The tragedy behind typos
Madison Dennis Editor in Chief
Last Thursday, I went from class to class cringing, expecting to be accosted by faculty and students about the several typos and misspellings the Collegio published.
Nope. I mentioned the errors to several people, citing my embarrassment. The consensus? Big deal. We didn’t notice – hardly anyone will. We know what you meant. It wasn’t in a headline or anything, just let it go.
This complacency, this attitude of “good enough” is a literal epidemic in our generation. It’s everywhere – on campus, on Facebook, on marquees, on restaurant menus. The correct order and presence of letters in words is no longer sacred. It’s a free-for-all of phonetics and text slang. It’s lazy.
For example, the Student Rec Center frequently posts signs with missing letters or misspelled words. When the weights area is being worked on, the SRC is sorry for the “incovenience.” When using a machine with a television, you are reminded that the TV doesn’t work unless the headphones are “pluged” in. When wiping down the machines after you use them, the SRC reminds you that as long as the wipe is moist, it is effective, according to the “manufacture.”
Not everyone can spell very well. Perfect spelling is for nerds and technical writing majors. That’s not the point. The point is that there is a noticeable lack of concern for details, small things that would make something good something great. Pitt State is a great campus, with modern facilities and lots of perks. Something like spelling errors in the campus newspaper or professors who don’t deduct points for incorrect grammar is not going to change that. However, it’s not going to do anything to improve our plight. And my peers are right – hardly anyone notices. However, the people who do notice, who do care, who do understand the importance of getting the details right – those are the people that Pitt State needs. Unfortunately, these are the people who are going to be put off if we don’t make an effort to tighten up.
Ultimately, you cannot be successful as a person or as a university without recognizing the importance of details – whether it is knowing that your boss hates PowerPoints, or slightly altering your paintings to better appeal to the director of the gallery you’re trying to show in, or spending extra time perfecting your Australian accent in the university play, or double-checking a proof of a newspaper page before you send it to press. I’m as guilty as anyone else is. But it’s time to decide that a “good enough” attitude isn’t good enough and at least make an effort to take advantage of the opportunities we have here at Pitt State.
Besides, you can never trust spell-check.
The devil is in details
Bart Klick Copy Editor
As the copy editor, I am ashamed of the last issue of The Collegio. My friends at the PSU writing club know me as a pedantic jerk, and in the words of my best friend, “Those grammar classes ruined you.” So when I mess up like that, I feel bad whether anyone notices or not.
I’m an English major, and an amateur linguist. Standard English is awesome, but it’s in no way superior to the common tongue. Signs hanging on walls at the gym are there to make people’s lives easier, not to impress academicians. “Pluged” isn’t mistakable for anything other than “plugged.” The sign does its job, and while the typo might be at the expense of our international students who are learning Standard English, the native speakers chuckle and move on, knowing that they need headphones plugged into the TV.
Egregious errors are a problem, particularly in a media outlet that primarily uses text to convey meaning, but anything beyond completely confusing gibberish really is OK. Linguistically, there is no superior language. Does it matter that a sign at the grocer says, “10 items or less?” Standard English says it’s an error, but I don’t see an outcry of the intelligentsia about it, or any threats to use the more grammatically correct store (if it exists) that says, “10 items or fewer,” instead.
As we trust T-9 texting systems to spell for us more and more often, expect the average person’s ability to spell to continue to degrade. And then accept it as the evolution of the English language, not the downfall of humanity.
We stole a significant portion of our language from the other languages around us. Even people who have mastered Standard English have no claim to linguistic high ground. They don’t speak good English; they speak, in the words of one of my favorite English instructors, barbaric Greco-Latin sprinkled with Germanic and Celtic words.
One of my goals in life is to be a professional editor outside of a learning environment. I do understand the social significance of getting our language correct. But I also recognize elitism when I see it. If I were to correct people when I saw them write “real fast” instead of “really fast,” it would make me a jackass who wields his education like a sword.
I guarantee that the person who typed the signs at the Rec Center can do all sorts of amazing feats of athleticism that I could only dream of, such as walking up three flights of stairs without getting winded, or successfully scoring a single point in basketball.
This person does not come to my office and berate me for being out of shape, physically, so why should I go to hers and accuse her of being out of shape, linguistically?