Culture and Society

Muphtry’s Law

Muphry’s law is an adage that states that:

“If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”

The name is a deliberate misspelling of “Murphy’s law.”

Further variations state that flaws in a printed or published work will only be discovered after it is printed and not during proofreading, and flaws such as spelling errors in a sent email will be discovered by the sender only during its subsequent retrieval by her/him from the “Sent” box for rereading.

The law, as set out by Bangsund, states that:

John Bangsund of the Society of Editors (Victoria) in Australia identified Muphry’s law as “the editorial application of the better-knownMurphy’s law” and set it down in 1992 in the Society of Editors Newsletter.

(a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written;
(b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
(c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault;
(d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.

In 2009, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hand-wrote a letter of condolence to a mother whose son had died in Afghanistan, during which he misspelled the deceased’s surname. The Sun (a tabloid newspaper) published a vitriolic article criticizing his lack of care. In this article, the paper misspelled the same name and was forced to publish an apology of its own.

So, if you find any editing or proof-reading error here, think twice before correcting it.

One Comment

  • Prima

    Just read the post about Brits miss-using quotes then landed to this article. This comment I guess is going to be the cross-roads between the two because it talks about ‘Correction. Funny!

    ‘condolences’ – my school dean just recently pointed out a mistake with its usage. He is an English and he says that usage of ‘condolences’ is entirely wrong. Condole is a verb. The correct term would be ‘I condole with you’. It was interesting knowing that. These two posts somehow reminded me of this remark. :)

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