Sunday, July 26, 2015

Taking Care of Typos

I don’t particularly mind typos in books when I’m reading them, but I can’t stand the thought of their being in my own books.  It smacks of a lack of professionalism.  (And because many readers don’t care for typos, and I want everyone to enjoy these stories.)  Unfortunately, typos are insidious creatures and difficult to get rid of.  The first task is finding them in the first place, and that can be quite challenging.

From the beginning I’d been using what seem to be considered the two most effective methods for locating the little devils (according to popular wisdom) – having other people read the book and look for them, and reading the book out loud to myself.  Then I discovered that a number of typos had slipped through this proofing process.

Why is it so hard to pick them out?  Because our brains tend to see what they expect to see (rather than what’s really there) – so I know what I meant to type, and sometimes what’s actually on the page simply doesn’t register.  Even though I read the manuscript over and over (which is almost completely useless as far as catching typos goes.)  And since my mind isn’t recognizing the error when my eyes see it, it’s no surprise if I read out loud what my brain tells me instead of what I’m looking at.

Even when other people read a proof copy for me – and I mean experienced, detail-oriented readers – they can often see what the text is supposed to say, because what’s meant to be there is so obvious that their minds translate it without the error penetrating into conscious thought.

Thankfully, a kind and perceptive person noticed and pointed out that some typos had survived to make it into the published books, and they also suggested a new method for finding them that has turned out to be quite effective.  And with good reason.

Now my first and last line of defense against typos is this – I use my computer’s text-to-speech software to have it read my book to me as I follow along visually.  The computer can’t be fooled by some notion of what it thinks the book is supposed to say, so it speaks what’s actually on the page.  Then the dissonance between that auditory input and what my brain is telling me about what I’m seeing when I come across a typo is jarring enough to declare the error.  And of course, once it’s been found it’s easy to fix.

So I’ve spent the past several weeks going back over my books and correcting a number of typos that had slipped through.  Hopefully that’s taken care of them all, but I’m not relaxing my vigilance.  This is a battle that never ends.

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