Learning from mistakes

Some mistakes are just annoying. I read a decorating book last Christmas that was so poorly edited, I finally threw the thing down in frustration because I was tired of fighting the urge to get out my red pen and mark up the whole book. But other times, when I’m reading a blog post, magazine article, a book, or even a Facebook status update, the mistakes can be downright amusing.

Last year I was reading a blog post about vintage jewelry and noted that the author used the phrase “far and few between.” That immediately struck me as wrong, so I had to do a little research to learn that yes, the idiom is indeed supposed to be “few and far between.” According to The Free Dictionary online, “this expression originally was used very literally for physical objects such as houses appearing at widely separated intervals.” So I guess there were few houses, and it was far between each of the houses. Good to know. Yet somehow, I also kind of like “far and few between.” Under the right circumstances, I could even see this phrase working and making sense. (I’m tucking it away for future use.)

In my own community, some thoughtful soul was conducting a holiday coat drive one year, and the publicity for the drive included this sentence: “The Second Annual Coats for Coweta has begun accepting lightly used children and adult coats.” I was a little disturbed that they were a) collecting children and b) that they referred to the children as “lightly used.” Of course, the easy fix to that sentence would be to say that they were collecting lightly used coats for both children and adults. But if the writer had worded the sentence properly, I would have missed a chuckle that day.

One of the nice things about mistakes is that we can learn from them. I keep a file on my computer desktop that includes some of the more humorous errors I’ve come across over the years, and they serve as great reminders that writers aren’t perfect … and that the world would be a much duller place if they were.

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One thought on “Learning from mistakes

  1. Having worked in a church office for many years, I’ve seen bunches of “bloopers” like the one about the lightly used children. I have a horror of printing something myself that would be included in one of those blooper lists! They are funny, but I don’t want to be the one making the mistake. 🙂

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