I once put the typo in typography

I was remidned the other day of an incident that happened many moons ago, around 1995 or 1996. I was the production manager for a small weekly newspaper. The entire staff was five people, and we all had shared duties. We wrote, we pasted up the paper (yep, wax!), we edited. We made mistakes and they sometimes got into print. It happens.

The most memorable one I made was due to very close kerning on an italic font that caused me to read someone’s last name as “Raybum” instead of “Rayburn”. So Dr. Rayburn’s ad had a pretty bad typo in it when we went to press.

I was not only the person who caused the problem, I was the person who answered the phone when Dr. Rayburn called to complain. He justifiably wanted an explanation, and I told him it was a simple misreading of his name. His anger was clearly building as I explained and apologized.

He finally interrupted me and said, “I’ve already had four calls today asking for ‘Dr. Raybum'”. Upon reflection, my response may not have been good customer service, but it was true: “Well then, the ad is working, isn’t it?”

The owner of the paper had to credit the ad for that week. She called the good doctor back to let him know all had been taken care of, but it took her a few minutes for her to stop laughing at my response. To his credit, Dr. Rayburn chuckled a bit and was a loyal advertiser from then on.

And I learned how to read poorly kerned italic text and to never trust an “m” that might be a “rn”.


  1. Priscilla Holder Harris on December 31, 2012 at 6:28 am

    LOL, ahhh the good old days.

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