Extravaganza — a big mistake from my past

Dennis Warden

Extravaganza. It’s a big word. It was also one of my first big mistakes in an ad. I was a newbie, a green horn, just out of college, working at the Hannibal Courier-Post in the early 1980’s.

I designed a full page advertisement for a local furniture store. The headline included the word “extravaganza” in all caps the width of the page. 

The type would have been Helvetica — at least 140-point in extra bold. For a comparison the type size for this column is 11-point.

140-point type is close to one-and-a-half inches tall. It’s BIG. 

Of course this was before e-mail. It was even before the fax machine, if you can believe that. So, once the ad was created a copy was made (we did have copy machines) and hand delivered to the advertiser.

The newspaper employed one person specifically to deliver advertising proofs. A proof is just what it sounds like. It is a copy of the ad that the advertiser sees before printing, giving them a chance to make any changes, or catch any mistakes.

The advertiser approved the ad. The ad was then given to the production department to place on the page. After the page was completed a negative was made. 

The next step in the process was making the plate of the page for the press.

All in all, no less than eight sets of eyes would have looked at that full page ad before it was printed.

But we have a saying in the newspaper business. 

Mistakes are always easier to see AFTER the paper has been printed. Also, it’s harder to catch a mistake the bigger the type size.

Sure enough that was the case with this example. ‘Extravaganza’ in 140-point type was misspelled.

Everyone makes mistakes. The difference is that when your mistake is on the printed page it is permanent. You cannot hide it. It cannot be ignored. It doesn’t go away. Everyone can see it.

Some of you are wondering why the computer did not place a little red line under the word and save me from this embarrassment. 

Sorry, that was a couple of years before Steve Jobs started producing Macintosh computers we use in the newspaper business.

That was my first big mistake on the printed page that I can remember. It was not the last.

About computers: The programs we use place that little red line under misspelled words. It helps. But it is not perfect. In this column there are no less than six words that are spelled correctly that contain the dreaded red line.

We always have to watch the spelling of names the closest. After all the computer will place a red line under most last names.

Last week The Republican had five pages with over 190 of area grandparent’s favorite valentines. Each one of those small ads included several names. It’s like walking through a minefield of problems.

On page 10 of today’s paper you can find a reprint of one that we missed.

Mistakes in the newspaper are not always simple typos. In advertising, which is my area of expertise, an incorrect day or date can be a bigger problem.

When a word is misspelled most people read right over it, knowing what the word is supposed to be, like my example with extravaganza. Many don’t even notice the error. Dates are another matter.

An ad that has the wrong date is a disaster. An ad that has a day that doesn’t agree with the date is confusing.

A wrong price is an embarrassment. But know this, the advertiser is not responsible for a mistake in their advertisement. Just because the TV was advertised for $85.95 instead of $859.50 don’t expect to buy it at that price.

The Republican is also available on line. Whenever possible we take the opportunity to correct our printed mistakes in the on-line version.

People often ask who proof reads the stories in the paper. Most of the mistakes you see are because the story was written late on Tuesday night, or even Wednesday after midnight and no one had a chance to proofread it.

Remember, when the announcer at the local radio or TV station makes an error that problem disappears in the airwaves. 

Not so with the printed word.