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Wilde: Famous writers from A to Z on writing

Precision is paramount in poetry, particularly for poets composing with meter and rhyme. Even in free verse, a typographical error can be creatively catastrophic. Consider the ways a single misplaced comma can change the entire flow and meaning:

“Slow, children crossing” means one thing. “Slow children crossing” is something else. (Who’s clocking the kids?)

Capitalization (or lack of it) can also shift a sentence’s sense:

“I prefer honey on my toast” is altogether different than “I prefer Honey on my toast.” (Meanwhile, the dog named Honey is hiding behind the sofa.)

Multiple missteps can mess up meanings even more:

“Well-done burger” is a far cry from “Well done, Berger.”

Proofreading matters, as Irish Victorian humorist and essayist Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) pointed out:

“A poet can survive everything but a misprint.”

Misprints make us miserable. Honestly, they do.

Perhaps writers will take heed of Wilde’s warning and share it. After all, he also said this:

“The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.”

Oscar Wilde’s best known works included The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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  1. I absolutely agree! Where would some poets be without their proofreading pals waiting in the wings to pounce? (Insert commas, or rearrange words, as desired)

  2. Your post made me laugh. It's true misprints can make for interesting reading. And the worst part is that they aren't always easy to catch. You can read "well-done burger" like "well done, Berger!" if you have it set in your mind that that is how you want it said. :-/


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