4 Reasons Typos Matter In Your Published Novel

No, not really. Not with a typo. Still, though.... Keep an eye out for them!

No, not really. Not with a typo. Still, though…. Keep an eye out for them!

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.

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36 responses to “4 Reasons Typos Matter In Your Published Novel

  1. Whenever I catch a typo, it breaks that magic spell the author has cast upon me. I’m suddenly outside the story. I can tolerate that once or twice, but some books (and not just self-published books, but books from major publishers too) are brimming with typos. They make it impossible for me to get lost in whatever I’m reading.

    • I have found some majorly published books with more typos than I could type!!! It’s HORRIBLE. And it makes no sense to me…. If no one else, they should have the resources to hire a proofreader. A good one!

  2. Reblogged this on Blotting Away and commented:
    I completely agree with this. First hand experience has shown me the importance of a few more sets of eyes.

  3. I totally agree, James. It completely destroys my ability to engage with a story if I get pulled up by typos. They shock me out of the world the writer has cleverly built around me.

    Meanwhile, as a public servant, I see the ‘pubic’ example way too often!

  4. Addition for number one: Don’t forget about shirt and…well take the “r” away.

  5. Proper orthography is essential to not disturb a reader’s journey through the story, I think. Typos only kick you back into reality and point the finger on the fact that you are actually reading something instead of fighting dragons. I agree with James Pailly. A few typos are no fiasko, but if there are too many of them, I am thrown out of the story’s atmosphere.

    When I’m editing stories in front of the screen, I have the tendency to look for logical mistakes or for the right words if I’m unsatisfies, but I tend to overlook typos. I only notice them once I print the whole thing out and can read it on paper. Unpractical, but for me it’s the best way to really get rid of as many typos as possible.

    • I definitely agree with you and James. A handful of minor typos over hundreds of pages is only to be expected. I don’t judge that. It’s when there was obviously no or minimal proofreading done that I get annoyed 🙂 Two very different situations.

  6. Reblogged this on Mrs C Writes Blog.

  7. It’s scary to think that a crucial point in the plot of a novel could be torn to confusing shreds from misplaced negatives, apostrophes. Combing through some of my stories, I find this happening quite often and it is definitely something to have nightmares about. Perhaps if I get scared enough of them I’ll be more vigilant. The nightmares may have a use of their own.

    • Don’t let yourself have nightmares 🙂 That’s no fun at all. Just get someone else who has a good eye for detail and knows grammar doublecheck your proofreading for you. That should be enough to catch anything serious enough to impede comprehension.

  8. I fear typos, but not as much as I used to. I’ve come to accept that I’ll slip up once or twice. It happens even with an editor and, like you said, 9 out of 10 readers will be upset with a slip from time to time. That 1 can be a real pain.
    Not sure if it falls into the first category, but what about different words that sound the same and spell differently? This is probably rare, but I’ve seen it a few times. The most infamous was a friend in high school who wrote ‘the girls tied ribbons around their wastes’. Everyone who read his paper told him it was ‘waists’ and he kept forgetting to change it. At least the teacher got a laugh.

  9. A great post and good points 🙂 I hate when my word processor automatically corrects, drives me up the wall!

  10. very true…..there will always be typos I’m afraid, but the less the better

  11. I have found some uses for typos in early drafts for helping to spark random ideas within my brain – that perhaps take a story in a different direction.
    But your post is so right, it is keeping them to a minimum and realising you are just a slip away from your own ‘twenty anuses’ moment.

  12. This post really helped me! Thanks!

  13. Reblogged this on Choices and commented:
    Every revision pass through my novel-in-progress uncovers more typos. Is there no end?

  14. Typos have been the cause of a few panic attacks. I try hard to avoid them but I know they happen. I was recently published in a well-known book of short stories, as I read my story aloud to my family I felt horror race through my veins when I realized they omitted a word at the end of my story. It wasn’t an edit, it was an oversight so it looks as if I forgot a word. Yikes!
    Thanks for another great post!

  15. I found this out the hard way. When I wrote my short Christmas story for the anthology, it was looked over by me, my roommate (a good editor in her own right, and avid reader), and the editor. Then me, my roommate again after corrections. Then it was sent to the one in charge, and he looked it over. This was after I submitted it. It was published and I noticed that there were two typos that we either all missed, or it was edited in. So, since rights are back to me, when I re-submit it on Amazon, I will fix those. I was so upset about it, because I worked so hard on that story. 😉 One typo that you mentioned was a good example for me. The who and whom. I am reasonably good with grammar, but this one always stumps me. I either use who, or change it to insert a different word. When do you use whom? I’ve read up on it many times, but for some reason this is a hard one for me to grasp. Thanks again for a great post. 🙂

    • Whom is an object pronoun, so you use it as an object: either a direct or indirect object, or (most commonly) the object of a preposition: to whom, for whom, etc. Where I get confused is when that “who/whom” looks like the object of one thing and the subject of a different verb!

  16. Thanks, Victoria! That finally makes some sense to me. I don’t know why I have such trouble with that particular word. I think you’re right about how that would be confusing if representing an object and a verb. Wouldn’t you just use it separately. Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.Who asked the question? Maybe that isn’t a good example, but I know what you mean. 🙂

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