It’s that time: typo hunting time


In the publishing of the next book, every self-published author has to face the fact that typos exist, are blamed on the author (who has ultimate responsibility), and are as hard to eliminate completely as cockroaches.

What is a practical limit for the number of typos?

A little checking provides a couple of rough guidelines:

  1. A typo per thousand words is too many.
  2. Three typos in ten thousand words is proofing to a professional standard.

That standard means that, in a novel of 187,000 words, one could discover 56 typos – a huge number – and still be within professional quality. But it’s a twenty-chapter book, and that is only 2-3 typos per chapter, which doesn’t sound quite so bad.

The kind of errors matters

Using the wrong word isn’t a typo – it’s a mistake. It often comes from not knowing a word well enough, and not looking up the correct usage if you’re not certain.

There are a number of these anthills to die on, and experienced writers will know the difference between may and might, principal and principle, and verb affect/effect and noun affect/effect.

No one but beginners should have problems with its and it’s, or their/they’re/there. A professional writer needs to be certain about the basics, and have a cheat sheet for the ones which cause them trouble personally.

And it never hurts to check again, reinforcing what you know, challenging what you think you know. I am getting very humble in that department, as my damaged brain keeps throwing me the almost right word, I find it slightly odd – and have the sense to check. The bigger your vocabulary, the more chances for this to trip you up.

Leaving out a short word is a typo – a good friend just caught me leaving out ‘to’ from the infinitive ‘to commit’ – thank you!

The little shorties which are the wrong word, but are an actual word, are one of my peccadilloes: it, if, is, in – it is so easy to type the wrong consonant!

Transposing a couple of letters or leaving off a final letter – happen frequently to all typists, and can be very hard to catch. Sometimes the best way is to have the robot voice of your computer or program read you your own deathless prose – and make you giggle. My current typo-in-hiding is leaving the final ‘r’ off ‘your,’ which sounds funny when read back to me – YMMV.

Paying for professional proofing

does not guarantee perfection, unfortunately. It may be worth it but I think it doesn’t teach you anything. You’ll still make mistakes and typos, and have to figure out how to make the corrections stick in your writer’s mind, if they’re the kind you can learn from such as using a word incorrectly.

If you accept the corrections made by a pro too quickly, you may not move the problems into long-term memory properly – and so will continue to make that kind of flub. It’s worth taking some time to ask yourself why they happened, and whether you can make a permanent self-fix.

And you’re still the one with your name on the book.

So wish me well on what is the final proofing:

Sending out ARCs I think are perfect, and getting back the little niggly (and wonderfully welcome), “I liked it – but on page #n, you have a typo…”

Embarrassing – but I am grateful for every catch.

And vow to learn from them.

Can’t be perfect – but I can always become better.


19 thoughts on “It’s that time: typo hunting time

  1. joey

    Best wishes to you and your editors!
    I really only write at my job these days (essentially all day) and occasionally I’ll catch a typo and I don’t care what kind it is, I feel rotten about it. Caught one today — “beack” instead of “back” ARGH!
    Last week, I had the repeated word thing: “contact me directly with with your availability” ARGH! I laughed at that one, felt it was a bit Jar-Jar, but still, rotten! Heaven only knows how bad how often.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Joey! What a huge pleasure to see you back! I even had to go sign up again – I didn’t get any notifications of posts (seems to be happening a lot with many blogs I followed – Firefox changed something maybe?).

      I have missed you – and will go read everything asap.

      BTW, I don’t have editors. It’s just me. I’m too ornery to work with anyone, it seems. So I put hours in, have all kinds of systems and lists, and mostly do okay. Maybe it’s good for me to not have a backup.


  2. Widdershins

    Being a smidge dyslexic I tend to transpose letters, so those ones are an easy catch, (relatively) but it’s the sneaky ones that evade my eagle-eyes. I used to get so wound up by typos and thought I would live and/or die by them, but thankfully I’ve grown out of that stage. Now I bank on there being at least one, and go from there. 🙂


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I spent all day yesterday doing spot checks on spelling – the words with the squiggly red lines underneath. I hadn’t done it systematically, and didn’t realize how many things I’d left for ‘later.’

      Caught a whole bunch of items that should have never been left behind – but when I’m writing, that’s all I’m doing. Good use of a day – and I’m much happier now that I’ve done it.

      Don’t know if you can remove all typos, and don’t aim to try, but you should have a system for gathering them in one place for the next update, if there is one.

      My problem is that after Scrivener, I had to go through MS Word for a bunch of stuff, and it was a one-way journey. No one has complained about PURGATORY, but I do like to always be learning and improving.

      One has standards for oneself.

      Hope you’re settling in well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Widdershins

        Oh yes, the ‘I’ll fix that later’s’, are deadly. 😀 … I think we’re finally settling in, into a rhythm of our days, and are rolling with the unexpected punches a lot better now that we’re not as exhausted.


  3. Chris

    This is a subject that has always fascinated me. Particularly since my first and only traditionally published book, twenty or so years ago, that featured a typo on the back-cover blurb. This publishing company is a big name, not any neighborhood amateur. I should have taken it as a portent of literary things to come 😛

    Good luck on your typo-finding quest!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Ah. Yes. Traditional publishers are not perfect, and never have been, but indies have often been SO bad we forget about the pros.

      Which is one of the reasons I write MAINSTREAM FICTION as an INDIE (and which also means I have to work hard to uphold standards).

      Most people probably think I’m nuts for one or the other of those parts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. acflory

    -grin- This post made me smile. We are such perfectionists! And yet, Lloyd is right – as Indies, we are crucified if our work is not absolutely perfect.

    For myself, I create an epub version of my MS, upload it to my Kindle and then read it aloud, from the Kindle. The combination of different visual format and having to read each.and.every.word. helps a lot. That said, my beta reading buddy, Chris, /still/ manages to catch a few typos.:/

    I used to think there were gremlins that put more typos in even as I took them out. Now I know it’s me, all me. I suspect we cause more typos as we /edit/ than as we write. Ah well. Good to know we all suffer from the same affliction. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

        1. acflory

          Mine is Stranger in a Strange Land. Not sure if I’ve actually read the free lunch one. I know the saying, of course, but I don’t think I’ve ever associated with him. A blind spot. 😉


  5. Lloyd Lofthouse

    I know exactly what you mean. I line edited the final draft of my first novel a dozen times and about a dozen friends helped, too (all college educated and a few taught English), before publishing that novel back in December 2007 after working on it (from start to finish) since 1999.

    My last line edit of that novel’s final draft was with a ruler from the last page forward moving from the bottom up, right to left, so I wouldn’t become distracted with the sentence or plot flow. That happens a lot to me, being distracted reading front to back, left to right.

    And there were still typos. Some readers ignored them, some reported them to Amazon and Amazon passed that info on to me, and I made the corrections, but even after all those corrections a few readers found a few everyone else had missed and made sure to let the world know with their negative review and crucified me as an author for less than a dozen typos in a historical fiction novel with 640 pages and more than 200,000 words. I made those corrections, too. Since the grammar Nazis attacked, I haven’t heard any more complaints or reports about typos, but I’m waiting because I suspect there might be a couple still lurking there.

    If you are a traditionally published author and your books are edited by one or more of the publisher’s editors, the grammar Nazis often ignore a handful of types, but if you are an indie author on your own, some of those grammar Nazis will show up and will pounce.

    Because of them, I started using grammar programs more than a decade ago. The early programs were not easy to use. They were complicated, and that’s me being nice. One chapter might take several hours. Several hours with eye strain and tense nerves and muscles by the end. Those old programs were a love-hate relationship. I loved having them but cringed at the thought of using them.

    Then a couple of years ago, I started to use Grammarly (much better than those older, early programs) costing me about $130 annually. I ran every chapter, rough and final, through Grammarly. Eventually, last year, I dumped Grammarly that I think is clunky and sometimes frustrating to use (but not close to those older programs I first used), and switched to Pro Writing Aid that’s actually designed for authors like us in mind. Grammarly is focused more on businesses and/or college students.

    Pro Writing Aid costs less even if you pay the monthly choice, and even has a once in a lifetime price option that was my choice. I also got a discount for the lifetime price by ordering through the Kindlepreneur’s site, and I did not earn anything by mentioning this but he does. Here’s the link.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Glad you have something you like and which works for you.

      I would NEVER let a grammar program have a word of mine. I absolutely loathe what they do (as you can tell, I tried them).

      I DO, however, put all my text through the counting features in AutoCrit, to which I have a lifetime membership. Only the counting – adverbs, repeated words, cliches…

      Because that takes care of my brain’s penchant for throwing the same word at me rather than find a fresh one.

      AC is invoked as I finish writing each scene, when I can still remember exactly what I’m trying to do with it, and is mixed in with repeated listenings to the robot reader.

      My beta reader catches a few errors – she gets a chapter at a time.

      But send your baby out into the world – someone will find the rest of the little stumbling blocks, and some of those someones will gleefully inform you (or Amazon), as if there was a prize for it.

      I take it very well from my friends, first readers, and ARC recipients, and fortunately haven’t had it happen much from reviewers (I’m probably jinxing myself by saying that) – so far.

      But you’re right about SPAs having higher standards applied to them by readers – there are plenty of typos and errors in traditionally published books.



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