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Readers care about grammatical errors, typos

November 4, 2011 | 11:12 am

Those who write to The Times often are careful readers who have high expectations. And when they spot typographical or grammatical errors, readers don’t hesitate to let us know.

Here is a sampling of such emails received this week:

Regarding an article Thursday about humpback whales off Santa Cruz, Rebby Kern of Riverside noted: “There is a comma ending a paragraph on page AA4. Thank you.”

Stephany Yablow of North Hollywood found an editing error in the letters in Monday’s Health section: “You have an egregious typographical error. Even if the letter writer said ‘overall,’ you (who reserve editorial prerogative) should have changed it to ‘overhaul.’  The error detracted from the impact of the statement and made The Times look stupid.  This is a perfect example of why proofreaders (if you still have such people) cannot rely on ‘spell check.’ ”

And several readers pointed out a verb tense error (now fixed) in a headline on a blog post about Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. Patricia Oats of Fairfield, Iowa, was one: “Headline: 'Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries: What factors lead to divorce?' It should be ‘what factors led to divorce?’ (past tense). Granted, if one is reading about the Kardashians, one is probably none too bright, but still the L.A. Times should have some standards, we think.”

Research done for the American Copy Editors Society this spring confirmed what the Readers’ Rep inbox tells us.

Fred Vultee, a journalism professor at Wayne State University, studied a group of readers over a three-month period. His findings:

  • Readers who read more news tend to be more critical than people who read less.
  • Dedicated readers expect a higher level of quality than casual readers, particularly in terms of grammar and professionalism.
  • Readers notice grammar errors and find them troubling and distracting.
  • Readers notice writing that is garbled and confusing, and when words are misspelled or misused.
  • Most readers are less concerned about errors of style and story structure than they are about professionalism and grammar. “They really don’t care if you abbreviate ‘road,’ Vultee said. “They don’t care if you start a paragraph with a number.”

Readers who are concerned about such errors often ask — as one reader did above — whether stories are still edited or proofread. Yes, they are.

For online articles and blog posts, nearly all are edited before being published. An article may be published before editing if it is breaking news or a competitive story. In those cases, an editor will edit it after the fact, make any fixes, and republish.

All stories for the print edition are edited before publication.

As every editor knows, more errors are caught than not. However, despite the best intentions of reporters and editors, errors do sometimes slip through. And readers notice.

— Deirdre Edgar

 

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