My correction elf

The quickest way to find out you’re wrong is to post your imaginary fact on the Internet. Being wrong in public is no fun, especially when you’re a) stubborn b) always convinced you’re right c) impervious to change.

For example, there was the time that Gary C. advised me that in general the pluralization of acronyms didn’t require an apostrophe, e.g. “KOMs” not “KOM’s.” I battled this losing fight pretty hard, up to and including a forced reading of one of Gary’s academic treatises. Nonetheless, faced with facts, convention, rules, and examples, I proceeded to apostrophize my acronyms out of sheer spite.

Then one day, when I hoped no one was noticing, I gently took the sweet little apostrophe out behind the apartment building, the little apostrophe who had stayed with me through thick and then, ever ready to lead the charge (or rather, trail it) in the cause of plural acronyms, and shot it. After that, they became proper KOMs.

The act of writing something every day, or almost every day, is nothing more than the practice of error, a practice refined until eventually my two regular readers either stop looking for mistakes or they throw up their hands, hopelessly, and accept that granite will never absorb water.

One reader, however, has refused to give up the fight. He’s not one of those people who happily subscribes and then gets angry when I make fun of his cat or misspell “mispell” and sends me a nasty cancellation notice. He’s not one of those people who gloats in the detection of error. Instead, he carefully reads each post and when the inevitable errors occur, he gently emails me with the correction.

Here is a sampling of his messages:

Last Line: dead elephants, >>T<<here will be a next

Cheers, Eric

Or this one:

In Volt Dolt: She loves anything made by Toyota or Sony. But me, I’m a red-blooded American and I’m ready for a Chevy even though all I’ve ever>>y<< owned are Toyotas.

Cheers, Eric

And even a bit of analysis:

Salmon or slalom? “In the past, riders have been clocked head-on by oncoming cars as they salmon…”

I am pretty sure you meant salmon as in swimming upstream against the current of traffic, but I wasn’t entirely sure they weren’t slaloming through traffic, which seems also probable as seen in this Alley Cat illegal race in NYC

Cheers, Eric

Although I try hard to minimize typos and mistakes, even to the extent that I occasionally read what I write before hitting the “Publish” button, a writer who proofs his own work has a fool for an author and a fool for an editor. Can’t beat having your own correction elf, and since I don’t know Eric, my only question is where to PayPal my subscription for his awesome editing services?


26 thoughts on “My correction elf”

  1. My bride is an English nazi (she’s got a thing for the language, not that she’s from the UK) and is kind enough to offer her thoughts when I create something. As a result, I’ve become a much more highly skilled writer and editor.

    There is an apostrophe catastrophe in this country, Seth, and I’m glad you’re taking a stance, especially the correct one. There is nothing possessive about a KOM, QOM, or any other TLA (three letter acronym). Knowing proper punctuation is the only way understand the difference between knowing your shit, and knowing you’re shit.

    1. I’m miffed that my phone autocorrects when I pluralize words without an apostrophe, but accepts it with the apostrophe. This punishment/reward system has actually made me more likely to add a stupid apostrophe in other venues. Is this the Korean’s way of trying to make Americans even more stupid than they are?

  2. I occasionally send correction suggestions to the author of another bike website. I do that because I enjoy his work, and I hope my eforts add just a ltitle polish.

    He is always gracious, and that impresses me. I might be annoyed by such pestering.

    I can’t speak for your helper, but if he’s like me no special praise is needed. It’s no different than someone who sees a work of art and removes a speck of dust from it.

  3. The general lesson is to not look for reasons to keep doing and believing what you currently do and believe, but to search for reasons to change what you currently do and believe

    It’s hard, but worth it. And it’s the only way I know that anything ever gets better, like streamlined plural acronyms and bicycle lane control on the PCH.

    1. The general lesson is to cling tightly to my mistaken ideas, stereotypes, prejudices, and error-laden ways until they are smashed into fine powder by the blows of unrelenting reality.

      1. As long as you let reality have a say, the result is the same. Just takes longer.

  4. Their supposably are apps that can come acrost glaring mispellings in ones righting.

  5. When I first started sending these edits to Seth, I would start a fresh email composition and read to the end. After a while I realized that there was never more than a single edit in any posting, and in one case, I was wrong and he was right :). So I simply sent an edit as soon as I found one.

    So, I hadn’t yet figured out he was writing about me when I noticed an edit and sent it to him. He replied that I should post here this time.

    3rd paragraph

    with me through thick and th>>e<<n.


  6. What are friends for, if not to nit-pick your grammar? A pursuit I’m ill-suited to pursue.

    1. Friends are terrible for that. But dispassionate readers are the absolute best.

  7. With a nod to the previous day’s post, it’s very descent of Eric to edit for you…

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