A minor typographical error can significantly change the intent of a piece of writing. A transcription error can create confusion as well. All it takes is one little thing.
That’s what I did when reading an article from the 18 August 1906 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as mentioned in “The Judge Would Have Shot the Right One and Made a Better Job of It.” In this case it was one little period that my mind saw as a comma.
The girl screamed for her father. Charles Valentine, who was visiting…
That’s what the article says. When I read the article for one reason or another, I saw:
The girl screamed for her father, Charles Valentine, who was visiting…
And that made all the difference. I never got that comma after the word “father” out of my head. But there is not a comma after the word father. There is a period. If it has been a comma, then the newspaper would have been referring to Charles Valentine as the girl’s father. But there is no comma. There is a period and a new sentence with a new subject. The newspaper is not referring to Valentine as the girl’s father. That was my mistake. Valentine is not the girl’s father–at least not in how this newspaper article mentions him.
All it takes is misreading one thing to give an entirely different spin to things. That thing can be small. As small as a comma.
Or in this case what’s not actually a comma.
Thanks to Linda S. for pointing out this error.