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:

 

Edit to Get Ahead!

Editing is often the most painful part of the alchemic process that transforms a manuscript into a book. But we don’t edit because it’s hard — self-punishment without purpose is not the name of our game. We edit because our first drafts are not our best drafts.

We may edit ourselves because we sense the inevitability of our own mistakes — one or two slips of the fingers on the keyboard as we toil away — but we must look for others to edit our work, too, because we’re not always the most objective observers about our own work. We look for a third-party editor because, when you or I have spent six months or a year staring at the pixels on our computer screens, it becomes difficult to pick out the plot hole on page 60 or the typing error on page 115.

Editors aren’t a luxury we indulge in; they’re a necessity. Guy Kawasaki, a self-publishing author and entrepreneur of Stanford and U.C. Davis extraction, writes that all successful self-publishing authors “learn that the key to a great book is editing — grinding, buffing, and polishing — not writing.” He’s not just referring to a book’s inherent strengths and weaknesses — its objective existence as a great book or a not-great book — but about perception and reception. As a business founder and entrepreneur, Kawasaki recognizes the value in being taken seriously, and the business and social capital an author can and must create by doing so in order to move books off of virtual or physical store shelves and into people’s hands. Editing, he postulates, is the way to make this happen.

Perception, we’re often told, is reality. And while there might be some exceptions, it’s a general rule that readers are turned off by poor cover design, poor formatting, and poor editing. These factors and others collectively create the reader’s perception of a book’s professionalism, polish, and ultimately its value. Thus, a poorly edited book is likely to lose readers, while a well-edited book is likely to draw more potential readers by virtue of its good reputation.

The long and the short of it is:

  • Editing is important, both in terms of fixing small-scale issues and resolving large-scale difficulties, to selling books
  • We cannot objectively edit our own work, and those in our immediate social circle often don’t have the experience or expertise to step in and fill the void
  • Therefore, paying for professional editing services may be necessary, and it doesn’t have to break the bank or encroach on your independence

As you set off to determine whether or not hiring a professional editor is something you need to do, take your time. There are plenty of options out there, and because the market for true and deep copyediting has diversified in recent years, the costs are much lower than they used to be. The key is to do your due diligence in terms of research, and to trust your instincts when you get in touch with your potential editor.

Questions about Professional Copyediting or any of our self-publishing services? Contact an Outskirts Press Publishing Consultant. There are three convenient ways to connect:

  1. Call us at 1-888-672-6657 (OP-BOOKS)
  2. Live-chat with us via our website
  3. Go online to schedule an appointment
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I Won NaNoWriMo…Now What?

You dedicated hours upon hours to finishing 50,000 words in 30 days. It was difficult. You were tired. You were busy. You put your blood, sweat, and tears into the bundle of joy that is your novel. When all was said and done, though, you did it. You won NaNoWriMo! We think you deserve a “good job,” so here it is:

Won NaNoWriMo

Okay — what’s next?

If you plan to take your work to the next level (publication), now is the time to get busy with furiously editing your content. After you’ve finished that, the next step is (wait for it…) even more editing! The simple truth is — any author who wants to publish a high-quality book and have it taken seriously needs professional copyediting. Click here to see an eBook with editing samples, for more details on the service and to get started.

With a valid promotion code, NaNoWriMo winners (hopefully you’re one of them!) are eligible for 10% off our à la carte editing services through the end of the year OR a $210 discount on our professional copyediting service with the purchase of the Diamond or Pearl publishing package through the end of the year.

As a NaNoWriMo winner, your “Winner’s Email” will have access to the page that will have the information with the details of the promotion we’re offering exclusively for you. If you missed that email, you can login to your writer’s area on www.nanowrimo.org.

Again, congratulations winners! We hope you enjoy the reward for your hard work and dedication!

Ready to get started?

Self-Publishing for NaNoWriMo winners

Outskirts Press, Inc. is a proud sponsor of the month-long NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) event.