by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
The Husband says I’m weird. I prefer fanciful. That does not, however, change the fact there are some things out there that we cannot explain and which we definitely cannot control. In other words, my friends, the Typo Gremlin is real. He’s out there and he’s both malign and sneaky. I give it the masculine pronoun, as it is changeable, sometimes irrational and very dictatorial. It doesn’t matter what you do – edit, re-edit, get multiple professional editors galore and still that sneaky little devil will get around everything and embarrass you.
When I was still a child I started working in my parents’ advertising agency. Even then I was the picky sort, and one of my jobs was to proof-read the ads we put out. Being commercially oriented instead of consumer, our ads were both word-dense and generally boring, so that was a time-consuming job. Of course I wasn’t the only proof-reader – before an ad went out just about everyone in the office had looked it over – but in spite of that the Typo Gremlin would still have his way. We’d see the mistake – usually in 30 point type – right after the bazillion copy print run was completed.
When I was most definitely not a child I was editor in chief of first one multi-magazine publishing group and then later another; wherever I was, though, didn’t make a difference. The Typo Gremlin always managed to find me. The first group I worked for had been plagued with a slipshod editor who apparently didn’t care what the magazines looked like. I had been brought on board to bring the group up to snuff. Needless to say, it was not always a pleasant process, but after an issue or two I had pretty much everything looking better and under control. Except the Typo Gremlin.
The first issue of my editorship was a disaster; the second one was much better and by the third we were putting out a product I could be proud of. From the first day I instituted a law that even after our proofreaders had looked over everything no board went to the printer unless it had my initials on it.
And in spite of that the sneaky little Typo Gremlin still made his presence known, dancing through every issue, sometimes leaving one, or maybe two mistakes – though by the second issue they were usually little ones. Being a firm believer in turning a weakness into a strength I finally gave in and made a partner of the wee beastie, running a permanent contest that whoever found a typo in any one of our magazines (that group published three) would win a prize. The prizes were little – a yearly subscription, one of the little booklets we produced on everything from gardening to fortunetelling – but our readership soared and our ad revenue went through the roof. It was so successful that I carried the idea to my next publishing group, where we had the same results.
So, as odd as it sounds, your enemy can become your friend if you play things right. Even a Typo Gremlin.