Sign of the Times

Yesterday I posted edited extracts from a review of ‘Chaos and Conspiracy’ in a shameless bid to promote the book to anyone who happens to be reading out there.

The review appeared in last Saturday’s edition of the Irish Independent, under the headline ‘The rumour-mill that tore the soul out of an Irish country town’.

Except that in the online edition, ‘soul’ is misspelled as ‘sole’.

Today, as education minister Batt O’Keeffe addressed the Teacher’s Union of Ireland conference, one disgruntled teacher protesting against budget cuts held up a sign which read ‘Stop Vandaling Education’.


The typo at the teacher’s conference isn’t that surprising. There seems to be a law that every handwritten sign must contain at least one typo, usually a misplaced (or missing) apostrophe.

It’s rather more surprising that in a roomful of teachers, no one caught the mistake in time.

But the Independent typo takes the biscuit.

There was a time when subeditors checked copy obsessively, correcting grammar and syntax, but without losing readability.

Spell checkers have made the job too easy. Faced with deadline pressures, it’s too easy to click the suggested corrections, without ever checking if they make sense.

Down with this sort of thing.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.


  1. Hello Gerard, I like your 200-word gimmick, and had a good laugh at the list of Junior Ministers, but when it comes to typos, we have all been that person in the glasshouse with a stone in his paw. What, Minister for Lossing Referendums? And the Teacher’s Conference? Must have been a lonely teacher, talking to himself. I happen to know that the famous vandaling sign was written in high dudgeon and great haste by someone who values the language — but the irony is that the typo attracted far more attention than if the poster had been an immaculate, premeditated, desktop publishing job. Yours, David Burke

  2. Ah, but I have an out, you see. I’m a reporter, not a sub. Still, a national newspaper really should get its spellings right. It is particularly inexcusable in a headline.

    That said, I’ve just had a debate with myself over whether to let my own typos stand or not. On balance I think I’ll leave them be. I suspect that there is a subclause in Murphy’s Law stating that all spelling flames will contain their own spelling errors.

  3. every handwritten sign must contain at least one typo

    Except for that one sign that everybody on the internets has seen by now, exhorting the members of the illustrious clan Moran to get a brain.

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