Ten typos on The Age website’s front page this morning.

They say people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I say, but I’ve amassed a small pile of rocks! What else do you expect me to do with them?

I subscribe to The Age. Mostly I forgive the mistakes that plague the website. But today I decided I’d do a quick count of screw-ups, and found more than I expected. Just scanning the front page, without even clicking on an article, I got to ten. There may be more.

Here they are, from bottom to top.

The sports section was quite clean. Headlines get to be quirky so we will let ‘Mayweather looks to cash‘ slide by. Let’s also assume that Adelaide’s sensation six were touchy-feely, not sensational.

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The lifestyle section has also done an okay job. But the headline on the “ghostly” photos story has a redundant apostrophe-s in that’s. This one is especially galling as that is not breaking news. It has been in the fluff section for several days.

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The Entertainment section looks to have been partly scrubbed by a sub-editor. I’m guessing the original headline was “Are Block couple our biggest TV winners?”

A vigilant sub-editor has decided couple is a singular entity, changed Are to Is and left winners dangling there. Wrong. I’d permit: “Is block couple our biggest TV winner?

Also, is it possible the sub-editor is Russian? That might explain why Le Nevez is breaking “the hearts“, not just hearts.

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The property section is almost a frenzy of typographical misadventure. “Way in“?? That’s the only one on the whole site I can’t forgive (the expression is weigh in).

Special mention to auctions results (should be auction results), and sets in the sentence ‘Reserves were smashed as renovation show sets a surprise television record.’ (It should be set.)

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Let’s ignore the capitalisation of the word eggplant, and focus on the headline that left the Philippines newspapers. It presumably left them looking foolish before an editor changed the second half of the sentence. Now the publication that is “just wrong” is The Age. The best resolution I can see is It was a dramatic headline in Philippines newspapers but it was just wrong.

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The best news gets rushed out, and as such the top of the page is where most typos are found.

On the right, might the “Nepal man” be Nepalese? Or is it supposed to be Nepal: Man pulled alive from rubble?

The write-off for the political story is also quite a cliff-hanger. “… with one MP saying.” It raises all sorts of questions, especially who and what?

There are also two full stops on the write-off for the second story.

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Does all this matter?

The enlightened reader knows they are at a newspaper to get meaning.  Some people are very forgiving of typos, although they tend to be journos themselves! These typos are not so bad that they affect the meaning of the sentences they appear in. Shouldn’t we just accept them as the price we pay for fast cheap news?

The problem for newspapers that have sacked in house sub-editors and outsourced/off-shored sub-editing is that typos still matter to some readers. Research suggests typos erode trust.

This comment on a Crikey story is typical of reader attitudes I encounter. (Although not devoid of mistakes!).

“Apart from typos. and homophone errors, there is also the utter failure to write grammatically correct sentences which often means having to reread something several times – a) what was written, b)what was, possibly/probably meant, c)what the journo. thought they meant and d) asking the budgies if they mind such drek being put into their cage – the cat now refuses to use its tray with SMH liner and goes out to the garden even in the rain.”

This is an economics issue – sometimes an entity needs to invest in costly signalling techniques that don’t directly add value to users but help form their beliefs. It’s like McDonalds cleaning their front windows  – it makes you think the kitchen is clean. It’s like showing up to a job interview with shiny shoes. It’s like a lawyer getting a gold-embossed business card.

Investing in these ancillary items all signal that the product in question is of high quality.

So it is not helpful that there is even a whole Twitter account devoted to Fairfax typos.

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Dear reeders readers. I know most of you are typo tolerant if you frequent this blog. But do you think major news sites have an obligation to be typo free? Share your thoughts below.

ALSO: $10 bounty if you find a typo in this blog post! I’ve tried my best to be perfect!

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thomasthethinkengine

Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

8 thoughts on “Ten typos on The Age website’s front page this morning.”

    1. Yep, I left that preposition right until the end, didn’t I? Now, is that a hard-and-fast rule that makes this a typo – in which case you just earned $10 – or is it more of a guide?

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  1. My mom/mum says she perfected her English by reading newspaper editorials, expecting the level of English to be an example of What To Do. I am aghast at the idea of typos in any respectable publication; I think they have a duty to uphold proper standards.

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  2. I have a phone full of photos of typos in The Age paper edition, and I only buy it about once every three months.

    I do find it quite shocking, to tell you the truth. Once in a blue moon would be OK. And certain types of typo are more acceptable than others, of course. But “in my day” you could expect to read any kind of professionally produced copy without errors. Now you see them everywhere.

    It would be silly to expect perfection all over the web, of course, but I think a major newspaper has a bit of a duty to at least attempt to reach a certain standard of perfection. And it really does make me mistrust (even more) the quality of the information presented.

    I think there probably is an decreased level of *good quality* literacy among supposedly well-educated people, even the intellectual elite, in the 21st century. (And I speak as someone without a university degree, and with an armful of mathematics and physics A Levels so I’m speaking as someone who isn’t among that group.)

    But I suspect there are some fairly strong excuses for the problem, quite apart from workers being poorly educated. (I hesitate to use the word “educated”, because it implies GETTING educated BY someone, whereas I think good spelling and grammar comes from self-education – from reading and understanding and awareness. I don’t think it’s very effective to have some try to drum that into you, and anyway, no one is prepared to do that job nowadays the way a governess might have in the 19th century.)

    For example, with web publishing, the very nature of it probably encourages quick’n’dirty writing and posting rather than careful consideration.

    And I get the strong impression that in almost all industry nowadays the overworking of employees has reached a level that is detrimental to the work produced. If it’s that way in such a critical area as healthcare (my recently relinquished profession) then it’s probably at least as bad in other fields. Everything is about the bottom line nowadays, and it’s really intertwined with that modern, and increasing, gulf between rich and poor, or rich and middle-class, actually. Company directors and share-holders take as much of the money as they can, and the actual workers have the life squeezed out of them for profit. This is not good for correct spelling, people, can’t you understand! And it’s also not good for good cancer-care, pathology, pain management, etc…

    However, I also have a theory, completely unfounded, that the very fact that we have spellcheckers, auto-correct and other computerized assistance could be causing these errors to proliferate. We think that if we don’t see that little red line everything is OK. Homophones are an obvious example.

    And I presume (correct me if I’m wrong) that sub-editors or proof-readers are usually looking at copy that has the red lines, or that they at least run spell-check software to assist them in their job. Thus allowing them to fall into the same trap. I find that I proof-read best when I’m looking at a piece of paper but I don’t think the people at The Age are going to be printing everything out to proof-read it.

    And despite the fact that I consider myself a stickler for correctness, I am often a bit stunned to see that I have typed “hear” instead of “here”, or (gulp) “you’re” instead of “your”! How can that happen! It’s awful! It doesn’t seem logical to me that I would do that, but it suggests to me that my brain works in a much more speech-oriented way when I’m writing than I imagine I am.

    So I have to be in the habit of screening every SMS or Facebook comment that I compose before I hit “send”. It’s very embarrassing if they get through. And, BTW, “embarrassing” is hard to spell without a spell-checker!

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    1. I agree with you about the link between spelling and speech!

      I’m pretty sure 17 year old me never once wrote ‘there’ instead of ‘their’. My brain kept them separate despite their phonetic similarities. But now, for some reason, I occasionally write ‘your’ for ‘you’re’ or other sound-alikes. Why is this happening!?!

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      1. My bug bear is “would of”. Sounds the same, but is not correct
        Would have. Grr. Also complement v compliment. Effect and affect. So often used wrongly.
        Would also say, the proliferation and use of smartphones is likely contributing to typos – smaller keyboards and autocorrect mean misspelt words or grammatically incorrect sentences.

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