8 Apr 2007

Faux Pas

Posted by Oblivion in General | 5:53pm

20 per cent of people are chronically poor spellers, due to a neurological glitch. A good part of the remaining population goof up with spelling (I'm not referring to typos. Typos are tolerable) because they don't, to my mind, study words properly enough. This extends to names too. If the newspaper vendor gets your name wrong, it isn't much of a bother. His job doesn't demand him to be good at spelling. But if you are a copy editor with a leading newsmagazine, you are expected to be meticulous.

Names - like spelling - are partially dependent on geography, so the naming conventions differ among regions and cultures. There's no such thing as misspelling in Italy, Spain, Portugal and other countries, for they have a more straightforward orthography. English is more prone to misspelling because it has an irregular spelling structure and has about 1,120 letter combinations to make 44 sounds. In comparison, Italian has 33 letter combinations to spell 25 sounds.

With names, it gets more tricky. Besides the usual challenge of getting the sequence of letters in the name correct, one has to get the sequence of the complete name (first-name-middle-name-last-name) correct. When one has no information of the convention that a person's name has been derived from, it's better to go by what that person himself mentions than rely on guesswork. I'd like to believe this should be among the important rules that people in media should be taught.

Outlook newsmagazine, its deserving credibility and smart team notwithstanding, never ceases to surprise me. I mention first-name last-name-initial with the letter, and the guy changes it to first-name-initial last-name in the published version. He expanded the last name when all I mentioned was the initial! And, obviously, he got it wrong (next time, I'll try Vito Corleone and see how he mindhandles it). Not for the first time. Not a critical mistake, but it is, nonetheless, an avoidable one. The chap must be either dumb or overconfident, and neither of these is a desirable attribute of an editor with a newsmagazine.

If it was The Economist, such a goof would be unthinkable. Although Outlook matches The Economist in values, yet it lags much behind as regards standards. And I'd like to see at least one magazine from India to be as good as The Economist is. A dream!

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