Now to lighten the mood

With everything going on in the world these days, I recently felt the need for some light entertainment.

That’s when my publisher sent me a first proof of What Remains Unsaid. After I finished jumping up and down with excitementsince this means the book will be coming in 2017I spent the rest of a rainy weekend reading the copy on my Kindle.

I was shocked.

Had someone slipped my publisher a counterfeit version? Or perhaps someone was playing a cruel trick and had inserted random extra words in certain places, while dropping essential ones elsewhere.

Sadly, this was not the case. I alone was responsible for the errorsNot only had I typed things incorrectly, but I had missed them on all of the several supposedly careful read-throughs of the manuscript I did before handing it off.

Oops!

This is why you are never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, no matter how good you are at catching typos in other people’s work, allowed to proofread your own work.

There’s good, solid science behind this prohibition. According to a Wired article, “The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.”

It makes sense that I saw a lot of typos on this read-through on the Kindle, according the article, since one way to catch your own mistakes is to “make your work as unfamiliar as possible. Change the font or background color, or print it out and edit by hand.”

Perhaps the fact that we can’t see our own typos but can easily see others’ accounts for the vitriol with which we (especially writers) excoriate the perpetrators of said typos. Yes, typos are an embarrassment, like walking around with your fly unzipped or a scrap of toilet paper trailing from your shoe. Yet, while they can spell professional suicide, they are not usually a matter of life or death for fiction writers. We are not providing chemical formulas or instructions for piloting an aircraft over mountainous terrain, where a misplaced comma or transposed digit could be fatal. Do keep that in mind before you pillory the writer or publisher of the next text you read that contains a typo or two.

Of course, my aim is to work with my publisher to make sure we eradicate all such errors before going to print. But I won’t be surprised if there are still some gremlins lurking in the text. If there are, I’ll be in good company.

What’s the worst typo you’ve ever made, been victim of, or heard about?

And can you find the typo in this post? (I inserted one intentionally, although I will award bonus points if you find any that I missed!)

Calling all reviewers

If you enjoy reviewing books, I’d love to send you an advance copy of What Remains Unsaid when it’s available. Drop me a line or fill out the info on my Book Ambassador form.

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16 thoughts on “Now to lighten the mood

  1. Congrats on the proof. Couldn’t find your typo. I don’t think I’m a good proofreader even for other people’s stuff — let alone my own. The most embarrassing thing for me is discovering what words I apparently don’t know how to spell (but thought I did.) Some people have just astonishing memories for English spelling, but I am not one of them. Yes, you are very right: We are selectively blind. Our brains fill in a lot, apparently, based on expectation.

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  2. Great post, and one close to my heart. Proofreading is so important – especially for Indie authors, where every typo is a serious ding. What you say about having others read your work is excellent advice; however I find that no one cares about the work as much as the author so I always end up doing a final proof. Or two. You may have inadvertently found one solid proofing technique – waiting a certain amount of time before rereading. Changing format helps, as you mention. Reading the work aloud is a huge one for me. I also keep a list of my pet typos and search for them. Write on!

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    • It’s absolutely true that no one cares about typos as much as the author–or the nasty troll who is just looking for any excuse to give you a one-star review ;-). Thanks for the reminder about the reading aloud technique. That can help a lot. Though I find I need to read in the voice of an automaton, lest the words my brain expects to read roll off my tongue even if they’re not on the page.

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  3. Some typos can be quite funny. I come across them frequently in my students’ work. Pubic, instead of public was the most recent one I can recall. Makes for an interesting, if unexpected, change of topic.

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  4. I enjoyed this post, particularly because I found an extra “where” in my blog post today! GRRR. I did find your typo (I think) but don’t want to spoil it for others. 🙂 I’ll tweet it to you and you can tell me if I’m right!

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