Alexander Becker

Production Notes

I provide ideation services, conceptual and technical consulting, from visionary design to professional execution and presentation. I am an experienced designer, the creative mind behind alter ego Lyrois and author of "None of This is Real."

Three Kinds Of Typos (But Only Worry About One Kind)

A typographical omission of the word "not" in the sentence "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This printing of the Bible has become known as the Wicked Bible.

However many times you read your book, there will always be typos; especially the kind that automatic spelling systems do not catch. This is one of the running jokes in book-making. You print the first edition, having read the proofing copies a hundred times, with no typos left. Upon opening a random page after the first print run, you immediately find the most glaring typo. And then, another one.

"Typos are elusive. I saw an article about them once at my typographers back in the pre-laser-writer days. It said something to the effect that typos hide with great skill BEFORE the book is printed. But AFTER it is printed, they leap out at the reader."

There are many techniques to minimize typos; reading the whole book backwards, have it read by different third parties, let it marinate for some time, etc. But eventually, you'll have to print it, and then, see above.

You will come across three kinds of typos --

  1. OCR errors
  2. Simple misspellings
  3. Bad language

OCR errors result from scanning and automatically converting the scans to text (optical character recognition). Examples are letter shapes that are mistaken for different letter shapes, e.g. 'rn' is recognized as 'm', or vice versa. These are easy to hunt down by automatic spelling checkers.

Simple misspellings are similar in that the spell checkers are able to catch them. Still, you will find that kind of typo after last-minute edits, or simple oversight no matter the quality of the software or staff.

Bad language is of more concern. Lacking fundamentals of grammar and missing actual knowledge about words.

"Lately, in a big new memoir from a fancy imprint, I came across 'peddle' for 'pedal.' How did it happen?"

Now, there are always editors and proofreaders who are able to point out and correct the really bad stuff, but it is to a large extent the responsibility of the author to have a good command of the language.

In summary, don't worry too much about typos of the first two kinds -- AFTER the book is printed -- BEFORE, do everything you can to eliminate them. As for the third kind of typo, try to proof and bullet-proof your language against them. They don't help with credibility and being taken seriously as an author.

See also: Muphry's law --

If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.

See also: The Oatmeal on the topic of misspellings.

To minimize typos across editions...