The Most Expensive Typo in Legislative History

When I was a public Internet manager, a client brought a handwritten affidavit who wanted it to be word processed. While I was doing it, I came across a sentence saying, ‘…I jumped ON the van…’ I told the client that this was an affidavit and should be precise. I asked him if he really meant ‘on’ and not ‘inside’. He thought for a moment then said ‘on’ is ok (I began to suspect some deception).

‘In 1872, one misplaced comma in a tariff law cost American taxpayers more than $2 million, or $38,350,000 in today’s dollars.

‘In the middle of a 1969 interview, writer E.B. White paused, smiled, and declared what he loved most about the publication he wrote for: “Commas in The New Yorker fall with the precision of knives in a circus act, outlining the victim.” An avid grammarian, the Charlotte’s Web author thoroughly enjoyed this routine.

‘Unfortunately, the United States government doesn’t share the magazine’s zeal for punctuation — and sometimes, it costs taxpayers money. Curious about the most expensive legislative typo in American history, we dug into the matter…’
If you’re anything like E.B. White, what we found will rile you up:

The Unsung Heroes of Innovation
The Role of the Critic-Curator in How Ideas Spread
“Those who bring attention to valuable ideas, then, are themselves vital agents of change, without whom the inventors and their creations would slide under the cultural radar and into obscurity. Editor Ursula Nordstrom did this for a young and insecure Maurice Sendak. Publisher John Martin did it for Charles Bukowski. Ralph Waldo Emerson did it for young Walt Whitman.” -John Gardner

‘Gardner returns to the underappreciated, vital role of the critic-celebrator in amplifying the ideas that improve society and precipitate progress:

“We tend to think of innovators as those who contribute to a new way of doing things. But many far-reaching changes have been touched off by those who contributed to a new way of thinking about things…”

Three Rules of Writing and Four Elements of Style
Timeless Advice from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch 1914?
“Literature is a nurse of noble natures, and right reading makes a full man in a sense even better than Bacon’s; not replete, but complete rather, to the pattern for which Heaven designed him. In this conviction, in this hope, public spirited men endow Chairs in our Universities, sure that Literature is a good thing if only we can bring it to operate on young minds.” -Quiller-Couch

‘Acknowledging that “some doubt does lurk in the public mind” as to whether writing and the art of literature “can, in any ordinary sense, be taught,” Quiller-Couch counters:

“That the study of English Literature can be promoted in young minds by an elder one, that their zeal may be encouraged, their tastes directed, their vision cleared, quickened, enlarged — this, I take it, no man of experience will deny.”

‘He goes on to outline three guiding principles that make this quickening and enlargement of vision possible…’

Why People Don’t Like Paying Writers
‘…It’s interesting, because most people who ask me for free writing are the most cunning of business people. They always seem organized, relentless and ready to conquer the world. Many of them already have thriving companies with lots of cash flow. But once they start looking for a copywriter or blogger, that money is nowhere to be found.

‘This isn’t to say that everyone is a cheap skate, but tons of job listings ask for free submissions prior to hiring. I mean seriously? Let’s say I’m pitching to four or five companies for blogging positions. If all of them wanted a free 500 word sample, I would end up working an entire eight hours for free.

‘Since most writers want to get paid to write, this started turning my mind wheels. Why is it that writers, and other artists, are so often seen as free labor, while any simple data mining worker would always get their due?…’

About DigitalPlato

Poch is a Bookrix author and a freelance writer. He is a frequent contributor to TED Conversations.
This entry was posted in Business, history, Law, philosophy, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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