What’s Lurking in Your Content?

Fellow technical writers, admit it. You’ve all done it. You’re writing along, and you come to a spot where you need to insert place-holder text. Your creative juices are flowing, and a simple lorem ipsum just won’t do.

So you insert something clever. Lyrics from your favorite Stones song. Lines from the Dead Parrot sketch. Maybe even a rant about what a dopey product you’re describing.

Then you delete it forthwith. Because if you don’t, those little place-holders have a way of lurking unnoticed until one day they find their way into print.

Cover for the Hello Kitty Dictionary

Image source: mirror.co.uk

Don’t believe me? Check out this horrifying story of what a mother recently found in, of all things, the Hello Kitty Dictionary. At the entry for necklace were two definitions: a piece of jewelry, and a brutal method for killing people.

Improbable as it sounds, the story appears to be true: it was cited by a number of different online sources. Even if it’s a fake, it’s a good object lesson for all of us who publish content.

Reportedly the publisher, Harper Collins, reacted promptly by pulling all copies from the shelves and destroying them.

But I have to wonder: how did that ever make it to print in the first place?

About the author: Larry Kunz lives in an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of his block. If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up daisies.

13 thoughts on “What’s Lurking in Your Content?

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  3. Val Swisher

    Hi Larry – Thanks for a great morning chuckle – particularly about where you live. I’ve never noticed that before!

    Of course, relics of “placeholder mis-information” are nothing to laugh about. We see a similar situation all the time in the unstructured authoring world. In an unstructured environment, if you make a change, you need to make sure that every place you have used that content (via copy and paste) is changed, too. Sometimes, a version or two are mistakenly forgotten. One of the drivers for migrating to structured authoring is being able to make a change once and have that change reflected everywhere. Of course, if you leave a Hello Kitty-type error in there by accident….well…you get the picture! ~ Val

    1. Larry Kunz Post author

      Thanks, Val. As you say, one of the selling points for structured authoring is that it frees you from maintaining multiple copies of the same content (or nearly the same). You can avert a lot of headaches that way.

  4. Karen Field Carroll

    Nightmare for all: readers, the author, and the publisher. In a related anecdote: I was once burned by a spell-checker. I was happily clicking along, accepting all the changes, but I didn’t realize that I had accepted the change of CSD (a product name) to “c@strator”! Fortunately, I caught it before anyone else saw it, but still. It taught me a permanent lesson about relying on spell-checking.

  5. Pingback: What's lurking in your content? | E-Learning Me...

  6. Neal Kaplan

    On the other hand, I know more than one writer who considered adding some “easter eggs” to their docs just to see whether anyone was reading them.

    1. Larry Kunz Post author

      Oh, Easter eggs. As Smokey Robinson sang, that’s quite a different subject. If I have to make a screen shot showing names in a list, will I use names like Bill Jones and Mary Smith — or will I use (with light edits) the lineup for the 1967 Red Sox?

      I’ll never tell. But if you read my doc and you get the eerie feeling that something seems familiar, that could explain it.

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