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And The Typos Just Keep On Comin’

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.

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Comments

  1. thsi si awesmoe.

    But seriously, I can relate. Many a time I’ve had to go and re-edit my work, especially after a late night post. Why don’t we learn?

  2. caren says:

    sorry about saying I thought I was the only one to notice the typo of “bite” instead of “bit”. At the time I read the comments no one else had mentioned it!

    Hey “psychicjim” shouldn’t it be “takes” over? Just sayin…you’re psychic after all! :)

  3. Fred Kapoor says:

    Well, it is a very realistic insight on using typos. Personally I don’t really hate this, but I must say I agree with @P.S. Jones “it automatically decreases your credibility and professionalism. “.
    thanks for sharing.

  4. Great post. Typos may look harmless but they kill your credibility as a writer.

  5. Hi Larry,
    I must admit that when I wrote my first book I was too much in a rush to get it self published and I did not proof read it properly.

    As a result, many people pointed out my mistakes to me. So I was humbled. The good news is that even with the typo’s in excess of a thousand people who bought the book still liked the content.

    But I am sure it would have made a better impact if my writing had been better.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    David

    http://www.ReduceStressIncreaseSuccess.com

  6. Laurettalynne says:

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Forgive yourself! I know they are a sign of sloppyness but you’re only human! I love reading your Aussie language in your posts like “backstop”. D, you are a treasure!

  7. Joi says:

    Outstanding article. I have 10 different blogs, and some days I get in kind of an “automated” mode. Sometimes I’m writing away when I should be in bed. My readers wouldn’t know that, of course – just as your’s didn’t know what time (or under what influence) you were writing your post.

    A typo or two can get under some people’s skin and that’s all they carry away from what they’ve read. We do them, and ourselves, a huge injustice with careless typos.

    I love Firefox – it catches every teh with a curly red line (why is it so easy to type teh instead of the?!?!). However, it doesn’t catch mistakes such as “Their car was stolen” – after all, THEIR isn’t misspelled… just misused.

    Reading aloud is an excellent idea. You just have to be sure to go slow, or what you MEANT to say will come out of your mouth instead of what you actually said.

    Again, great article – entertaining to read AND informative. Thanks!

  8. John Soares says:

    Larry, I create an audio version of one of my e-books. I’ve been a professional full-time writer since 1994, and yet I found another 30 or so errors as I read along.

    Reading aloud works!

  9. I have been an advocate of reading aloud when it came to presentations, but not necessarily blog posts. It always takes these type of reminders, no matter if you have been blogging for a few days or a few years.

  10. Nasrul Hanis says:

    You’re right. Typos could result in readers misinterpret what we want to tell them.

    And yes, avoid hitting ‘Publish’ when you’re sleepy. Save the draft first and check again tomorrow morning before publishing it. It could be a worth effort than receive negative feedback on our own mistake.

    However we also can’t avoid mistake 100% so we have to try the best =)

  11. LOL… oh so tru. If wee kould onlee fokus on R type-ohs, and catch them, life would be wonderful.

    fracK. I thynk my spel Cheker iz broke.

  12. caren says:

    loved Bruce’s response!

  13. caren says:

    you are right Olivia. A bunch of us hopped on the “report the typo train” and already pointed it out…..actually I think it was deliberately done to see if we would notice….I love wry humor!

    :)

  14. caren says:

    Kat “and” realize that….you have “are” now THAT is a typo :)

    I agree with whomever said it reflects on our professionalism and credibility if we allow them to exist.

  15. caren says:

    methinks Larry’s typo was deliberate

  16. Troy Krause says:

    GUILTY!!! I mostly end up writing late at night, or doing videos. I’ve watched some of the 3a.m. videos and immediately took them down. I got lucky with a blog post one night/morning when my sister happened to see that I updated my blog and read the post. She has offered to proof for me. I also try to use the read it out loud thing. That helps tremendously.

    Thanks much Larry!

  17. Glenn A says:

    Many people who never would have written for the public are now doing so. It’s a great democratization thanks to the web and blogging.

    On the flip side, a lot of people score low on grammar, spelling and proofreading. It does get ugly out there.

    Some online text editors have spell check and some don’t. One way to get around that is to export whatever you’ve written (in some other format) into Word to check for errors. Or always write in Word if you like it. (I use TextEdit, usually.)

    If you’re stuck on a word that’s misspelled, run your garbled spelling as a Google search — often it will respond “did you mean?” with the proper spelling. If you’re way off base it might take a couple of tries.

    I like this post’s suggestion of reading your blog post aloud before hitting submit. I prefer to write late at night, retaining the content as a draft and then rereading everything the next day over coffee.

    I just wrote a piece about spelling rules on Write for Blogs, please follow the link above.

  18. Bruce Teague says:

    God bless wives who proofread (I just had to ask my wife if that was one word or two). I’d be in so much trouble if my wife didn’t check everything I posted.

  19. Funny that an article about typos contains typos.

  20. larrybrooks says:

    Looks like I’m not alone, and I’m in good company here. thanks to all, including those of you who nailed me on the typo in this post.

    @James — love your bottom line here… fix it, acknowledge the “editor,” and move on. Yep. Like Kat said… nobody dies.

    @Tom and others who caught it (bite vs. bite).. I wish I could say that it was on purpose. But alas, that one slipped by me and by my eagle-eye proofreader wife. Those typos are crafty little devils sometimes. You’d think I would take extra care with a blog on this topic… and I did… and it still wasn’t enough. Damn.

    @Dmytro — don’t hate, brother. Some folks — most folks — actually like a little personality on the page, even when they speak the obvious. Practice, you’ll get there.

    Me, too.

    @Alex — yeah, funny. It was funny, too, when someone first pointed it out here, but lost its giggle after the fifteenth mention… all before you added to the noise. Now that’s funny.

  21. Nancy Terhune says:

    Larry, I was extremely happy to see your post. The title, alone, got a big THANKS from me. That said, I have a suggestion, and a few comments on your post. Please accept in the spirit of helpfulness.

    If you find the proofing experience with your wife a “steamy-hot exercise in intimacy,” try reading a style guide to each other for orgasmic fun. If your wife is irresistible as a proofreader, she’ll be even more so as a real editor.

    Seriously.
    I use CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style). Many publishers require it, so it’s a must-have.

    Comments:

    You use both proof-reading and proofreading in your post. Modern usage is proofreading. (And be consistent!) Other hyphenates have become compounds, like this one:

    You use on-going. You won’t get arrested, but modern usage is ongoing.

    If you use a hyphenate, use it throughout; likewise, a compound word. Likewise, words with alternative spellings, and punctuation in a parallel construction. Consistency is essential.

    You use out-loud. There is no hyphen.

    Rather than “Like we all do…” and “But like in that…” it should be “As we” and “But as” HOWEVER, “like” is permissible today to express informality and youthful cool. Only in a very informal context, though.

    “16 levels” – it’s sixteen. Numbers are spelled out through one hundred, and in round hundreds, thousands, millions, etc. There are exceptions. See CMOS.

    There should be no hyphen between grammatically and crappy.

    De-capitalize the F in “email Feed.”

    In your comment, above, it’s eagle-eyed, not eagle-eye.

    Permit me a mention to all bloggers: Be sure to edit and proofread guest posts on your blog. I see guest post snafus all the time. Not staying on top of them says that you don’t care about your blog and your brand – and your readers – enough to mind the store.

    No offense and best regards, Larry,
    Nancy

  22. Larry, great writing style! I love the short paragraphs and the conversational style. Now on typos… I’ve had my share of typos but I’m amazed at how many people consistently have spelling typos (not just using their for there) in the age of auto spell check in browsers. I guess there are always going to be typos regardless of the auto-checks but it shouldn’t be consistent.

  23. Kathleen says:

    Great post! Yeah, I have left some ‘reads’ unfinished because of typos ~ or just bad grammar =p

    Here’s another tip that works well to proof your post ~ read it bottom to top, backwards.

    Okay – off to read my post at (almost) too late and hour for me *ack*!

  24. shaaam says:

    Good post and be careful from typos and dramatical mistakes are very common, Common readers really left the post if some irregularities and typos.

  25. Robert says:

    I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and I can easily relate to it aswell. I’ve been slaughtered the odd time I make a typo. And don’t get me started on the war of which language is right, English European or American English! It’s a never ending debate

  26. John says:

    This is a pet peeve of mine too and it’s amazing how accepted it is to misspell some words. We all make mistakes but it’s annoying when people don’t even proofread their writing! Reading out loud helps but a different set of eyes is better.

  27. Tony Harion says:

    I like using TEXT TO SPEECH SOFTWARE to help on these issues.
    It´s incredible how much you can improve a text once “someone” reads it to you out loud.

    I know others mentioned it in their comments, but it´s really worth it.

  28. NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) is a free open-source screen reader. I just installed it on the laptop of a blind lady in my community as a Lions Club service project. As I mentioned in a previous comment, a screen reader of this type works well for proofreading.

  29. Farnoosh says:

    Indeed, I cannot stand the typos but alas, it has seeped into our language and is taking over like an infection out of control!
    I am linking to the 19 errors of the English language to avoid in my contact info in hopes that some of these oversights are addressed in the beautiful content that would otherwise be flawless. Thanks for bringing this to the surface….(but hate is a bit of a strong word and beware, as it may bite you someday because we are all human and we do err ;))!

  30. Alyna says:

    While I agree that typos can make one seem unprofessional, sloppy and all the rest of it, I do recognize people are human and perfection is just impossible.

    What irks me? The people who are just lazy, yet want all the perks of being a “popular” blogger and earning money. It takes work and that means proofing your posts.

    I know that everyone caught your typo and, ironically, if you had followed your own advice you would have caught it before hitting “Publish”. I sincerely appreciate your honesty in admitting it was a typo but then, I have to ask, why DIDN’T you follow your own advice? Especially when doing a guest post. On ProBlogger no less. Emphasis on the “Pro”.

    So, although I think overall it was a great post and you are a good writer, your emphasis on how much you hate typos and THEN not following the advice you give (especially in this type of article) is a turn off. :( You lost some credibility.

    Hopefully you don’t hate typos in comments as much as in posts since I’m writing at 4:30 AM *and* on an iPod…a recipe for disaster!

  31. Alyna says:

    Ouch. I just read some more comments and, snarky comments to readers (your comment @Alex) just aren’t cool. Love ProBlogger and the great stuff generated here with all his guests and I’m sure you could read up on how to treat commenters.

    1. Fifteen comments about a typo in an article about typos shouldn’t surprise you one bit.
    2. The idea that we all have time to read all the comments on a post is absurd. I first tried to post a comment in “Mobile” theme mode which actually doesn’t show all the comments, unless you expressly expand them, so it is not only possible, but likely, that people didn’t read the comments.

    I think how you interact with people, especially as a guest on someone else’s site, moreover people you ostensibly want to go on to your site, probably says more about a blogger than typos.

  32. make money says:

    I think you may be spying on me! I can’t tell you how bad I have messed up an article because I got the bright idea to write at 1am! Sometimes I get called out on it, but usually, I am my own worst critic here. I beat myself up over it!

  33. Haha, Typos are good for you if you are one of those sneaky typo (misspelled) domain buyers!

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