Proofreading Perils

I laughed out loud this morning when I happened to come across this in the appendix of a book on hymn typesetting:

I’m not throwing stones – I’ve made my share of mistakes – and I’m not going to tell you what book this is from.

It reminded me of this title page of a recent chant book:

That’s good Italian – canto gregoriano – and perhaps that’s why it looked OK to the proofreaders. Problem is, this is Latin, and so it should be cantu gregoriano.

I’ve gone to press with my share of Angus Dei and “his Song, Jesus Christ our Lord” and the like. The antiphon index of one of our abbey hymnals almost went to press with “Wasted and anointed” but we caught that one – it’s “Washed.”

Any favorites among your mistakes you’d like to share?



  1. I also laughed – aloud.

    It’s true that the hardest things to proofread are: things one types oneself, and errors that are not in spelling. It’s exceedingly easy to add or omit a negative contrary to intended meaning; that’s perhaps the most common of the non-spelling, non-autocorrect kind.

  2. Decades ago a senior staff member at Concordia Publishing House sent me a note explaining the source of things like these. It read (as I can best recall): “We aim to publish something for everyone. Some people are always looking for mistakes. Therefore we try to include a typo at regular intervals.”

  3. I had a bulletin column that was entitled “Liturgy Corner.” Sometimes that title was re-typed. Once it came out “Liturgy Coroner.” The great Lee Nagel of happy memory met up with me a a local conference and said, “so you’re the one who declared liturgy dead.”

  4. One of the last editions of “Glory and Praise” had “Away in a Manager” listed in the index. I referred to it as the IBM Christmas Carol…..

  5. Over the past five to ten years in our parish, “Our Lord died for the love of money [many]”, and the hymns ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sin” and “Lord Jesus Think Not on Me”.

  6. The capitalization and spelling section of the SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd Ed., p. 48, states:

    pharoah, the (similar to the king, the emperor, etc.)
    Pharaoh x (Pharoah Ramesses, Pharaoh Tutankhamun, etc.)

    It’s like Joe Satriani’s advice to guitarists: when you play a wrong note, play it twice so the audience thinks you meant it!

  7. We did a worship aid in the early days of desktop publishing (QuarkXpress on a Mac) and in the Gloria it said , “glory to God in the high test.” Neither I nor my colleague caught it. I doubt many in the pews noticed either.

  8. I’ve used that chant book in class materials last semester and in an article about to be published! I thought it was odd (“in canto”) but just skipped over it. Trust your instincts and check it out carefully is my future motto!

  9. Publishers keep a very special file full of editions with typos. We published an octavo with “Hark, the Harold Angels Sing” on the cover. In the days before Finale and Sibelius, it was common to send music engraving overseas where notes were literally pounded on the page with hammer and die, and where English was not the engraver’s first language. Thus, we published a mass with a sung preface dialogue that read: “The Lord be with you. And so-so with you.” We’re not alone; another publisher had a slight mix up with word order, and the title at the top of a certain Epiphany hymn in a pew resource appeared as “As with Gladness of Old Men”. Sometimes publishers have a little fun with authors, composers and arrangers and will intentionally sneak in a typo for jest on a proof copy. One colleague now in his 90’s tells the story of how he trimmed down a Handel oratorio into several short 5 to 6 minute sections that could be used in worship. His edition was entitled “Six Scenes from Samson.” But they sent him a proof of the cover with an intentional typo…….

    1. One of mine was probably the same “pew resource” mentioned by Michael Silhavy. The other, from the same resource, was “I Came Upon the Midnight Clear.” I kid you not.

  10. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immoral, have mercy on us. (Immortal).

    Heard, during a seminary service:

    (yea, o Lord and king, grant me not to see my own transgressions and to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages.”

    (grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother…)

  11. I can think of two. My mother used to be Assistant to the Pastor at my childhood parish. One of her fortes was desktop publishing, so she was the main person in charge of the bulletin. However, she also regularly proofread other printed materials, such as the seasonal liturgy booklets the congregation usually used instead of missalettes or hymnals.

    The booklet for the dedication mass for our new church back in 1997 split the mass into its expected parts. One was the “Liturgy of the Eucharistic.”

    On Good Friday one year, the assembly sang appropriate verses of the spiritual “Were You There” to split up the reading of the Passion. The liturgy booklet had the line “Oh! Sometimes is causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!” Nobody caught that “is” should have been “it” until it was too late, and since the song is repetitive by nature, my mother and her colleagues just copied and pasted the repeating lines. As a result, “it” became “is” four or five times. Luckily, everyone sang “it,” and I wonder how many actually noticed.

  12. There is the apocryphal story of the Pole for whom English was not the first language taking dictation from a priest of a sermon to be published. The priest quoted Luke 19:41 “And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city [of Jerusalem], he wept over it.” When the Pole heard “wept,” he noted the w-sound with the Polish letter of an L with a diagonal line through it. When the Pole’s dictation was transcribed and printed, the last part of that Gospel verse was rendered as “he lept over it.”

  13. Reply to Fr. Ruff: “Canto” As An Acceptable Ablative Declension

    A friend of mine (now deceased) was a Classical language scholar and teacher especially of medieval Latin. When I showed him the “canto gregoriano” on the title-page of the vespers Antiphonale Romanum volume, he said that medieval Latinists made changes in grammar and thus could have the fourth declension ablative case ending from “u” to “o,” but he could not document such, nor can I from an Internet search.

    Nonetheless, Wiktionary (at has an example of “canto” as an ablative ending for the first/second-declension of “cantus” as an adjective in the neuter singular case and also (at,less%20commonly%20appear%20as%20%2Dubus.) of “o” as an ending for all singular cases (except the genitive) for nouns derived from Greek feminine proper nouns in -ω (genitive -ους).

  14. After an evening workshop several years ago, the attendees paused to pray, according to the worship aid, Nighty Prayer. The person who had typed it discovered it just before the workshop began. To her credit, she pointed it out to everyone before the prayer began so we could all giggle over it together. We still occasionally giggle over it.

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