We persuaded the publisher to pony up enough cash so we could buy some spiffy uniforms. The biggest selling point, of course, was that we would be walking advertisements for the paper every time we ventured in public with "Nonpareil" plastered across our chests.
Imagine our disappointment when we picked up the uniforms and saw that the "r" was missing in "Nonpareil," which was stitched in a fancy cursive typeface. I suggested that we just have them stitch an insert symbol between the "a" and "e" and put the "r" in a line above the name and we could be known as the "Typos."
As clever and appropriate as that sounded to me, it was seen by the publisher as simply smart-alecky and we instead had the "Nonpaeil" replaced with "Nonpareil."
We were a pretty mediocre softball team but the uniform incident shows that even the most finicky wordsmiths among us need to be vigilant lest we look foolish. As a trained editor, I see spelling and grammatical errors all over the place. The photo that accompanies this post came from the Iowa State Fair, which for 10 days each August offers up a perpetually morphing smorgasbord of hand-lettered signs awash with mis-spelled words, vile punctuation and grammatical stumbles.
While we were fairly shocked at our botched Nonpareil uniforms, these sorts of things are relatively common, even at the highest levels of government, business and sports. I know this because my friend Charles Apple keeps an eye on such matters and never ceases to amaze me with his blog posts, usually headlined "Why xxx need(s) a copy editor."
Charles is a design and graphics whiz who now lives in Virginia, but was once the boss of the graphics department at my previous employer, The Des Moines Register. Check out his work here and be sure to click on some of the many links at the bottom of the page. You won't believe your eyes.
Or maybe you will. Sigh.