A Word, Please: Typos that tend to slip in

I could tell that the editor was embarrassed, but he was trying to play it cool — as if the typo he’d overlooked was a result of haste. I doubted it.

I wanted to tell him there was no reason to feel bad about that particular misspelling. Little typos are my department. He’s more of a big-picture type of editor, overseeing the production of whole publications. And the typo he missed — a word that had slipped past at least one other person besides that editor — well, it’s one of those things you just have to know. The error was “without further adieu” where the writer really meant “without further ado.”

When you think about it, it’s funny that a French word for goodbye whose roots literally mean “to God” is more familiar to us than an English word that appears in the title of a work by the most lauded English user of all time — Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

On the other hand, how often do you use “ado”? I had to look it up just to know what it means and to be sure that “adieu” had in fact been the wrong choice. It had. “Webster’s New World College Dictionary”: “ado. noun. fuss; trouble; excitement.”

I made the change without further ado.

Not three hours later, I came across yet another of those “you just have to know that” typos: “With the resort’s elegant décor and complimentary amenities, you needn’t forego luxury in the name of value.”

Did you catch it? No, it’s not “complimentary.” That’s used correctly in this context. (I put it in just to throw you off the trail.) The error is “forego.” The writer meant “forgo.”

Contrary to a very common misperception, the one with the E in the middle doesn’t mean to eschew or to do without. It means, according to “Webster’s New World,” “to go before in place, time, or degree; precede.” As a secondary definition, this “Webster’s” allows “forego” as a synonym for “forgo.” But in the world of professional publishing, this is widely considered to be an error.

The “forgo” without the E is the one that means “to do without; abstain from; give up.”

But my day wasn’t done yet. I still had one more iconic typo to catch. It came in a sentence like this: “The dishes are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palette.”

This mistake comes up a lot in feature articles and marketing pieces. Writers describing décor have lots of opportunities to refer to a color palette just as writers describing flavors have lots of opportunities to talk about a diner’s “palate.” They’re easy to confuse.

A palette, in its most literal sense, is “a thin board or tablet of wood, plastic, etc., often with a hole for the thumb at one end, on which an artist arranges and mixes paints,” Webster’s says. It’s also often used to mean “the colors used by a particular artist or for a particular painting.”

Conversely, “palate” means, basically, the roof of your mouth. Webster’s also defines it as “sense of taste” and adds this interesting tidbit: “the palate was incorrectly thought to be the organ of taste.”

Oh, and one of those big square things you see in warehouses made of wood planks that forklifts can pick up? That one gets its own spelling: “pallet.”

Clearly, “ado,” “forgo” and alternate spellings of “palette” — these are all things that “you just gotta know.” And now you do.

JUNE CASAGRANDE is the author of “It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences.” She can be reached at JuneTCN@aol.com.

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