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And The Typos Just Keep On Comin’

Posted By larrybrooks 15th of June 2010 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

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.

Comments
  1. Larry, 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!

    Thanks for the tip on reading aloud, I definately need to do that!

  2. I totally agree with the tip of reading your writing out loud. This will also help you get a feel for the flow of the piece as well. I have been reading outloud for a long time, and it has definitely helped me be a better writer.

  3. I’m on the fence about typo allowance. No, I don’t like them either, but they HAPPEN, and that doesn’t mean the writer is some incompetent, bumbling fool who couldn’t find his head from his teakettle with a pen.

    I’ve seen some major authors have a typo in a 400 page novel. My first thought, “Oh, a typo. Ha! Guess they didn’t catch one…” and I MOVE ON.

    Why can’t life be simple that way?

    That said, yeah, proofread. And no, don’t proofread your own work. And yeah, if you have to, read aloud. Works wonders. So does setting the work down for a day or two and coming back to it.

    And if you still miss a typo? You tell the person who caught it, “Thanks! I’ll go fix that now.”

    AND YOU MOVE ON.

    :)

  4. Reading out loud is KEY. I read mine to my husband before posting, so both he and I can catch errors or unnecessary repetition of words. I was taught to read my writing out loud before submitting it by my 6th grade English teacher, and it was the single best piece of writing advice I ever received. And bloggers are, after all, writers.

  5. Hey Larry,

    I like to read my post out loud to make sure it flows and for errors. On a very small percentage sometimes a misspelled word still slips by me. :)

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  6. I love this post. And while I agree with you 1000% (not a typo), I think it’s also okay to lighten up just a tad are realize that — once in a while — you can make a typo and NOBODY DIES. Maybe it’s because I’ve just beaten myself up for at least a month about Perfectionism. http://bit.ly/perfectionists

    A sense of humor also helps. http://bit.ly/cRDpgy

  7. Oh, Lordy. I just did it again. A typo and mis-punctuation. Going to find my reading glasses. Now.

    You win!

  8. lol… I also can’t stand that. Drives me crazy… Unless it’s done intentionally. Like Walmart (not Wall Mart), which can actually help you show up in Google search for all the people that do misspell it. :)

  9. I am the Grand Master of typos. And you’re right: it automatically decreases your credibility and professionalism. Everybody realizes that I know how to spell “How,” but that day my feed goes out with “Hwo To Improve Your Productivity” is the day I look like an idiot.

    You’re lucky your wife is willing to be your defender against typos. My husband would be no use. Until then, reading aloud is all I have.

  10. It’s true typos go a long way in undermining credibility, but they’re an occupational hazard. We do our best to avoid them, fix them, or apologize when one slips by, but they’re going to happen anyway. As James Chartrand says in an above comment… Move on!

    Now, I’m sorry to have to point out this poppy seed in the teeth, but this post has a little boo-boo. Just under “Beware the Late Night Post,” the word bite should be bit or bites. No?

    Sorry again, but next time you’re reading my posts, I hope you’ll return the favor.

  11. “This one just bite me where it counts.” – oops :)

    I try not to worry about it when typos show up online unless it makes it impossible to tell what the writer intended. Writing on the internet has an immediacy that seems to invite a little more leniency.

  12. There have been times I have proofed and reproofed, read my work aloud, and STILL had typos after publication. I figure that’s the Universe’s way of giving me a lesson in humility.

  13. I would like to say that I agree completely with the thing, but I can’t say that I do.

    Derelict misspellings are always hard to swallow, but I definitely do not judge the writer that occasionally screws up a little. What bothers me more are people that are using the wrong voice for the message that they are trying to get across.

    I think that by focusing too much on the mechanics of the situation, people completely close their minds and put on their best-pressed pair of judgement pants. Once those babies are on, there is no more listenting.

    That being said, I think there is no room for it in professional writing. If you are being paid to do what you do, by someone else, then shame on you for being sloppy.

    …but if it’s just a case of there and their on the occasional blog post, I think we will be ok. I really wish their was a spell check on the comment areas.

    Ok, back to cleaning this darn poppy seed out of my teeth.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  14. Hi Larry,

    Great post! Reading out loud definitely helps.
    Speaking of typos, here’s one:

    “This one just bite me where it counts.”

    ;-)

    T

  15. (…it was intentional, I’ll assume).

  16. Great post! This may have already been suggested in the comments, but one thing I like to do is let my post “get cold” before rereading it and publishing it.

    Stepping away from it for a few hours or even a day will allow you to forget your exact words and thought process, and almost read your own work from an another person’s perspective (i.e. the version of you that is hours or days older than the one who wrote it originally).

  17. There is an open-source program called NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) that will read your post to you. It’s intended for visually handicapped people, but it also works for proofreading.

  18. Yup, I have seen typos on a couple of blogs, and I always point them out nicely…I even saw two typos in the last two posts on problogger, which I pointed out in the comments.

  19. One of the hardest things for me – proofreading my own texts. I hate it, though I have to do it.

  20. Reading out loud really helps.

  21. Even I hate being a hater. Here after I must start reading aloud. That was a sensible tip.

  22. “This one just bite me where it counts.”
    Either you have a great sense of humor, or your post on typos has a typo :)

  23. “This one just bite me where it counts.”

    Isn’t there a typo here? Not to be nitpicky!

    Great post, though!

  24. I can’t tell if you are messing with us or not. Is it a typo or subliminal message?

    “This one just bite me where it counts.”

    I think maybe you are a brilliant writer twisting typos to your devious intentions…

  25. It’s a huge advantage to have someone proof everything you write before you publish. Not just for typos, but also for sentences that aren’t written as well as they could be and are thus, unclear.

    I have my brother proof almost everything I write. Glad I do.

  26. When you are writing an article about how much you hate typos, you should probably try your best to avoid typos in that article. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I believe the phrase below should have “bit” instead of “bite.”

    “This one just bite me where it counts.”

  27. Didn’t see Susie’s comment before. Sorry about that. I agree with most of the comments – lots of typos are extremely unprofessional and the author loses credibility for it.

  28. Reading your draft aloud helps quite a bit. I also find it helpful to step away from the draft, let it breathe for an hour or so and then go back to proofread.

  29. i do read loud the more i read the better my post become,to get from error-free you need to read your old post again and again.

  30. Typos happen to everyone but that doesn’t stop me from turning red in the face when someone points one out! What’s the protocol when you notice a fellow blogger’s typo? Do you send an email, leave a comment or turn a blind eye because you don’t want them to feel bad? I appreciate knowing myself but I get embarrassed when it’s there for everyone to see my glaring mistake :)

  31. Unfortunately, checking my blog for typos is not a luxury I have in comparison to the need to generate new content and promotion. I suppose it depends on your niche: in some niches revolutionary content will stand out regardless of typos whereas in other niches you need proof-read well written content as a lot of revolutionary ideas have been generated already.

  32. I know quite a few people who are sticklers for typos and grammar. I’ve always felt that crafting a meaningful message is more important than ensuring that every word is correctly spelled. I’d rather read a great article with a typo or two than a bad article that is perfectly spelled and punctuated.

  33. Sometimes you just don’t have time to proof read though, don’t you think?

  34. Dmytro says: 06/15/2010 at 12:20 pm

    Obvious but helpful (although I get by fine with just reading my writing inside my head; and the number of times I edit my draft blog posts forces me to reread them several times anyway).

    Now what I’d love to hear about is if it’s really necessary to go over the top personality-wise when guest blogging? Yes, the content is humorous. It’s a change of style. But after a while, it gets on the nerves. It seems like a lot of guest bloggers here are intent on creating an great impression with all those metaphors, similes, one- to three-word statements, onomatopoeia – you name it! Anything to go unconventional!

    Is it necessary? If you cut down on all those quirky, humorous sentences, would you blog post be any less of it? That’s actually a possibility; stripped of all the bells and whistles, the content might suddenly seem too short and too bare. That just means you’ve got to keep improving your content or not publish it at all if it’s so short and obvious.

  35. Excellent post! I’m with Susie Kline, though, on the possible typo in the post (maybe “bit” instead of “bite” is what you meant?). Easy for me to say. :)

  36. switzerblog says: 06/15/2010 at 12:39 pm

    Dammit, @Susie Kline beat me to it! That’s low-hanging snark fruit. :)

  37. What’s all this hate on broccoli eh?

    I admit, I have a few grammatical errors in my posts from time to time but we’re all human, ya know?

    I don’t think you should just throw it all to the wayside but you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it either.

    If you find a typo (or your reader does) go ahead and fix it; move on.

    In spirit of Mitch Hedberg:

    “What’s a sesame seed grow into? I don’t know we never give them a chance, what the f— is a sesame?! It’s a street… It’s a way to open s—…”

  38. Larry thanks for the nice post.

    I have to write and do the proofreading for my blogs. Like you sometimes very late or very early in the morning.

    I like to write but I don’t like proofreading. I wish my wife would proofread my writing.

    Nice tip on reading out loud. I will try that.

  39. Thanks to summer vacation, I have bored children which has caused an increase in mess making and fighting.
    Distractions = typos

    Sometimes late at night is the only time I have to write, besides using spell check (which doesn’t catch every mistake) I usually come back to the article a couple of days later and I will read it over (out loud works good as mentioned by others, I read it to one of the kids) and find the mistakes if there are any, fix them and done.

  40. I would also suggest running a spellcheck on your post (if necessary, dump it into another program like Text Edit or Word to do so). I suspect readers can forgive the occasional typo, but not the repeated mis-use of a word (vile instead of vial, or isle instead of aisle) and foreign-language misspellings. THAT, my dears, erodes your professionalism. If you’re not sure of a spelling, usage, or meaning, look it up!

  41. I used to do copy editing for a living. I’m a fast reader, which is usually an advantage, but not for careful proofreading.

    The technique I came up with was to proofread upside down sometimes. It slows you down and makes you look at what the words actually are, instead of what you think they are.

  42. I just had to do this:
    “This one just bite me where it counts.”

    Really? Bit me, too.

  43. While blogging I find my creative side take over. That right brain flow state you get into while writing. It is more fun than checking for typos but you are right.

    Typos take away from the readers positive experience and all bloggers need to be aware of this basic fact. Thank you for your timely reminder.

  44. yeah i often have problem with the grammar to

    but the more important thing is, the reader can understand what you are trying to say

    it’s better than post with perfect grammar but have no point at all
    :-)

  45. I agree! Typos are like allergies! So irritating! Read it out loud. Just that simple step.

  46. Seriously. Don’t use double spacing after each sentence. For some it is even more annoying than the occasional typo! Yes, mine are on purpose ;)

  47. Typos can prove very costly too, so it is well worth getting it right:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2010/04/19/cookbook-typo-salt-a.html

  48. “This one just bite me where it counts”

    Ok am I the ONLY one who caught this typo in the blog (which I LOVED and SOOOOOOO agreed with!) Methinks that Larry deliberately included it to see how many would actually notice, well I believe I noticed….shouldn’t this be

    “This one just BIT me where it counts” (????????????)

    Love the reading the copy aloud idea, have never done that but am going to start doing it immediately.

    I love the analogy of a typo being like “poppyseed being caught in your tooth”. I believe those of us who create the written word are responsible for it’s presentation. It reflects on US, no excuses, typos are inexcusable in a “finished” product.

  49. My best friend used to have major typos in her posts and it lost her credibility. Even after pointing out the first couple, I gave up. The errors were in sane. Thank goodness she improved. So, the question is: just how far does one have to go to let the writer know.

  50. I like Broccoli. Lol..
    Yeah.. read loud will showing ourself, how the post will look like to the readers. That absolutely a good idea. Beside that, always ask MS Word spelling and grammar tools to check for us. It will happy to do even at 3 am..

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