The Inevitability of Tpyos
By Evan Braun
Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: I have never read a book in which I didn’t spot a typo. Not one. At least not one that I can remember. That includes the most thoroughly edited, professionally published books at the finest bookstores in the land.
I’m an editor, so that probably sounds odd coming from me. Maybe it sounds like an attack on my own profession? Maybe it sounds like I’m saying editing isn’t important?
Far from it. Never skip editing.
Bear in mind that a lot of people misunderstand what “editing” refers to. They often conflate it with proofreading, which is actually only a subtype of editing. Proofreading, of course, is the process of reading a nearly finished book as carefully as possible to correct spelling and punctuation mistakes, as well as some grammar snafus that may have slipped through the previous editing passes.
In reality, the word “editing” is much broader than that. Depending on what kind of editing package you’re looking for, you will likely be getting help with plot, structure, character, setting, and all manner of other areas of craft. Looking for typos is only one small part of it.
Also, if your goal in editing is to eliminate one hundred percent of typos in your book, you’re going to fail. You might as well accept it now. Because you could have a hundred proofreaders look at your manuscript, but a year later you’ll open your book to a random page and find something that slipped by all of them.
I know, it hardly seems possible. How could a hundred readers all miss the same misspelled word?
This literally happens all the time. Like I said at the start, I’ve never read a book where I didn’t find one or two, or five.
Even the Bible has had some infamous typos over the years! Did you know about the version of the King James Version which mistakenly transcribed “Thou shalt not commit adultery” as “Thou shalt commit adultery”? And then there was the edition that advised its readers, in Mark 7:27, to “let the children first be killed.” Uh, filled. We think. We hope!
Typos are a fact of life.
That’s not to say we don’t fight hard against them. At the starting of editing, a manuscript probably has many hundreds of typos. By the end, there may only be a handful. This is great! Don’t forget that the perfect is the enemy of the good.
Indeed, there is some cold comfort to be drawn from the fact that writing, as with all human endeavours, is subject to our all-too-human foibles.
So when you open your own book a few years from now and discover that you flagrantly inverted a couple of letters here or there, left out a period, or duplicated an entire word… well, gnasheth not thy teeth.
Just remember that you are in the very best of company. The ability of dozens and dozens of qualified and well-intentioned readers to overlook the same tiny typographical blunder is, in fact, perhaps not so bad a thing. Think of it as a little miracle. A reminder that despite our striving, we are not as in control of the world as we would hope to be.
Also: we may conclude that God Himself is a fan of typos, otherwise He might not have created them. He does have a sense of humour, remember!
About this Contributor:
Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. Braun is an experienced professional editor, and has worked with Word Alive Press authors since 2006. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.
Hi Mary! More than six months later, I only just realized that sometimes people leave comments on the blog, so I only just saw this. The answer to your question is — yes, absolutely! Reading/recording books aloud is a great way of catching errors. Did you know that Microsoft Word has a feature that audibly reads manuscripts back to you? When a word is misspelled, the result is often a garbled reminder that abruptly wakes you up to a typo you never spotted before. As a result, I read aloud, and then have Microsoft Word read aloud, most everything I read.
But even then, there is still an occasional typo in reserve only to be discovered years after the fact. Lol. So you do what you can, send up a prayer, and move on. :)
What an interesting article, but disconcerting that there are so many errors. Do you think if every manuscript was recorded it might decrease the typos?