Typo Flu Is Going Pandemic

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In the last twelve months, I’ve noticed a horrible trend as the number of typos per book is increasing. I remember when I was a child and it was a rarity to find an error in a book. Now I’m stunned when I get through a book without finding a typo. And don’t write this off as the fault of low-quality independent authors.  Traditional publishers rushing hundreds of books out with limited staff have pushed editorial staffs to their limit and are just as guilty of letting quality dip.

Poor quality is striking at the underbelly of the book industry right now. If we don’t do something about it soon this Typo Flu is going to turn into a pandemic that exterminates the book publishing industry.

The whole idea of reading is to escape reality for a while. Typos bring readers screeching back to their life like a hard slap in the face. It’s like your favorite TV mystery show getting interrupted by a loud car commercial just as the hero is about to reveal whodunit. Mentally, it will take your readers time to recover from the shock. And some might just put your book aside and move on to something else. Just like you change the channel when you’re watching TV, it is that easy to lose readers.

How Can Authors Avoid Typos?

  • Edit At Every Stage. This doesn’t mean stop in the middle of your daily writing to fix every typo and reread every chapter, but you should spend some time between drafts to read your work and edit for typos.  When you’ve finished each draft, put your book away for a while.  Each author has to figure out what “a while” is to them, but by my definition it is the time it takes your eyes to stop seeing your work whenever you close your eyes. When you pick up that draft to edit, your eyes need to read what is on the paper and not what is in your head.
  • Admit you aren’t a proofreader. No author should attempt to do that final copyedit on their own work alone. By the time you need to do that final edit, you’re already dreaming of your next book. Regardless of whether you are working with a large publishing house or paying a professional proofreader to edit your independent book, the quality of the final product rests on your shoulders. Use these resources but don’t just accept their edits. When you receive that galley to read, read it front to back, word for word. Don’t just rely on their edits. You owe it to yourself and your characters to read every word.
  • Fresh Eyes Are Worth Gold. You need someone who can see the individual trees in the forest you’ve created.  Just as you would carefully select a beta reader for your book, you need to save aside one of your most trusted readers to be your final set of eyes. Find that friend who is a high school English teacher and used to grading papers. Find that coworker who was the newspaper editor in high school or college and understands what editing means. Find a book club buddy who is always pointing out typos in other authors’ books. Beg and plead these fresh eyes to read your final (what you think is clean enough to go to press) copy. You’ll be surprised at what they uncover.

If typos are leaking off your published pages like blood splatter in a horror movie, re-evaluate your editing process and seek additional professional help. But if you get a single email from a reader who found one typo, remember we are all only human. Thank whoever points it out to you and promise to have it fixed in the next release.  Don’t make yourself sick over it. You’ll write thousands of words in your publishing career and some of them aren’t going to be prefect perfect.

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4 thoughts on “Typo Flu Is Going Pandemic

    1. I agree that ebooks could make the tracking of typos/errors a lot easier. I have an original Nook and adding a note or comment is tedious at best. Finding the note later takes a genius IQ. However, I think most writers are working in a word processing program like Microsoft Word which has a change tracker built in. I am a traditionalist and I think even ebooks should printout their book for their final read. There is nothing like reading your work on paper and nothing jumps out at you like red ink slashing through that black printed ink. As more writers and editors (of printed and ebooks) doing all their editing online I believe that this pandemic will continue to grow.

      1. It’s my opinion that automation can reduce the need for genius-IQ. Just have the software note where you saw the typo, capture your remarks, then send it back to a responsible party. When the responsible party gets the notes, they’d position the editor, say Microsoft Word, at the point in the text identified by the note.

      2. I agree with your method of passing the correction along. But I think reading online/ebooks makes finding the typo harder for most readers. Your eyes are less likely to spot them. If spotted however passing it long electronically makes perfect sense.

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