The Rise of the Typo: Mediocrity, the Internet, and What it Memes

I first took note during New York Fashion Week, when a post in The New Yorker, aka that scrupulously edited publication, misspelled Diana Vreeland’s name.


Then I came across another piece that featured both uses of the singular possessive (s’s and s’). (There is some argument amongst grammarians as to the proper usage, but the writer uses both.)



Occasionally fracturing a rule or fragmenting a sentence is OK, especially if you are attempting to write the way people speak, call it an online vernacular, but it feels quite another for language to drift between rules over the course of 300 words. There should be some orthography. It feels, well, slapdash.

Then I caught Ta-Nehisi Coates’, senior editor at The Atlantic, piece on James Baldwin, and stumbled upon this gaffe:

He meant to write, “I don’t want your sister–but if we wanted each other, no one has the right to stop us.” It’s an easy enough mistake to make– often the writer sees the word intended, not the one written– however tragic the error appears in an essay on a great essayist.

You get the point. There are thousands more. Folks often take to task the consistency with which the New York Times prints in error, including front page mishaps. Once you start looking for typos, meerkat alertness takes over and you spot them everywhere, black specks on pristine white shoes, some more mundane than others.

This may feel overly nitpick-ish (especially considering that is not a real word), but it leads me back to the question of standards and the rise of mediocrity, especially in places I previously expected excellence. I don’t blame the authors, nor think it a testament to their intellect or written skill. If you were to peruse our site, you would most certainly find mistakes. I am just one lady with one set of eyes, attempting to edit all content. Therein lies one problem, since nearly a third of the copy editors who were working for American daily newspapers in 2007 are no longer employed, according to an American Society of News Editors’ survey of 985 publications.

What I do blame is the insistence on speed– the ol’ quality, not quantity debate, that is making us sloppy writers and sloppy readers; pigs at the internet trough.

Some would beg the question, does it matter?

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