An American Editor

October 12, 2019

Saving the world from major typos

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, AAE Owner

One of the delights of hosting a conference for colleagues is the opportunity not just to meet and connect with people in person, but to share anecdotes about our business adventures, challenges and successes. In conversations during the opening day of Gateway to Success, this year’s Communication Central/NAIWE Be a Better Freelancer® conference,  I had a chance to reminisce (and chuckle) over what I consider my two major contributions to civilization through a sharp editorial eye. You might get a kick out of them — and have similar triumphs to share!

The first involved a visit home to Rochester, NY, years ago to see my parents. I had only officially been working in editing for a while, but had always had a pretty good eye for errors. I was driving past the park near our family home when I focused on the huge granite sign with letters at least a foot high, literally carved in stone, and realized that it said COBBS HILL RESEVIOR.

Now, that sign had been there for a long, long time. I can’t tell you how long, but it seemed like something that had always been there. I had walked, driven or taken a bus past it zillions of times, but never really looked at it until that moment. And I guess no one else had, either!

I called the city parks department, public works and I think the mayor’s office, trying to find someone, anyone, to report this to (this was long enough ago to predate e-mail, websites, etc., although I really wish it didn’t; I’d love to have had a photo for Facebook!). I don’t remember who I finally reached, but the next time I came home, presto: Somehow, the stone sign had been fixed! I think there was a plaque of some sort covering the original carving, but however it was done, I can say that I helped fix a typo that was … carved in stone. And my correction also had that standing!

The other was almost as satisfying, if not as permanent or visible. When Wayne-the-Wonderful and I went to Rochester for our wedding (I always wanted to be married at my parents’ house), we went to the town hall for our marriage license. I started to sign the form, but couldn’t help actually reading the thing. And … I found several typos. In the official marriage license form that had been used by the town, and possibly other New York locations around the state, for quite a few years.

I said to the town clerk, “I can’t sign this. It has typos in it.” “But that’s our official form.” “I understand that, but I can’t have typos in my marriage license. I’m a professional writer and editor, and I just can’t do that.”

This went on for several minutes, with Wayne not knowing whether to laugh, cry or leave; probably wondering what kind of a persnickety nut he was planning to marry, but prepared to stand by me as needed. I finally marked the errors and said, pleasantly but firmly, “Our wedding is on Saturday morning. I don’t care how you do it, but we’ll be back at 9:10 a.m. on Friday, and I expect to have a marriage license with no errors in it that we can sign. We’ll see you then. Thank you.”

Sure enough, when we went back at the end of the week, there was a corrected certificate for us to sign. It was my understanding that they typed up a fresh copy (this was before the days of MicroSoft Word) and used it as the new master for the license. No one else might ever have noticed, or cared, but I am proud to be responsible for — AFAIK — the town of Brighton in Rochester, NY, providing couples with error-free marriage licenses from that point on.

We all catch errors that affect meaning and comprehension, and that would have made our clients look foolish at best to their reading publics (my favorite in the more-common arena of catching errors in publications was noticing a reference to “food panties” in an article about food pantries (not edible underwear). Not many of us have the opportunity to see our work carved in stone or be responsible for fixing something as important as a marriage license. Such moments are wonderful personal triumphs that make all the hassles, arguments over usage and frustrations worthwhile.

What momentous edits have you made? Tell us about it!


October 2, 2019

On the Basics — Where’s Ruth?

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 9:27 am

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner, An American Editor

Well you may ask. It’s been a wild and crazy few weeks lately, highlighted by an unexpectedly heavy flow of editing work (not that I’m complaining) and an utterly wonderful combination business/personal trip overseas. More about that in a future post.

Occupying the majority of my mind and attention even throughout these events has been this year’s Be a Better Freelancer® conference, Gateway to Success, to be held in St. Louis, MO, for the first time, as well as in conjunction with one of my professional organizations, the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, also for the first time. This is the 14th year in a row that I’ve organized this event, and it promises to be another good one, with both familiar and new faces among presenters (and attendees). It’s less than two weeks away (October 11–13, 2019), but you still have time to register and participate, and we’d love to see a few more people join in. We even have someone coming all the way from England, thanks to meeting me at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders conference there just a couple of weeks ago! Now that’s the kind of spontaneous business decision that I like to see colleagues make.

We understand that cost is a factor, but it’s also a factor in hosting such an event. I’d love to offer free registration, but the venue wouldn’t reciprocate! And that cost for attendees is an investment in your business, as well as a tax deduction. Not only is this conference a valuable learning experience, but there’s something special about meeting colleagues in person that  online resources, while useful and important, simply can’t match. And keep in mind that AAE subscribers can use the NAIWE/Communication Central rate for registration.

For all about the conference, go to or Colleagues have learned and gotten work from each other as a result of attending, and have made long-standing friendships as well. You won’t regret dropping everything to be there.


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