Typos are an integral part of using a keyboard. I remember when I was at the peak of my typing performance and managed to do 96 wpm (words per minutes) with 3 errors on an IBM Selectric typewriter a long, long time ago. Correcting mistakes back then was a real pain, requiring in the REALLY old day, erasing them and hoping not to create a hole in the paper in the process, or white-out, which looked pretty tacky. Thank heaven those days are over! I remember having to retype pages and pages of manuscript due to some minor edits that changed the pagination. Yuck!
Since the advent of word processors, correcting errors has become a piece of cake. That makes it even more inexcusable not to do so. Typos really annoy readers, but they’re even more inevitable than they were in the old days because now there is less incentive to be precise than that funny, pink, circular eraser with the brush on one end or that little bottle.
Be aware of the ones you repeat most often. Transposing letters is tough to catch, but everyone probably has words they repeatedly misspell. I wish I have $1 for every time I typed “you” instead of “your”. I also tend to type “the” instead of “that” or “then”. When you’re aware of which ones you tend to mess up, you can usually make a quick check as you write or finish a given sentence to make sure it’s correct. These type of typos that a spellchecker won’t catch can really be a challenge, but trust me when I say your readers will indeed catch them. Hopefully your proofreader or editor will.
A saw a blog a while back that addressed reasons why novels received reviews below 5 stars. This should be of interest to all writers since we all crave those lovely, ego-boosting, 5-star reviews. We should all realize that reviews are subjective, but there are a few things readers often grumble about. I’m going to go over them the next few days, so get ready to be as objective as possible as you decide if you’re guilty.
The first one, which drives me crazy as well, is spelling errors. Seriously people, how hard is it to run the spellchecker? If I see a review that mentions typos, I will not buy that book. Some will slip past a spellchecker, but those I can forgive, at least a few of them. However, there is no greater pleasure than reading a book where your engagement with the story is never interrupted by a misspelled word or grammatical error. Some readers may not notice or even mind, but anyone who takes their craft seriously will.
Be aware of your most common typos. Mine are typing “you” instead of “your” or “the” instead of “that”. A simple spellchecker is very likely to miss such goofs when it’s an actual word and not misspelled, just not correct in context. These are also difficult to find when you’re proofreading or editing because that same disconnect that originated between your brain and fingers will come back to haunt you when reading it. However, an alert reader will trip over it in a heartbeat. During your final edit, be sure to take your time and read each word deliberately, looking for such things. If you’re beta reading for another author, be sure to point out such goofs because the author is less likely to catch it.
Understand there are several types of editors. Just because you hire one, doesn’t mean they’ll do the job you expect, especially if you don’t understand there are different types. They may do a great job within their realm, yet miss other problems. I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve found in books where the author supposedly hired an “editor.”
Here’s the basic run-down: Proofreaders look for typos. Copy editors look at punctuation and grammar. Line editors look at everything. Content editors look at plot & characterizations. If this is news to you, then I suggest you read this great article that gives more detail.
If something throws you out of a story you’re reading, figure out why. Then make sure you’re not guilty of the same thing. You can learn from all writers, whether more or less skilled than you are. Typos are one thing that really jolt me out, though blatantly inaccurate science is a close second.