Oops: Loosening a personal stricture

I’ve always treated Cites & Insights as “published”–that is, once an issue appears, it doesn’t change. I don’t correct typos or meaningful mistakes. (When the publication moved to the current domain, I revisited each PDF to change the domain name in the masthead, but made no other corrections.)

I’ll stick with that standard for actual errors–cases where I’ve left out a word or said something incorrect. Naturally, I try to do followups when needed, but it’s good to keep the published record intact. And I don’t plan to go back and fix dumb typos in past issues…

But I just replaced the PDF and two of the HTML essays for the current Cites & Insights, and it’s likely that if a similar situation arises in the first week after a new issue’s published I might do the same.

What changed? Three cases where the string “egan” within a word appeared as “Elgan” instead–one “bElgan” instead of “began,” one “elElgant” instead of “elegant,” and one other (I’ve forgotten the string). In no case could an incorrect meaning have been assumed; it just looked stupid. A reader in Australia alerted me to the problem this morning.

Clever people can probably guess what happened…and I really should know better. Here’s the whole silly story:

In an attempt to minimize typos and other errors introduced in the copyfitting process, and to give the material one last read, I now consistently print out an issue after I’ve gotten it to the desired length, let it sit for at least a day, then read the hardcopy as carefully as possible, marking any changes.

In this case, one section of the Kindle & ebooks essay included notes on a Mike Elgan column–and somehow I’d managed to alternate “Elgan” and “Egan” roughly equally throughout the notes. I wasn’t sure which it was, and did the search to verify that it’s Elgan.

Then (ahem) I did a “replace all”–and, duh, forgot to check the “Match case” box.

Actually, I think I had the section of the text highlighted–but I’d also forgotten that one step backward in Word 2007 (from Word 2000, and this may have changed earlier) is that “replace all” no longer limits itself to a highlighted region, asking before going any further. (I can’t find any way to restore that limitation. Anyone out there know of one?)

So there it is: My extra step to minimize errors worked great…except for introducing a few new ones.

It’s good to be perfct. It’s also unsusual.

2 Responses to “Oops: Loosening a personal stricture”

  1. John Miedema Says:

    Having noticed this post, and your later one, “Too Random …”, I found myself wondering somewhat about people’s blog policies on updates and deletions. Personally, I regard my blog as a wiki, meant to be updated. I always correct typos to give the post a more professional polish. On rare occasions, I delete posts that I put up too quickly, and that I think are snarky or otherwise inconsistent with my blog purpose. Every so many months, I delete the stuff I feel has no lasting value (or that has begun to irritate even me). I see it as a weeding or distillation process leading to quality. To me, it is a strength of the web that things can change easily, and I want to take advantage of it.

  2. walt Says:

    Hi John,

    I treat this blog somewhat differently than I treat Cites & Insights, which I regard as a publication–and, as such, “fixed” once it’s published.

    But given that I’m fortunate enough to have a fair number of comments, I also treat this blog as semi-fixed. Which is to say, it wouldn’t occur to me to delete old entries, and when I make changes, they’re almost always  usually clearly marked as changes–with the stupid old text crossed out (but still visible), or with a new section introduced with an Update: flag.

    That’s me. I don’t at all suggest that it’s what anyone else should do. I’m not even convinced I’m “right.” So far, it’s what I’m most comfortable with.

    Almost immediate update: For simple typos, I’m likely just to fix them here. And, in this case, I did the same at C&I. I might do that more often in the future.


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