The dreaded typo…. I think we authors sometimes have nightmares about them. They chase us, horrible monsters spouting terrible grammar.
Truth be told, I think we all understand that perfection is near unattainable, and that the best proofreader is going to miss a couple of things. Even with multiple people going through your novel, some typos will probably slip through, and that’s all right.
It’s not my goal here to wake your inner anxiety demons.
Readers are human too. They understand. As long as the typos are few and far between and not endemic and indicative of poor editing or sloppy writing, most people are going to overlook a spare, random typo or two.
Still, the fewer the better where typos are concerned. There is no contesting that. And while perfectionism to the point of anxiety is not healthy, it’s not good to get complacent about typos either. To think, “Oh, it’s just a typo. Who cares?”
Here are some major reasons why.
1. TYPOS CAN BE EMBARRASSING IF THEY READ A SPECIFIC WAY.
Sometimes the difference in one letter makes a huge difference. A single letter. I used to be a Spanish teacher back in my days of grad school grudgery, and the example I would always use with my students was “año.”
You see, you give your age in Spanish by literally saying, “I have this many years.”
- “Tengo veinte años” means “I am twenty years old.”
- “Tengo veinte anos” means “I have twenty anuses.”
These kinds of situations exist in every language. And even though your intent is clear, it’s still embarrassing to have a typo that serious in something you’ve written.
Never forget… English is not immune.
The words “public” and “pubic” are one letter off. And since “pubic” is a legitimate, correctly spelled word, no spell check is going to flag it for you.
Having nightmares yet?
2. TYPOS CAN CAUSE CONTINUITY ISSUES.
I want to talk more about continuity in my next post. Continuity is important in fiction; that’s the major key here where this post is concerned. And typos can mess it all up.
Mistakenly typing one character’s name for another can transport one character nonsensically across a room or have him say something that doesn’t make sense. It can ruin your dialogue.
The difference between “he” and “she,” and the possible reference to different characters, is a single “s.”
An unneeded negative can also cause lots of problems. And they’re simple enough to create…. You reword a sentence while editing, forgetting or overlooking that pesky little “not” or “n’t,” and you’ve got a sentence saying the opposite of what it used to say.
Final proofreads are always good to catch mistakes like that. Because mistakes will get edited INTO your novel. I guarantee it.
3. SPELL CHECK PROGRAMS AUTOCORRECT INCORRECTLY.
Just ask anyone who owns an iPhone about “autocorrect.” It’s a nightmare. You type what you want to say, the program changes it, and suddenly what you literally typed is not what the message says.
Many word processing programs have settings to do this same thing.
4. A TYPO CAN LOOK LIKE A GRAMMAR ERROR. EEK!
I have always hated this. I mean, I’ve always loathed the fact that it’s true, but alas…. a typo can make the most informed grammar guru look like he or she doesn’t know the rules.
“To” and “Too” are one letter off. So is “Two.”
“Who” and “Whom”? Same thing.
“It’s” and “Its.”
Again, not a major deal when all is said and done. If you use the rule consistently 150 times, readers aren’t going to think you don’t know the rule because of a typo on time 151. But it’s better to get it right the first time than have to worry that you are representing yourself in a poor light.
- Use a BABY EDIT to catch those pesky typos.
- How big a deal are typos in less formal writing? Say, in a blog?
- When is it time to let beta readers/editors in?