … That is why we have orders.”

When things get out of control, don’t give in to the temptation to skip quality control.


Real Quotations: Einstein’s revered name

A new quote on my website with a picture of the source:

“Some people think that Albert Einstein’s name is magical. If they want to convince you of something or sell you something they invoke his revered name to prove that a genius agrees with whatever proposition they are peddling.”

—In a question submitted to the Quote Investigator, Oct. 31, 2011

Steve’s Hall of Shame: It’s Protection, Buster*

Customs and Border Protection. This caption appeared on U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Flickr page.

Don’t let this happen to you: As my editorial checklist says (and yours should say it too): Check repeated information. If the agency’s name is given in two places, is the name the same? That sentence didn’t need two periods at the end either. Further advice for all employees, not just editors: memorize the name of your employer.

* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.

Hiking trial

A hiking trial? Sounds like a grueling hike. This caption was in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Free Lance–Star on Feb. 23, 2017.

Don’t let this happen to you: Maintain a list of “bad words”—words that probably shouldn’t be in your documents but that a spellchecker won’t catch. Search for these words as part of copyediting. Trail happens to be in my own list but in reverse: that is, trial is more likely to appear in the work I edit, and trail is more likely to be a typo.

Steve’s Hall of Shame:* A decadent headline

p>No, 50 years is not half a decade, it’s half a century.

Or is decade going the way of decimate? A lot of people now use decimate to mean not “reduce by a tenth” but “reduce by a lot.” Does decade no longer mean “ten years” but “a lot of years”? I’m just kidding. I hope this doesn’t happen to decade. And what would half of a lot be anyway?

It reminds me of Chico Marx in The Cocoanuts explaining to Groucho why a real estate lot is too much: “Sometimes you no got enough, it’s too much, you gotta whole lot. Sometimes you got a little bit. You no think it’s enough, somebody else maybe thinks itsa too much, itsa whole lot too. Now, itsa whole lot, itsa too much, itsa too much, itsa whole lot … same thing.”

Decade, decimate, itsa whole lot, same thing.

This was in the Fredericksburg, Va., Free Lance–Star on Jan. 26, 2017.

Don’t let this happen to you: This didn’t need an editor to catch it. It just needed somebody who was paying attention.

* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.

Slow as Manasses

In the Virginia Railway Express Ride magazine, November 2016, the chart says both “Manassas” (the correct spelling) and “Manasses.” (Maybe they meant “molasses”?)

Don’t let this happen to you: First, run a spellcheck. My copy of Microsoft Word recognizes Manassas but flags Manasses as misspelled. Second, check repeated information—and here we have the name of a city repeated twice but spelled two ways.