Strike That! (In)Famous Literary Typos and How to Avoid Making the List

There is no question: Editing is important not just for small-scale boo-boos like grammatical gaffs and questionable spelling but also for large-scale issues such as continuity irregularities and factual errors. Even little goofs can add up to a seriously bad impression, poor reader enjoyment and snarky reviews that can hurt sales.

No matter how sharp-eyed an author fancies himself/herself, flubs happen. After many hours, weeks, months (even years) of writing — not to mention the multiple rounds of revisions that inevitably follow — our brains play tricks on us. We know what we meant to type, so our minds perform a mental “autocorrect” … and the error stands unnoticed. Sometimes that same typo gets by our Aunt Sally or Grandpa Jones, who fastidiously read every word and fixed lots of errors.

But as these famous and lauded literary giants prove, even the greats have not-so-great moments. You won’t believe what typos made it into some of your favorite works:

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Yes, Mark Twain let this goof get by him when referring to a saw: “I took the bag to where it used to stand, and ripped a hole in the bottom of it with the was.”
  • An American Tragedy. Theodore Dreiser didn’t have spell check to fall back on when he wrote this classic. The “tragedy” in this case is a small but amusing typo in this sentence: “… harmoniously abandoning themselves to the rhythm of the music — like two small chips being tossed about on a rough but friendly sea.”
  • Twilight. With a writing timeline of just a few months and a rushed production schedule, the first edition of Stephenie Meyer’s fantasy bestseller went to press brimming with errors. Most consist of mixing up “though” with “through” and “whose” with “who’s.” Thankfully, young readers were either very forgiving or oblivious.
  • Webster’s New International Dictionary. Bet you didn’t expect such a fastidious publication to make the list, huh? In Webster’s first edition (1934), abbreviations and words were intermingled; for example, the abbreviation “lb” (for “pound”) could be found right after the word “lazy.” This system changed with the second edition, with abbreviations being gathered into a separate section at the back of the dictionary. A card was prepared bearing the notation “D or d, cont/ density” to indicate D and d as abbreviations for the word “density” and was supposed to go into the “abbreviations” pile. Somehow, the card ended up in the “words” pile and an editor removed the spaces. So, the “D or d” notation ended up being set as the single word “dord.” The non-word remained in the dictionary for five years until it was finally caught and removed.

As you can see, thorough editing is not optional — not for anyone. With all the competition in today’s literary market, readers have the luxury of being unforgiving about unattractive cover designs, jumbled formatting, typos and other errors that lower their perception of a book’s value. Don’t give them even a single reason to skip over you.

Since we can’t objectively edit our own work, it costs more than time to get the job done. For most authors, the wisest decision is to hire a professional editor who can view the manuscript with fresh eyes, objectivity and an encyclopedic knowledge of spelling, grammar and syntax.

The good news is that an experienced book editor doesn’t have to break the bank. Because the market for copy editing has diversified in recent years and the level of service can be tailored to an author’s needs, the costs are much lower than they used to be. Take your time, get referrals and find an editor whose expertise and personality work best for you and your project.

Do you have questions about professional copy editing? Contact an Outskirts Press Publishing Consultant to find out how this option works or to make a low down payment. There are three convenient ways to connect:

 

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