a guest post by Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com
I hate being a hater. I try to minimize the roster of things that I truly hate, and I try to keep human beings off it completely.
Not easy sometimes. Just sayin’.
But it’s okay to hate some things. Like injustice. Prejudice. Lying politicians with hookers. Broccoli.
High on that list are typos.
They’re like head lice. They’re like tax audits. Poppy seeds between your front teeth. They’re like calling your bank or cable company and having 16 levels of automated options to wade through before they hang up on you.
Typos come with the writing territory. Painters have to clean up drips, lawyers have to clean up divorce agreements, and the guy at Wal-Mart has to clean up that spill on Aisle 5. Such is life.
The battle rages on. If you’re a writer, you need a proof-reading plan. To not assume typos, to not be ready for typos, is to allow them to water down your brand.
Might as well hang out a sign that says, We Used to Be Professional But Now We’re Not.
Beware the Late Night Post
This one just bite me where it counts.
I was already a day late in posting the next article in an on-going series. Life was raining diversions and it was close to midnight before I realized I hadn’t written it yet. My wife, who normally proofs my stuff, had long since gone to bed with a headache, probably caused by that same rainstorm.
I had a headache of my own. And I’d already taken my beloved Ambien. A recipe for typo disaster. A self-fulfilling misspelled, grammatically-crappy prophecy in the making.
So I wrote the thing through sagging eyelids. I rushed, cut corners, barely proofed. Hit the Publish button and stumbled off to bed.
And was horrified the next morning when I read my own email Feed. Within an hour I received an email from a regular reader dressing me down for dropping the ball. At first I thought it was my old English teacher – she loved the dressing down part – but then I realized several thousand people had just seen me at my worst.
The content, still good. Equity (read: slack) built from prior posts and value delivered, check. But this one was over the line. It was as embarrassing as it was alarming.
Typos are like harsh tone in a primary relationship.
Which is to say, they’re worse than poppy seeds between your teeth.
We can get away with a few. But when you string them together in a single blast of bullet-riddled communication, it smacks of disrespect. It’s a meltdown. An abusive, in-your-face tirade.
It leaves wounds. And wounds leave scars. It takes time to live the moment down. You can compensate, but you can’t put that toothpaste back into the tube.
My plan had failed me.
My backstop for typo-prevention is my wife. In the absence of that lovely comfort zone – backstops get sick, tired, busy and bored sometimes – you need a Plan B.
Self-generated proofreading is like doing surgery on your own appendix.
Don’t try this at home. But if backed into that corner, there is one technique that will allow you to rise above your incompetent proofing self and stand a chance at catching all the mistakes.
Read your draft out-loud.
Literally. It will force you into a different context, which will allow you to be more precise. It will slow you down. It will prevent the hazards of a wandering, Ambien-clouded mind.
Like we all do after such a brush with near blogging death, I said never again. But like in that primary relationship, or perhaps addiction, never again is a commitment reinforced by consequences.
Part of my repentance was to post a short blog article acknowledging my lameness, asking forgiveness and committing to an escalation of my proofreading plans.
So far nobody has bailed. Including my wife, who is the one attaching consequences to that never again commitment. And if you’ve never been proofed by your significant other, let me tell you, it’s a steamy-hot exercise in intimacy right up there with hot oil and blindfolds.
Which, if you don’t have a plan, is what you might as well wear when you’re writing.
Larry Brooks is the creator of Storyfix.com, an instructional site for fiction writers and those who proof them.