Β© 2012 Anneliese Hise

I am no typist. Whether I am working on a manuscript or simply chatting with a supermodel on Facebook, my messages are sometimes as garbled as if I were dictating to a Hippopotamus.

A typo is not merely typing the wrong thing, but happens when you mean to type one thing and instead type something else. Sometimes, this is caused by a keystroke errorβ€”you end up with too few or too many of the letters you meant to type because your touch is too heavy or too light; or you were off by one key and typed the wrong letter altogether.

Spell-check is helpful, but it is no panacea. Auto-correct is responsible for some hilarious and embarrassing word replacements. There is simply no substitute for proofreading. Proof however you like. Proof as you go, proof each day’s work, proof the whole dang thing when you claim to be done. When you are finished, proof it again.

As a writer reviewing your own manuscript, you suffer from the liability of knowing what you meant to say. That knowledge apparently can cause you to actually see what you meant instead of what you wrote. Your brain seems to take this part of the whole writing gig pretty casually and goes wandering off after the little animals. When we proof, we will catch some errors. When we proof again, we will catch some more errors. When we read aloud, we will catch still more errors.If we could just convince our brains to do it right the first time, we could save a lot of work. Our own Ed McNally wrote a great post on steps to consider when self-editing.

Your own eyes and brain just will not suffice though. This is why it is important to get other eyes on your work. Do the best you can, then get it in front of a few beta readers. Fresh eyes will catch things you missed after going over your own work twenty times. I know, right?

If you’d like to avoid further embarrassment, send the newly re-perfected manuscript to an editor. The editor will catch other errors. I have to add the admonition here that it is important to get an editor whose work you know or whose work was recommended to you by someone you trust. People can gripe all they want about anyone being able to claim to be an author, but the same thing goes for anyone claiming to be an editor. Good work may not come cheap. You have to decide whether you care enough about your book to invest some actual money in it.

The good news is you can pass part of the work off to some other people. The bad news is that it will still be your responsibility to check their work. Your name is on the book. You own every mistake. If you haven’t read your book over and over till you are sick of it, you probably aren’t anywhere near done.

Even after you’ve gone through all that, after you publish, there is a good chance a reader will tell you about a typo on page 17 that is now glaringly obvious and was missed by everyone.

You did your best. You took every precaution. That’s embarrassing, but it is not the end of the world. One advantage of first publishing your book as an eBook is that it gives you an opportunity to find and correct these errors before you pull the trigger on print production. That is one tool that was not available to our predecessors.

Admittedly, some typos are worse than others. If your book is a bomb-squad training manual that erroneously tells the reader to cut the green wire first, you may have a real problem.

Otherwise, understand it happens to everyone. Get over yourself. Make the correction and move on. It doesn’t look like the Typopotamus will be an endangered species anytime soon.

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

43 thoughts on “Typopotamus”

  1. Typing issues? SAy it ain’t so. I have noticed one thing over past few years, Indie readers sometimes spend too much time looking for errors and what nots. This is good and yet bad at the same time. The good part:they are catching errors writers, beta readers and editors are missing. It provides a chacne to quickly make the changes and upload a new version. The bad: some readers and reviewers are focusing on miniscule problems and bashing an otherwise good read. I love WWII and just finished “It Never Snows in September.” An excellent account for “Operation Market Garden” seen through the German’s eyes. The first 3/4 of the book was well done. The last 1/4 not so much, but I didn’t let it detract from the accounts.
    Bottom line, it is up to us to produce the best product we can knowing no matter how much we strive for perfection, there will some who just won’t like the material.

    1. “The bad: some readers and reviewers are focusing on miniscule problems and bashing an otherwise good read.”

      I was going to respond to this comment, Jeff, but realized that in doing so, I’d written enough for a post. I think I’m going to polish it up and use it that way. Look for it the first Wednesday in November. πŸ˜€

      1. hELLO aL YOU ##@^%&##^&! I just knew someone would comment on my command of the English language. Well done sir, wlle done? Now, what’s the sign for a sad disgruntled face? Never can remember the commands. Good times and good laugh! Oh, send the editing bill to Stephen. It’s his fault. LOL!

  2. Another layer of proofreading for me is printing it out. I hate wasting paper and it sounds like a hassle but when I feel like I’m done with a document or about to give it to an editor, I always print it out and read it aloud to myself one last time with a red pen in my hand. I even play a trick on my brain and instantly put a stray mark on that page just so I’m not tempted to keep it or use it as the final draft. I don’t know what it is but something about seeing my words in print instead of on a screen makes me see typos I never would and helps me make the changes I’ve been holding out on.

  3. All very true, EM: go over it ’til you’re sick of it; have somebody else go over it; and don’t feel like an idiot if a reader catches one you missed.

      1. This was nothing. I used to condense three-hour city council meetings to thirty seconds of radio copy for a living. πŸ˜‰

        Anyway, while my summation might be more succinct, yours has an adorable typopotamus. Ergo, you win!

  4. And then there’s the dummy (she shall go unnamed) who has a perfectly good novel out there except for a formatting issue that can easily be fixed by just changing and uploading a new version–but instead, corrects the formatting of an older, not yet edited version and uploads it instead (and if this sentence isn’t long enough, I can ramble on and on some more…). Whew! Guess who is now very careful to date her versions?

    As Schultz once said….I know nothink!

  5. I’ve been having trouble finding beta readers for my bomb squad training manual and I haven’t heard back from the ones I had. πŸ™

  6. I was really impressed with this blog, and shared it on my Facebook page. It coincides with an event I created, called “Book Review/Beta Read Exchange”. I’m so glad I have such a confraternity of typopotami out there!

    This is the very reason that I write everything out longhand first. Then, as I type it in, I can re-read and fix typos as I go. My fingers speak some sort of 13th-century dialect that I don’t know. No matter how many times I tell them that the word “the” does not have a 4 in it, they just don’t listen. Having to fix typos while I am trying to write the original draft breaks my concentration. So I write. My hand is cramped two hours later, but at least I am able to get past the language barrier I have with my fingers.

    Then it goes out to beta readers, critique groups, et cetera. And still, five edits later, I still find things. You’re right–it happens to everyone.

    Oh, by theway–can I post the web page for my event here?? Okay if “no”.

    1. Thanks K.R. I know a couple of good writers who do their first drafts in longhand. I love this line: “No matter how many times I tell them that the word β€œthe” does not have a 4 in it, they just don’t listen.”

      And yes, you can post your link here. πŸ™‚

  7. And to get really judgemental about your own work, order a proof copy and read it like a “real” book. A fellow author who laboured long and hard over her MS read it to our writing group, polished it to near perfection and had an editor go over it before printing. She was horrified once she read the paperback. ‘Why didn’t you tell me I was writing such rubbish?’ she wailed. It wasn’t rubbish at all, but the fact that it was an actual book gave her extra clarity and she’s now polishing it even more vigorously!

  8. Any writer who says they cannot relate to this article is… well, let’s just say that they are either brilliant or lying through their teeth. I do, or have done all of the above, including uploading the unedited manuscript!! And you’ve got to love the freedom and advantages ePublishing gives us; however, I hate the restrictions it puts on formatting.

    Typopotamus! Love this article. Entertaining and erudite as ever, Stephen.

  9. If you can save your MS to e-pub format, there is an application called Calibre that can convert your e-pub into kindle format. [There are probably others but this is the only one I know]. Once you upload your converted MS to your kindle you can then read it as an ebook. Something about the change in size, orientation or whatever, makes the typos really jump out at you. Two page paragraphs tend to scream ‘change this!’ as well. πŸ™‚

  10. Being naive, I sent my first novel to an editor I didn’t know who missed loads of mistakes. Having trusted their eyes and experience I didn’t go over it again. I should have. My mother was the first to spot some errors after publication. I am about to have it re-edited by a reputable editor following the discovery of a blindingly obvious mistake which makes my toes curl up in embarrassment when I look at it. It’s like an itch – you know you shouldn’t scratch it (look at it) but you can’t help yourself. Each time I see it, I cringe.
    My last novel had a terrific beta reader, two editors and our own eagle eyed Cathy Speight on it. (She found some errors my first editor had missed.) It had better be okay after all that attention!
    Great advice Stephen and I agree wholeheartedly – get your scripts checked and rechecked, Then send them to be edited. Don’t be in a rush to publish it.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Carol. Cathy is super. It is difficult to fight down the impulse to publish as son as the story is finished, but the job is only partly done when we type “The End.”

  11. Couldn’t agree more. I changed the name of one of my characters on the 3rd or 4th draft – I started out with a Find/Replace and went through several rounds of proofreading and self-editing over the course of several months. Printed hard copies, gave it to beta readers, published on Kindle, got a paperback proof from Createspace, and finally, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed there were still two instances of the old name.

  12. Ah, I have added a new level of challenge to my writing- I just got my Christmas present- a treadmill desk. Holy COW, they were right, typing on this is a challenge! But despite being a farmer, the pounds were packing on, so I decided on this- exercise and productivity all in one. Spell check, get ready! My editor is going to hate me! Hopefully I’ll catch most of my mistakes before she sees it. Otherwise, I’ll just claim I was tromping away and didn’t see the error. LOL! Great post.

    BTW, I have walked .25 of a mile typing this.

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