June 20, 2019: Typography

My dad used to have a little pocketbook that was given to Australian soldiers during the Korean War. It had a few handy phrases in Korean, Chinese, and Russian, some first-aid advice, and instructions on defusing unexploded artillery shells. (Apparently the fuses in the Chinese shells used by the North Koreans would often fail to go boom when they landed in thick mud.) On the bottom of one of the right-hand pages were the instructions “Step 3: Cut the yellow wire”. When you turned the page, the rest of the sentence was, “after cutting the red wire.”

My dad taught English for over thirty years, and used this to illustrate the importance of careful editing and good typography. Every time I near the end of a book project, I wonder if anyone ever looked up that little booklet’s author…

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