Are you a typo freak?

Inevitably, when each of my books first comes out, I get notes from readers catching typos.  “ Doesn’t anyone proofread anymore?” they ask plaintively.

The answer?  YES!  I carefully read through looking for errors, as do my editor, my agent, my assistant, and more people at the publishing house than I care to count.  And still, when the copyeditor gets the manuscript, she’ll find a typo or two.  The eye plays games, especially when you’ve read a book numerous times.  You know what the word is supposed to be, so that’s what you see.  (Actually, I just typed “numberous,” which I often do since my fingers are more attuned to typing “number” than “numerous,” which is why I proofread this blog before posting.)

I’ve just finished going through the copyedited version of Sweet Salt Air, and I’d say that the copyeditor caught at least a dozen typos.  But that isn’t all she caught.  Other examples?

Commas.  You can talk about a peanut butter, jelly, and fluff sandwich or a peanut butter, jelly and fluff sandwich – series of three items or phrases, the last two of which are either separated or not by commas.  I wrote the latter, but since house style is the former, commas were inserted.

Hyphens.  I wrote email; house style is e-mail.

Capitalization.  Is it web or Web, internet or Internet?  Moreover, words like Jet Ski, Jacuzzi, and Jello are trademarked and therefore must be capitalized.  When you blow your nose, you either use a Kleenex or a tissue.  Get the idea?

Em dashes.  These are the long dashes I often use — like this, when I want to add a little something by way of explanation — and house style dictates no more than two of these in a given paragraph.  Since I’m a BIG em dashes user, the copyeditor had quite a few to remove.

Plain old mistakes.  You can have a book that you buy second hand, or a second-hand book.  You can call a character Antoine in one chapter and Anthony in the next.  I had Nicole poring “through” the files Charlotte sent her, rather than the correct poring “over.”  Ball cap is two words, whereas wineglass is one word.  The copyeditor catches things like these.

I was describing all this to a friend the other day.  She asked if style changes bother me.  Absolutely not!  When it comes to style, it’s six of one, half a dozen of another.  Real mistakes are something else.  I am deeply appreciative for every one of these that the copyeditor catches.

Bottom line?  We do try to make every book perfect.  If you find a typo, it’s not for lack of looking on our part.  Your eyes are just fresher and keener.

The good news is that when you point out typos, I pass them on to my editor, who assures that the correction is made in all future editions of the book.

Typos are only one of the things that bother readers.  What’s your pet peeve when you’re reading a book?

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  1. Sue on October 26, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I guess I don’t notice them either. I am too engrossed in the book. Plus, your brain sees what it should be, not always what is actually there.

  2. Lyn F on October 26, 2012 at 8:28 am

    My pet peeve is grammar, a lot of authors just don’t understand proper grammar
    I don’t worry so much about comma and hyphens,
    But I do get annoyed when they character one name in chapter 1 and another in chapter

  3. Leslie Davis Guccione on October 26, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Great blog, Barbara. I’m sharing this one with my students.

  4. Peggie Ashbury on October 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I know of what you speak, Barbara. Although I’m retired now, during my career as a teacher and a college administrator, I learned I needed to find a person unfamiliar with my message to proof letters, etc. I needed to write. I could never proof myself, for as you say, I knew what I was saying.

  5. Joyce Conser on October 26, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Quotation marks omitted at the end of a quote. I see it all the time, but not necessarily in your books. Love, love, love all your re-issues of older books in Kindle format! Thanks!

  6. Darcie Clemente on October 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

    This is priceless!! Love it and am passing it on to a friend who thinks typos are like nails on a chalkboard!! I, personally, LIKE to get the feel of the writer by “how” they put it to page. I say, “Do away with ‘house style’!” (How’s that for punctuation!!) Be free!! (Yes, I always use double exclamation points!!) lol

  7. Susanna Shirlock on October 26, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Interesting, Barbara…I found out some things that I didn’t know and should have known at the age of 65. You actually answered some questions that I have had. I didn’t know that wineglass was one word. I rarely find typos in your books but have a few times and am always surprised. Thanks for all your great books!

  8. Elaine Swartz on October 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Just caught an error where a character’s father’s name was used where the son’s name should have been. Names are similar to begin with – Jordan for the dad, Jake for the son and it’s been difficult getting them straight early in the book. I think I read the sentence a few times to figure it out! I want to join the Sharpie/Wite-out Squad!!

  9. Pat Puckett on October 26, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Yes, yes, yes….typos have always stood out to me when I’m reading a book, (or newspaper). I am so glad you explained this process and what it entails!! I will totally look at typos differently in the future.

  10. Carol Young on October 26, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I do notice typos when I read. I will say however, they dont drive me bananas unless there are multiple typos and the book that I am reading is a total waste of paper…which by the way, that has yet to happen when I am reading your work. There was an email circulated awhile back that was written with numerous typos, such as words omitted, letters dropped, and spelled incorrectly, that lent itself to this very issue…it was an exercise in showing how your mind fills in or corrects the information you are processing to what it should really read…so for myself, I feel that to err is human, to keep reading, well Barbara….that is just simply DEVINE!! LOL

  11. Judy Brown on October 26, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Thank you so much for the explanation. Since I’m a retired Legal Secretary who didn’t have spell check when I began my career my eyes are trained to catch typos. Sometimes I feel like I’m cursed because these typos really stand out to me. I’m trying to break myself of this habit so I can enjoy all books more but some of the new authors I’ve tried it almost becomes too much of a distraction. In your books, however, I’ve only noticed a few and really enjoy what you write.

  12. Jennifer J on October 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I don’t think I am ultra fussy about typos etc, but I see a lot of them in Kindle books – way more than in print editions. There are also many formatting errors in other formats of ebooks as well. Somehow I doubt that these authors are so poor at grammar and style and have no good copy editors. I have concluded that they write using one electronic program and when they convert to another format the errors result. Am I correct in this assumption?

  13. Amanda Baker on October 26, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    For some reason, typos just jump out at me. I’m never looking for them. In a book, it never really bothers me – sometimes I even get a chuckle about it. I think the only time it bothered me was when I received an email solicitation for a seminar – on BUSINESS COMMUNICATION no less – that had 6 typos and, I believe, 2 grammatical errors. I emailed them listing all the errors – the kicker . . . I receive the exact solicitation 6 months later that still had all the errors! With books, I think the thing that bugs me the most (and I have NEVER experienced this with any of your books!) is when the author introduces a sub-plot early on and I get to the end of the book and realize they never followed through with it – really annoying! I like em dashes too, though I never knew what they were called.

  14. Amanda Baker on October 26, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I forgot – the other thing that DRIVES ME CRAZY is when people use ‘AWE’ instead of ‘AWW’. Makes me want to scream!

  15. Lynn Lihosit on October 27, 2012 at 6:53 am

    You need to hire people like me who would love to do it for a living. I’m an avid reader and have been a secretary for 35 years.

  16. Karoline Barrett on October 29, 2012 at 8:35 am

    I loved this! I just signed with an agent and she went over my novel, gave me some changes, and I noticed that one of my characters that didn’t show up till the end of my book had 2 different names! She didn’t notice, but I did!

  17. brenda on November 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Yes-I teach high school and college English. (LOL)

  18. Anne-Marie Chandler on April 20, 2013 at 4:52 am

    My pet peeve is an author not knowing the intimate details of a city: a renowned author has characters riding the transit system in SF–called B.A.R.T (Bay Area Rapid Transit)—-above ground in an area where the BART is underground. I am presently plotting and brainstorming to complete a novel,and so I need to research details in order to make the setting and environment authentic. Thank you for your lovely writing. I sent your short story to my kindle -looking forward to reading it.

  19. Anne-Marie Chandler on April 20, 2013 at 4:58 am

    The AA in our office is a friend, and she will ask me to look at the copy of the message she wants to send. I just can’t help it, as I trained to be a journalist and have worked in the legal field for 20 yrs now. UGH!!! it’s a curse and can detract from the story and the message in any reading material.

  20. Janet M on May 22, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Words such as a, an, the, of, etc. are very often omitted in newspaper articles and other things that I read. Is that a new style or is it just plain error. Is there such a thing as a ‘plain’ error?

    • Barbara Delinsky on May 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

      I’m no authority, Janet, but I’d guess it’s a new style — as in 5-second-soundbite chic. People do often talk this way, so when you see it in a book, either in dialogue or in the mind of the character, it’s often considered acceptable by publishers. 🙂

  21. Carolyn Edwards on January 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I imagine that sometimes the errors that occur are not your errors. I often find that people with just enough knowledge to be dangerous “correct” something so that it is wrong. One of those potential pitfalls is correctly choosing “bad” and “badly.” One has to know if the word is modifying an action verb, making it an adverb (badly), or if it is a predicate adjective, following a linking (state-of-being) verb, in which case, it describes the subject and must be the adjective (bad). One of the difficulties is that some verbs can be either action or linking, e.g., feel. ” Mary feels bad” describes Mary (her emotional state or health), so the adjective is required. If one writes, “Mary feels badly,” then one is saying that she has a faulty or inappropriate sense of touch. I love all of your books and have reread them all, some for the third or fourth time.

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