Howler, n., informal, a stupid or glaring mistake, esp. a humorous one.
As a professional editor, I was a semi-professional editor. I've never been trained in editing and I am not an expert in grammar. However, spending six years of your life correcting other peoples' prose has the effect of sensitizing you to verbal errors; it's unavoidable. As a naturally good speller, I'm also sensitive to spelling mistakes.
"Howlers," to a professional or semi-professional editor or a former one, as well as to many readers, are commonplace. Finding them is easy. But sometimes I'm amused by finding several in close proximity—a high "howler density," you might call it. I ran across this actual sentence the other day on a forum:
"Hey your right. Where is everbody? Look's like there loosing interest...!"
That one is pretty impressive. Three sentences, and at least one error in each; and, in a mere 11 words, five errors, four of which are flagrant howlers. And that's not counting the fact that there probably should be a comma after "hey." The third sentence is particularly impressive, with three howlers in eight words (the whole sentence had three more words), for a total howler density of 37.5%. A howler density over 50% is rare, even on the internet.
It should be, of course (with corrections in bold):
"Hey, you're right. Where is everybody? Looks like they're losing interest...!"
Of course, that was not on a photography forum. You can tell not necessarily because of the howler density, but because people don't loose interest in photography. Theirs alway's somthing new and interesting to learn. Photo buffs aren't loosers.
(Reminder: I'm off tomorrow. I'll try to find something just as productive as this to do.)
Featured Comment by Matt: "To be honest, I find it a bit harsh how nitpicky some people here are. Of course, good grammar would be a pleasure to read, but keep in mind not everyone's native language is English. If one learns the language at an older age, it might even be quite challenging. There's people that don't even bother or try, but those are most likely the same people that don't write their sentences with capitals in the first place."
Mike replies: I probably should have made more of the fact that I consider my sensitivity to be a regrettable occupational hazard, in the way that a podiatrist might notice the way people pronate their feet when they walk, or the way a musician might be unable to ignore the Muzak in an elevator. It's not necessarily even desirable.
And of course it's possible to be perfectly correct and utterly boring. One of my favorite readers here on TOP writes comments that are peppered with errors, but he also expresses himself vividly, and with spirit, and he has a lot to say because he knows a lot. To be distracted by his errors—or, worse, to be bigoted against his opinion on their account—is akin to not enjoying a spectacular sunset because there's a contrail in the sky, or dismissing a great photograph in a museum because it has dust spots.
For instance, in your comment, you made a common error...."there's people...", where "there's" is a contraction for "there is," when of course it should be "there are." But what does it profit me to notice that? Nothing. It's like a nagging little pinch to my brain on the way by. And I wish I didn't feel it. You've expressed yourself perfectly clearly. I would prefer not to notice the small mistakes people make. I would prefer not to notice all the mistakes I make. Alas, 'tis not to be.
But I'm sorry if I offended anybody here. That wasn't my intent.
To be honest, I'm going to try very hard to take to heart the comment made by David, the former proofreader, in the comments section below.
Featured Comment by robert e: "That forum poster 'should of' proofread his remarks.
"I am as annoyed by these errors as anyone, and probably just as annoyed that I'm annoyed as you are annoyed that you are annoyed, Mike.
"And it is doubly annoying when I consider what an unkempt, mercurial pastiche the English language has been since its beginnings: the bastard offspring of several major linguistic collisions, a ravenous assimilator, even historically a big mess that, late in its adolescence, a bunch of cloistered monks attempted to stuff whole into an ill-fitting Latinate grammatical structure.
"Being picky about something so wild and alive feels like a futile and inappropriate thing to do."
Featured Comment by Rana: "What I tell my students, when it comes to grammar, typos, and writing, is that correcting errors is a way of showing that you respect your readers and your own work.
"I liken it to brushing your hair or checking your suit for lint before an interview; people will notice errors, and, for some of them, it's a deal-breaker. They'll stop reading, outright, or they'll view everything else you wrote with increased scepticism.
"In some cases, too, the errors are such that they get in the way of the message—it's not unlike trying to view the world through a lens covered with specks of dust. Clean them, and your point is easier to discern.
"That said, I make a distinction between formal writing and causal writing, just as I make a distinction between formal speech and the sort of speech you use when hanging out with your friends.
"(Of course, as I've been writing this, I've backspaced more than once to correct typos, errors in punctuation and spelling, etc. It's pretty hard to turn off the internal editor once you've acquired one.)"