There are few things I love more than an orthographic malfunction: With the loss of a single “r,” a book can instantly go from sexy to savage!
My friend Tom (aka., The Blogfodder) reminded me of this fact today with a wonderful piece titled The Prince of Typos. Make that The Price of Typoes. Uh, typos.
In her New York Times blog post, Virginia Heffernan muses about the increase in typos—particularly in professionally published books.
For readers who find humanity in orthographic quirks, these are great times. Book publishers used to struggle mightily to conceal an author’s errors; … But lately the vigilance of even the great houses has flagged, and typos are everywhere. Curious readers now get regular glimpses of raw and frank and interesting mistakes that give us access to unedited minds.
Matt Henderson Ellis goes one step further by declaring his love for typos in almost poetic terms.
But – and I am almost certain I am alone on this – to me there is something pleasingly human about a typo, like the squeak of a finger moved hastily down a guitar string, or a mole on an otherwise flawless face. It brings the author – hidden and almost deified through print – down to a human level. And human connections are why I, for one, read.
To err may be human (and often funny) but there are costs to making mistakes. Big ones—like substituting “people” for “pepper” in a recipe—can ruin a publisher’s reputation.
But even seemingly small errors can be enormously costly. According to one expert, a single mistake in a website can cut sales in half. Clearly, spelling still matters.
So what’s the average error-prone writer/blogger to do? First, don’t rely solely on your computer’s spell-checker. (It can’t tell you that “beast” should be “breast.”) Second, try to let your writing sit for at least 24 hours before you proof it. Third, read slowly—or out loud, or backwards, or upside-down.
About that last bit of advice: There are a million tips for improving your proofreading skills. Unfortunately, none of them is fail-safe. So experiment a bit and try to develop your own proofreading system.
And when something really, really counts, ask a friend or colleague to give your work a once-over. Especially if you’re writing a cookbook—or a romance novel.