The perils of find-and-replace
When I was working in book publishing, preparing manuscripts to be typeset, I got pretty handy with the find-and-replace function in Microsoft Word. I eventually created a list of time-saving searches to do as soon as I started working on a document: replace all the double spaces with single spaces; replace “colour” with “color”; stuff like that. As with any shortcut, though, it’s very easy to put a foot wrong — thereby creating more work for yourself. For example, if I wanted to change all occurrences of “one” to “1,” a sloppy find-and-replace could result in puzzling references to the “teleph1.” Without specifying character sensitivity or “whole words only,” Changing “Tom” to “Thomas” could leave you with monstrosities like “botthomas” or “sthomasach.” Making a mistake like that, and having to clean up after yourself, is a good education in the importance of thinking about all the potential consequences of a given action and applying the appropriate restrictions.
The Vatican, of all places, provides us with an object lesson in the perils of overreliance on technology, as noted at PrayTell today. From the English version of Pius XII’s 1954 encyclical Sacra virginitas on the Vatican Web site:
3. Indeed, right from Apostolic Times New Roman this virtue has been thriving and flourishing in the garden of the Church.
51. …We recall to those also whose will has been weakened by upset nerves and whom some doctors, someTimes New Roman even Catholic doctors, are too quick to persuade that they should be freed from such an obligation….
A simple mistake? Perhaps. But if it results in a redesign of www.vatican.va, I for one will consider it the work of the Holy Spirit.