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:

 

Errors-B-Gone: How Can I Clear My Manuscript of Mistakes?

Errors are bad, right? Even though we’re often our own harshest critics, we often miss certain annoying little details. But the answer to our question is more life-affirming than you might think: the reason we slip up and our manuscripts include typos and other errors isn’t because we’re stupid — or even careless — but because we’re focused on conveying meaning, a high-level task neurologically speaking. To really catch errors, a person needs time, focus, and to be in the right frame of mind. So, what are some ways we can go about doing this?

Below are five tips you can employ to drastically decrease the chance of mistakes finding their way into your manuscript as you prepare to submit it for publication.

#1 — Have a professional copyeditor edit your manuscript
The most common mistakes are minor, such as misspellings or incorrect use of punctuation. Other common errors are incorrect word use (their, they’re, there). A professional editor is skilled at noticing and correcting these kinds of mistakes. Do not make the mistake of relying solely upon a computerized spell-checker, which cannot tell the difference between “worse” and “worst” since they are both properly spelled words. Use an editor — a human one.

#2 — Get a second (and third) set of eyes
Even if you do not wish to pay a professional, anyone who reviews your writing will find mistakes you invariably missed. Since you are overly familiar with your own work, you are much more likely to miss obvious mistakes because your mind already knows what the text is trying to say, rather than what it actually says. When someone else reads your work, they have no preconceived notions about your intent. In addition to finding mistakes, a professional editor can offer helpful suggestions to make your writing stronger.

#3 — Come back to it later
Do you wait long enough after writing something to begin editing it? Many writers edit their work as they write it. Not only does this slow down the creative process, it increases the chances that your mind will ignore blatant errors in deference to your intentions. Once your brain thinks a paragraph is free from errors, it tends to overlook any new errors that are introduced during the rewriting process. Put your writing away for several hours, days, or weeks and revisit it later. After some time away from your work, you will be more likely to read the words as they appear on the page, not as you envisioned them in your mind. The mind is error-free, the page is not.

#4 — Read your material backwards
You are only familiar with your writing in one direction — forward. Reading your material backwards makes it seem entirely different and fools your mind into ignoring the content and only concentrating on the reality. Furthermore, your critical view of the writing at its most technical level will not be corrupted by the flowing exposition you have massaged into sparkling prose. When you read your manuscript backwards, it becomes a collection of words. Without contextual meaning, the brain has nothing to focus upon other than the words and punctuation. Mistakes literally jump off the page!

#5 — Read your material out loud
When you read words aloud, your brain must slow down and concentrate on the material. How fast can you read the following sentence? The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs. Now how fast can you read it out loud? It takes at least twice as long, and those precious milliseconds sometimes make all the difference between a typo that is missed and one that is caught and corrected. An extra bonus for reading your material out loud is that you may discover stumbling blocks like awkward sentence structure and choppy dialogue.

As a popular Internet posting once informed us, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wtihuot any porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. So do yuorslef a fvaor and ivnset in prfoesisnaol eidtnig.

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3 Ways Investing in an Editor Pays for Itself

A professional editor is your last, best hurdle before sending your book off to publish. While it may seem an optional service, there are compelling reasons why you may not want to think of it as “optional” – not when your reputation and product quality are at stake.

It’s humbling to submit a highly personal work to someone we imagine gleefully buying red ink by the barrel. However, in this case, red ink is your best friend. Here are three ways your investment in a professional editor will pay for itself:

  1. An editor is your best beta-tester. Your book is your product, and there’s no better way to “test” your product before it goes to market than with a professional editor – more than one editor, if it’s feasible. A test run of how your product might perform in the marketplace more than pays for itself, allowing you to tweak your writing and marketing to reach the right readers and keep them hooked once you do. In a perfect world, every publishing author would have the luxury of both an editor and a team of beta readers, but if you have to choose, hire a pro.
  2. Editors help you get your point across. You know what you mean to say – but will readers understand the ideas you’re trying to get across? There’s no way to know until you get someone “outside your head” to view your work from the perspective of a potential reader. This is one of the main missions of the editing process, and one that ensures that your words have the intended effect on the intended target audience so you can resonate with readers – and sell more books!
  3. Editors see “invisible” problems. By the time a book is close to finished and nearly ready for publication, most publishing authors have gone through it with a fine-toothed comb, often multiple times. But no matter how thoroughly and how often you review your own work, even the most conscientious authors can become blind to errors in their own prose. Even a couple of minor errors in your book can destroy your credibility and hurt your sales, making the services of a professional editor well worth a modest investment.

Remember, editors are, like you, avid readers and writers with the added advantage of having expertise in their field. Use that expertise to your advantage to get the most polished product possible. You’ll never regret it.

Are you ready to publish the best book possible?