The Editor’s Pen

Paul Vander Loos at your service.

I have been writing and editing professionally since the 1980s. I have worked for regional newspapers in Queensland, Australia. I have published a series of fantasy novels and a collection of poetry. I created this page to give other writers tips on English usage, including typical mistakes that writers make and what constitutes good grammar and construction in a changing world. If you need an expert eye to go over your written work, I offer a proofreading and editing service. Check out my website at and use the online form to ask for a quote.

4 comments on “The Editor’s Pen

  1. s hippy to see this peace today since i am the blog who has been popularizing the atomic typo meme since i first encountered the CF Hanif coined term in his newspaper online a few years back and that was my oped in the China Pest link above and my own original AT blog is hear: http// – so I am glad this meme is catching on. Fun, too. MORE MORE! danny dan bloom in Taiwan.

    Danny Bloom (@polarcityman) says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    July 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm
    There was an amazing atomic typo in the Taipei Times the udder day. They reprinted an Observer UK article about selfies and the first sentence which must be been part of an autocorrect thing, said “Just point your camera at a 45 degree Centigrade angle and snap away…” I later told the editor and they corrected it online. SMILE

  2. Four Reasons Why Spellcheck Cannot Check ‘Atomic Typos’

    By Dan Bloom

    Everyone knows what a ”typo” is, and we all make them from time to
    time, in emails
    and college term papers and in published ebooks. But what is an “atomic typo”?

    I’ve been following the term for a few years now, and from I gather
    it’s an incorrect word in a text that a
    context-challenged spellcheck system is unable to detect because the
    spelling of the word — while not incorrect and therefore not
    technically a “typo” — it is just different from the
    actual word that was intended.

    Examples are, for example, unclear for nuclear, former Florida
    Governor Chris for Governor Christ, sedan for Sudan.

    The term “atomic typo” has been in use in computerized newsrooms and
    publishing offices for over ten years, although its use in common
    conversation and news articles is very rare. In fact, most newspaper
    language mavens, like the late William Safire of the New York Times, had never
    heard of it before it was brought to their attention by some interested

    Such typos are called “atomic typos” apparently because the mistake is
    very small, minute, just one or two letters in the wrong order or in
    the wrong place, and like an atomic particle or a sub-atomic particle,
    the typo is deemed to be very small, and therefore “atomic” in nature.

    In other words, an atomic typo is a small, very small typograhic
    mistake, that ends up making a big difference in the meaning.

    C.F. Hanif, a former editorial ombudsman at the Palm Beach Post, used
    this term in print one day in the early 2000s and it stuck. So all credit
    goes to Mr Hanif for coming the term. (He has now left the newspaper
    business and serves as a Muslim imam in Florida.)

    So it appears that an atomic typo is a very small typo, one letter or
    two letters, done in a very tiny, atomic kind of way, like an atomic
    particle, as if one small difference makes the difference.

    Dr Peter J. Farago, Editor of CHEMISTRY IN BRITAIN, now called
    CHEMISTRY WORLD, wittily presented observations on “Editing: Good and
    Bad, Necessary or Not.”
    He sees the purpose of an editor to be “grit in your oyster” and to
    avoid famous atomic typos such as “Unclear Physics.” Did he mean
    nuclear physics?

    So have you spotted any good atomic typos recently? And can technology
    come up with an advanced spellcheck platform that could spot and
    correct “atomic typos”?

    I rather doubt it. We will always need the human eye. And mind.

    Dan Bloom is a freelance rider (sic) in Taiwan.

  3. marjma2014 says:

    I love your line,” I escape with my fantasy characters into wondrous worlds.” Sounds fun! 🙂

  4. mirrortac says:

    Thanks marjma2014! It is fun. 🙂

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