Why Typos Happen and Why It’s Okay

TYPOS. TYPOS. TYPOS.

This post may be to make myself feel better, but who knows. Every author probably secretly dreads having their work published and then opening up that final, beautiful copy only to find typos. They are evil and awful, but guess what? They occur in everything. In my novel, The Breakaway, I’ve caught several now. I don’t blame my publisher or my editor or my copyeditor or my betas, or even myself. Mainly because we are all, you know, HUMAN. What I don’t understand are readers in reviews (not that this happened to me personally, but I’ve seen it in other reviews) who fixate on typos like a sucker-fish to an aquarium wall. The horror! Typos! Who published this? How dare they let typos happen! They should fix them right away!

I think it’s this sort of attitude that frightens authors the most. There is no such thing as a perfectly clean published book completely free of typos. If such a thing does exist, it’s probably after about 18 editions, and it’s probably a classic.

I remember before Monarch was published, I was given the final PDF to approve, and I had about four friends read over it to see if they caught any typos. They didn’t! Yay! It must be perfect! Yay! I read it three more times after that just to be sure. I was so sick of that book, BUT! I was convinced there were no typos. Well, it was published, and well, it has typos – things everybody completely missed. Incredible.

So why do typos happen?

(1) WE ARE HUMAN

(2) An entire novel is a lot of words, and that’s a lot of words and a lot of space to get exactly perfect.

(3) In a traditionally published book, the manuscript passes through many, many processes/departments and many, many creatures called humans. Mistakes happen. Correcting one mistake can lead to another mistake. The manuscript may be perfect after editing, but something might happen in layout. Who knows.

(4) The huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

As you can see, our mind fills in the blanks, and since every human mind is different, typos I miss will be completely visible to another mind. I’ve read two interesting articles that talk about how our minds fill in the gaps: What Our Eyes Can’t See, Our Brain Fills In, and Discovery Shows How Brain “Fills in Blanks” to Help Us See

(5) What might be considered a typo to one person, wouldn’t be a typo to another – such as discrepancies in grammar, spelling, etc.

I think the best solution to any of this is to be forgiving and focus on what really matters: THE STORY. I do want to thank all the reviewers who have The Breakaway right now, though. Some of them have caught typos and forwarded them to me or my publisher, and some of those errors can be fixed in the digital version. Still, I’m not going to kill myself over the errors. I’d just have to quit writing and publishing altogether if I let typos rule me. What matters to me most is the story and my prose. If it’s clear and can be read and understood, yay! It’s good to do everything we can to prevent them, but if there happens to be a few mistakes in those 70,000+ words, so be it! Similar to a popular phrase we all know, “Typos Happen.”

By the way, I am sure there are typos in this post. If you can find them, you get cookies!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

2 comments

I just bought my fifth proof of my self published book. I must have read it at least 100 times and ran software checkers for grammar and spelling every day for a month and still after ordering this last proof I found two words missing in my pdf on the pc. Do you think I should just let it go and take my chances or correct and order another proof? I can’t really afford to keep doing that though.

Michelle D. Argyle

Hi, Rick! Nah, after that many times, if you missed those words over and over, chances are your readers won’t ever catch them either. I’d just let it go. In the future, you may save yourself some money by hiring a professional editor who can at least do a copy edit for you, if not a full edit. Usually copy edits are cheaper, anyway. Also, are you doing digital proofs? Sometimes that’s cheaper than actual printed proofs after you’ve received the first one. Correct the errors and call it good. You don’t have to order a proof with every error corrected.

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