Errors & Omissions: Xxxxxx marks the spot where the headline should have been

I think the little heading was intended to say something like "Presidential popularity". It headed a panel that formed part of a foreign news spread published on Thursday, about President Obama's healthcare reforms. Unfortunately it came out in later editions as "Xxxxxx".

This was what we call dummy copy. When a page layout is put together on screen, it cannot be made out of blank space. So the editor who is designing the page puts in bits of random text, in the required typefaces, to represent the final story text, captions, headlines and so on. In the process of producing the page, various people will come in and replace this dummy copy with the intended text for publication. But occasionally bits can get forgotten, as in this case, and the dummy copy ends up published.

Still, it could have been worse. Fortunately the damage was contained, because proper procedures had been followed. The important thing when putting dummy material into a layout is never to try to amuse your colleagues. To publish a headline that says "Xxxxxx" or a picture caption that says "Three-column caption here please" is merely an embarrassment. If you want to see a disaster, publish a caption that says, "Please try to find something to say about these sad old farts." Such things have happened.

***

Wrong number: "The first photos of Californian child rapist Philip Garrido's garden," Guy Adams's LA notebook reported on Thursday, "were taken by Nick Stern, a British paparazzi, who simply leapt a fence into the crime scene and began snapping." That should have been "paparazzo". The original Paparazzo was a press photographer in Federico Fellini's 1960 film La Dolce Vita. "Paparazzi" is the plural. Many Italian masculine nouns have the singular in –o and the plural in –i.

***

Figure it out: This is from Wednesday's news story about the British Medical Association calling for a ban on drink advertising: "Spending per household on drink increased by a factor of 81 per cent between 1992 and 2006." The words "a factor of" do nothing but confuse the issue. The writer means to say that spending increased by 81 per cent. If it increased by a factor of 81, that would mean that it became 81 times as large.

***

Tell me more: "The heirs of J R R Tolkien have settled a £133m lawsuit with New Line Cinema, the studio behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The legal dispute threatened to block the release of two films based on Tolkien's novel The Hobbit. The heirs claimed the studio owed it [sic] millions of pounds in undistributed profits from the three films, which made £1.8bn worldwide and won 11 Oscars."

That was the entire text of a News in Brief item on Wednesday. "It" should of course be "them", but more serious is the failure to satisfy curiosity. What were the terms of the settlement? In fact, we don't know, because they were not disclosed. That was what the reader needed to be told, rather than ancient history about the Oscars.

***

Mixed metaphor of the week: "Breakthrough highlights the role of genes in Alzheimer's" – news headline on Monday.

I suppose you could picture a situation in which a light is shining behind some sort of barrier, but on this side all is darkness. Then somebody – presumably a scientific researcher in a white coat – comes and breaks through the barrier. Through the hole just made the light floods, and falls on a hitherto obscure object: the role of genes in Alzheimer's. It is difficult to picture this role, but maybe it is a sort of knotted object like the tortured human figures in the paintings of Francis Bacon.

No, it doesn't really work. A breakthrough is a military manoeuvre and the highlight is the brightest spot on the subject of a painting or photograph. No breakthrough ever highlighted anything.

***

Cliché of the week: The peculiar property of clichés is that familiarity leaches all the colour and flavour out of the words. Then all kinds of absurdities can pass unnoticed. This headline appeared above an obituary, published on Wednesday: "Francis Rogallo: engineer whose work paved the way for hang-gliders." There is such a thing as a flight path, but you still cannot pave the way for a glider.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine