Muphry's Law: the inevitability of typos in discussions of proofreading

Muphry's Law, as formulated John Bangsund of the Victorian Society of Editors (Victorian as in "from the Australian state of Victoria" not as in "pertaining to 1837-1901, the period concurrent with the rule of Queen Victoria") pertains to the inevitable petard-hoisting that occurs whenever you mention proofreading or editing.
1. if you write anything criticising editing or proofreading, there will be a fault in what you have written;

2. if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;

3. the stronger the sentiment in (a) and (b), the greater the fault; and any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.

Muphry’s Law (via Kottke)

(Image: Typo, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mmitchell's photostream)



  1.  i didn’t realise that Murphy’s Law formulated John Bangsund. presumably that’s the first recorded instance of an adage assembling a human?
    postscript: love your work, boing boing peoples. 

  2. Ah, but a TRUE writer knows when to break the rules!

    Hey, umm… anyone have a couch I could crash on?  Just for like a day or two I promise, I went to this job interview, and the guy was totally cool, I mean I don’t know if the job is going to stifle my creativity so it’s going to have to be like a temporary thing at first but once my screenplay gets picked up I’m totally going to get my own place.

  3. In addition to the “headline” error in the photo, the stand’s proprietor appears to have an inventory of an untold number of cigarettes yet only one each of the other items advertised.

    1. It’s a supply kiosk for those who lurk in alleyways. Items needed: cigarettes (lots of them, to smoke down to the nub, and then toss away into the dark), phone card (a taxi may come in handy if the cops wonder just why it is you’re lurking there), newspaper (for reading, a rain hat, and possibly origami), and a soda (because it’s a long night, lurking about in an alley)

  4. 1. if you write anything criticising editing or proofreading, there will be a fault in what you have written;


    Er, I mean:

    That is wrong.

  5. Here is a little word puzzle for you clever people to decrypt.

    When caught by the Oxford spelling nitpickers, the first thing to to is to hope they made some mistakes of their own and to respond in kind; than you can feel better about your initial error by suddenly holding *them* ackountable. But do it humbly and humerously, because I must ad that while this can be deply satisfying, you should never resort to braggging; after all, your own response might have mistakes in it. If, however, you cannot find a single error, you have nothing to loose: what you should do is too deliberately insert a few odd mistakes in your reply, because apart from fundamendally annoying them (wile reading with this conceted state of mind, incorrect spelling supercedes almoast all other thoughts in there heads), this may have a serius side-benefit: that of making them a victim of their own tyrany as they are compelled to carefullt comb through the mistakes in a desperate search for some sort of pattern. As they get more irate with you, you can arrogantly say that your mistakes are above their correction, and that both are linguistically valid; mention the fact that precisely what is considered “correct” spelling has been in constant flux over the years. But way more to the point: if it seems obviouos what a person is trying to say, who cares how they spell it?


  6. This is a joke, right? All three Muphry’s Laws begin in lower case letters, the *if* are missing there *then* statements, and the last law uses an unnecessary semicolon before an *and* conjunction where a simple comma would do.

Comments are closed.