Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where, Oh Where, Has the Missing Word Gone?

The hellidays haven't left me much spare time to devote to the Perpetual Hunt for Rampant Typos, so today I'm addressing one of the more common errors I see in online articles:  missing words.  

In most cases, the word that's missing from the sentence is a minor annoyance that doesn't much change the meaning of the sentence.  Readers who skim articles may not even notice that a word isn't where it's supposed to be – it's that brain-automatically-plugs-in-missing-word thing again.

Admittedly, these examples aren't very exciting, but in each case the sentence gave me pause the first time I read it because something just wasn't right.  My brain is very good at filling the blanks, so I had to read the sentences again to figure out what was off.

From an article about the FDA's take on the term "all natural" as it applies to food products:

"…But it won't object to term as long as products do not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances."  ["object to the term"]

A writer describing the grand opening of a new library branch made this observation:

"… In quieter corners of the building, families thumbed through books about Star Wars and pets or perused an ample selection audio books."  ["selection of audio books"]

Finally, from yet another article about a fire:

They immediately additional fire trucks and firefighters.  [An entire verb is missing here.  Called?  Summoned?  Insert a word of your choosing…]

Why do so many words go missing?  I doubt they're running away from a bad home page environment.  Most likely they're omitted by haste on the writer's part, and poor or nonexistent copy editing just keeps them invisible.  

Kids, the moral of this story is:  Always, always, always proofread your work – and get a second set of eyes on it whenever possible.


  1. Almost every time I have a word go astray or have an extra one in there it is because I'm editing what I've already written. But you're right, proofreading will generally spot the problem and get it corrected if one takes the time.

  2. I agree that missing and/or extra words usually make their appearances during the editing phase. As Flo the car insurance gal says, "Happens to me all the time!"