Typos Breed in Your Manuscript

Just got the second-to-last typo corrections back for the Black Dog novellas that are coming up later this summer. Thanks, Linda!

After getting Linda’s corrections back for Shadow Twin, I was not (very) surprised at the number of typos she found for the short stories. She found 124 typos, or typo-level things to query. After Shadow Twin, I expect there are even some she missed – there is one more person who I hope will have time to look over the manuscript before publication.

But, one hundred twenty-four! It’s amazing. Some of these are stories that have been written for some time and that I have gone over repeatedly. To be fair, I found and corrected … let me see … 20% of these typos myself, during content revisions before Linda send me her list. Also, roughly another 20% of her queries concerned artistic judgment rather than typos: “Should there be a comma after this word?” Sometimes yes, sometimes no. These are not errors as such; they’re questions about technical correctness versus the rhythm of the sentence. Sometimes, given this sort of query, I decide one way and sometimes the other. It depends on the specific situation.

That leaves roughly 75 typos, some pretty egregious.

Probably the most common issue: missing words. Shouldn’t there be a “to” in this sentence? Did you mean “a disaster” or just “disaster?” Did you mean “put away” or just “put?” Amazing how easy it is to just read straight across a word that ought to be there but isn’t.

One type of query where the answer is always No: “Did you mean to use this particular word three times in this paragraph?” “Was the repetition of “order” in this paragraph intentional?” At least 98% of the time, the answer is No, I didn’t; and No, it wasn’t. Repeated words are a plague, and remarkably hard to spot, at least for me.

Here is the typo I think is funniest: Pinchers when I meant pincers. What can I say? I spell the dog breeds’ names far more often than I use the word “pincers.” I may never have typed the word “pincers” before in my entire life, whereas I like Doberman pinchers a lot and have no doubt discussed the entire pincher/schnauzer group of breeds from time to time.

The most embarrassing typos are the ones that make me look illiterate. “Too” for “to” or “There was few other sounds” for “There were few other sounds.” Typing the wrong to/too/two is rare for me, and failing to catch it is seriously rare, but it can happen if I’m tired. So can errors like meaning “people” and typing “pebble” (I did that once and didn’t catch it till later).

I think – I hope – that it is impossible for me to make verb tense errors in just straight-up writing. I am pretty sure mistakes like that happen only when I change the sentence, but not quite all the way. But how stupid mistakes like that look. So glad Linda caught the few errors of that type.

Content errors: any time a beta reader or copy editor queries a sentence with “This doesn’t sound right to me,” I will probably revise (or delete) the sentence. Nearly all the time, such a query means the sentence really is confusing or awkward in some way I missed.

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4 thoughts on “Typos Breed in Your Manuscript”

  1. And here I was happy at having found 37 or so…
    My congratulations to Linda, you’re very very good!

  2. Hanneke, you saw the ms AFTER Linda, and after I wrote this post, and still found that many more typos. So you see, those suckers really do breed in the manuscript!

  3. Thanks, Rachel and Hanneke; I’ve really enjoyed working on this. I’ve been surprised to discover how easy it is to miss obvious typos, even when I’m trying to read carefully. Taking a second pass through the manuscript helps, but it’s obviously not foolproof. I’ve always had a lot of respect for good copy editors, but I have even more now!

  4. Allan Shampine

    There are always typos. We can only hope to weed out most of them!

    On the clarity of sentences, I’ve had to learn over the years to take such things seriously but not personally. Almost by definition, if the reader doesn’t understand a sentence or a paragraph then I, the writer, need to revise that sentence or paragraph, no matter how much I may have liked the wording.

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