Wanted: infinite access for proofreading the web

When I was in college, we had a MUD. (Named TinySwat, iIrc.) I was one of the "wizards" who ran it; I therefore had the ability to edit any description in the game.

I named my character Logos, the Spelling Demon. ("Logos" as in the Greek for "word," not the plural of "logo.") He was a four-foot-tall red demon who teleported rather unsteadily from place to place. I created various parts of the MUD (Logos lived in a giant book, for example), and did various other wizardly things, but one of my main self-appointed tasks was to clean up other creators' spelling, punctuation, and maybe even grammar.

I didn't abuse this power--well, I don't think I did; it's been a long time, and I may be misremembering. But most of the creators were reasonably good at writing, and I don't think I made any significant changes to anything without the owner's permission. But if I saw something that was clearly a typo, I could go in and fix it immediately, without having to wait for permission or filing a report or anything else.

This all comes to mind because typos are becoming ever more prevalent in my reading online. This particularly bugs me, as I'm sure I've mentioned here before, with articles in major newspapers.

Over a week ago, I found two typos in an article about Obama in the New York Times. I reported the typos (I don't normally bother doing that anymore with most sites, but this is the Times, and there were two on one page!); my report apparently got re-submitted by their automated system two or three times; but the typos are still there. One of them ("Mr. Obama said he would nominated Rob Nabors") wouldn't have been caught by a spellchecker, but the other one ("Mr. Obama may announce shome names on Wednesday") would have been.

As I noted a few years ago, my lack of perspective is the single most important issue facing humanity today. I have thus, on occasion, spent as much time and energy trying to point out a tiny little typo to the Times as I've spent on vastly more important matters.

And I keep thinking that it would all be much easier if only all the websites in the world would give me root access so that when I see something that's clearly a typo, I could just correct it.

It would be tempting to make bigger changes, but I would promise not to do that. All I want is to satisfy my (admittedly ridiculous, and increasingly far out of step with reality) need to see people use correct spelling and punctuation.

Of course, it's likely that every so often, I would make a mistake--either correcting something that didn't need correcting, or compounding an error while attempting to fix something. So I'd be fine with a system where the owners get notified when I make a change, and/or all changes have to be approved by a designated owner before they go live.

This is one of the reasons I like Wikipedia. If I see a problem like this, I can immediately go and fix it. Of course, sometimes I start out fixing a typo in a Wikipedia page and then end up spending half an hour rewriting a badly written paragraph. And sometimes sanity dawns and I realize that there are more typos (and other such errors) in Wikipedia than an army of proofreaders could fix in a year, and that it's not really worth my time to correct every mistake I see.

And there are plenty of superpowers that would be more useful to me or to the world than the ability to instantly correct any typo I see on the web. So if I'm dreaming about hypothetical special abilities, I ought not to stop with that one.

But that ability sure would be satisfying.

(In accordance with Hartman's Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation, chances are good that one or more of you will notice at least one typo or other error (I initially wrote "entry" instead of "error") in this entry. Which demonstrates my point: if those of you who notice such things had typo-correcting access to my blog, you could fix the problem(s) for me quickly and easily.)

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