Thursday, July 19, 2012

Typos and Other Nits

I've been reading a nonfiction book from a prestigious publisher, written by a distinguished scholar. Within the first few pages I found several blatant copy editing errors, e.g., "desert" for "dessert," "fawns" for "fauns," and an "-ed" missing from what should have been "renowned." Less obviously but therefore more likely to confuse the reader, "1790" appeared twice on a page where the context clearly indicated the author meant 1690.

I tend to blame spellcheck for these lapses in some books. People depend too much on it, overlooking the fact that it can't flag a correctly spelled wrong word. One of my most memorably hilarious reading experiences came from a sidebar in THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO VAMPIRES. Someone had obviously run spellcheck on autopilot and accepted its changes without question. The vampire in Suzy McKee Charnas's THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, Dr. Weyland, appeared as "Dr. Wetland." Author Whitley Strieber became "Whitely Striper" -- to mention only a few weirdnesses. The publisher of a scholarly book, though, should be more careful!

Typos and mechanical errors in print make my teeth grind. It might seem I'm that way because I'm a proofreader in my day job, but the causation may run in the opposite direction. Such things have leaped out at me for as long as I can remember; that's why I applied for this job in the first place.

How do typos and other technical errors in books affect your reading enjoyment? Barely noticeable? Slightly distracting? Extremely irritating? Do they influence your decision on whether to buy other books from that author or publisher?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt


  1. I find them extremely distracting. I'm going to self-publish something soonish and have been reading a lot of self-pub stuff to see the things authors do right that I like and want to make sure I do and the things they do wrong that I want to make sure to avoid.

    Bad spelling and wrong words that are spelled right, "to" instead of "too" for example, can make me stop reading a book regardless of how good the story is. One or two won't do it, but if it's too often I feel like the author was just lazy and that's insulting to me as a reader.

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