Brand building through storytelling

Spelling mistakes and second chances

My husband was perusing these virtual letters when he told me, not for the first time, “You need a good copy editor.”

These would once have been fighting words. Unlike my husband, I was once a copy editor. I earned $9,500 a year for catching typos, spelling errors, missing commas and assorted grammatical glitches for a magazine too small and under-resourced to afford a pro. The craft requires unflinching devotion to the minute, eye-glazing details that no one ever notices except when they’ve been bungled. Great copy editors, bless their persnickety hearts, are the folks who catch howlers like “Five pubic schools honored as tops in student achievement” (which actually appeared on the website of the South Carolina Department of Education). I’ve never cared enough to be any better than so-so. At long last, I’m not too proud to admit the truth.

“So you’ve found another typo?” I asked.

“Maybe not a typo,” he said. “How do you spell de rigueur?”

It’s one thing to skip a letter when you’re in full inspirational flight, but quite another to think a word looks perfectly fine without it. And that’s what I had done.

When it comes to spelling, I tend to give myself airs. You should hear me carry on about the woeful abuse of the apostrophe, as if my sharp eye for an offending “her’s” could also detect a missing “t” in “Chatanooga” (again, my husband caught it). My orthographic delusions date back to Grade 6, when I thought I was destined to win the U.S. National Spelling Bee, only to blow an easy word in my class bee.

“There are more important things in life than spelling,” said my mother as I howled with disappointment. She didn’t think to add that second chances have a way of appearing when you least expect them. I stumbled on mine at a Broadway performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Turned out they needed one more audience volunteer. “You’d be perfect!” they said. So began an adventure that changed my life and continues to make me laugh. Click here for the whole outlandish story, published two years ago in Reader’s Digest‘s Canadian edition and posted on this site by popular demand.

Oh, by the way: if you spot any typos or spelling mistakes, do speak up. As far as I’m concerned, that’s friendship. And marriage.


Posted by Rona

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