Katherine Hayton | Wherefore art thou, Typo?
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18 Sep / Wherefore art thou, Typo?

Ah, the humble typo. Proof indeed that the proofing I’ve invested so much money in, hasn’t worked again.

One of the reasons that I wait with baited breath for the first reviews to come in on my novels, is not to find out how the world is going to react to them (although, you know, that too) but to find out if this time around I’ve invested my editing money wisely in a competent proofreader.

My standards aren’t that high. Just find every single mistake so that I don’t have to. Or, even worse, my readers don’t have to. This is why I outlay the princely sum of [insert current spend here $50.00, $350.00, $599.00 but with a $50.00 return customer voucher] before I go to publish my latest work of ridiculously excellent prose.

Sometimes, I can easily find out early enough that the outlay wasn’t worth it. I’ve had manuscripts back accompanied by emails in which the proofreader mangles the English language, and then find on the first page the words circled for correction are fine, but there are three other obvious mistakes that have made it through.

Other times, it all looks okay to me. I read through the paperback proof copy labouriously, not finding anything that needs correction. Then, within a week of publishing, have feedback saying I may want to check that again.

It would be nice if proofreaders came with some sort of money back guarantee. For every typo spotted by a reader, I get a refund of $5.00 off the proofreading fee, for instance. If anyone finds this deal out there, feel free to drop me a comment with a link.

I expect it will be as widely available as a doctor who you only pay when you’re cured.

Some may think that this is the scourge of the self-publishing industry, but it’s not so. I notice errors in every book I read, and take great delight and comfort from them. If they’re self-published I even do the courtesy of letting them know.

My all-time favourite isn’t really a typo. In Stephen King’s Apt Pupil there’s a line near the beginning which explains how Todd’s parents met:
His mom was a housewife and a secretarial school graduate (she had met Todd’s father one day when he needed a secretary from the pool)

And then later:
He looked at her for a moment, frowning, then shook his head a little. Je ne comprends pas, cherie.’ His limping French was a joke between them; he had met her in college when he was flunking his language requirement.

I look that up every time I need a reminder that these things happen to the best of us. Apt Pupil was turned into a movie and it still hasn’t been corrected.

Apparently typos are also due to my brain’s function. Well, not just mine, yours too. When my brain is on higher minded things like conveying meaning through the use of language, it just doesn’t have time to get bogged down by the lower mind functions of things such as spelling and word choice. No. It’s operating on higher level functions, baby.

Unfortunately, when extracting said meaning from those words as a reader, spelling and word choice becomes far more important. Damn.

Maybe readers would be less annoyed if I offered a reward. Find five typos and send them in to me, and I’ll reward you with the money that I used to foolishly pay to proofreaders!

Would probably go very well, except for the day when five hundred readers find the same five typos at the same time.

Further suggestions welcome.

By Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog
4 Comments
  • dayr

    In the basement the iron bars would be welded solder is for plumbing etc. Could I be your technical adviser?

    Reply
  • Katherine Hayton

    Yes you can be my technical adviser. Go for it. I automatically think soldered because I have and can operate a soldering iron, whereas I haven't welded anything since I left high school. Maybe think on it as a metaphor?

    Reply
  • James

    Bated

    Reply
    • kathay@orcon.net.nz

      You see? Perfect example. Unless I wanted you to imagine me with waiting a mouthful of fish bait, in which case, what’s your point?

      Reply

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