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Columbia Missourian

Show Me the Errors contest changes its rules

By Maggie Walter
November 11, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Jim Terry is back in the winner’s circle in the Show Me the Errors contest for October. He submitted 42 corrections, topping second-place winner Pat Sweet, who had 10 entries.

Congratulations are due to our top competitor who won a Missourian T-shirt and "The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English" by Roy Peter Clark.

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October's contest, however, marks the final time for the participant with the most entries to automatically win the prizes. 

After a year of the Show Me the Errors competition, ColumbiaMissourian.com has decided to change up the contest. Starting this month, the names of all participants will be entered in a drawing — one entry for each submission to the contest will be entered, and one name will be drawn from the pool to select the winner.

For example, if the change had been started in October, Terry would have had 42 chances to win, and Sweet would have had 10 chances. All the other participants would have had three, two or just one chance — but still a chance at winning the prizes.

There also will be a new prize: "The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time" by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson. Winners will continue to receive a Missourian T-shirt.

A bit of background about Deck and Herson and their quest to mark out errors across the country is in order.

Deck, who describes himself as "a former spelling-bee champion," writes in the book's opening chapter and on his website that he was looking for a way to make his mark in the world when he formed the Typo Eradication Advancement League. Its "mission would be to stamp out typos wherever they hid."

Deck writes on his website: 

"My few essential rules were these:

"We would attack only errors in the public domain. Personal correspondence wasn’t and shouldn’t be our business.

"We would not beat up on non-native speakers of English.

"We only cared about text, which remains in place for all to see. We had no desire to correct people’s speech.

"And finally, our guiding principle:

"We would not be jerks. There are plenty of people who mock others for their mistakes. We wanted the errors eradicated, but it was not our place to pass judgment on those who had made them."

Deck set out in early 2008, and Herson and others soon joined him in correcting public errors in orthography, the art of writing words with the proper letters according to standard usage.

"The Great Typo Hunt" gives details of their adventures across the country as they tried to right the wrongs in spelling and punctuation.

"Upon our return to Somerville, we celebrated our grammatical heroism," Deck wrote on his website. "My friends and I had caught over 400 typos, and we’d corrected about 55% of them."

After a few legal mishaps and admonishments, Deck now says: "Always ask for permission to correct a typo."

Reading the book is a fun romp through the rampant misuse of punctuation — or lack of it.

For Show Me the Errors, there were 99 errors reported in October. Most were errors of spelling, punctuation and spacing — certainly distracting and annoying to readers. Others registered factual errors — always a reason to complain heartily. Either way, we appreciate all of our participants.

So come join and help stamp out errors at ColumbiaMissourian.com. The entry box for the contest can be found at the bottom of each article on the website. Simply click, and a Show Me the Errors form will pop up.

Maggie Walter is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and an interactive news editor at ColumbiaMissourian.com. She sometimes forgets the name of the book she is currently reading, but she always remembers that it's a book (and not its a book).