How to Avoid Typos


1106 Design

January 06, 2014

These days it’s rare to read a book and NOT find typos. But you can avoid these embarrassing errors. Read on.

First, take time to proofread. While I advise hiring a professional, any proofing by anyone who is not the author is better than none. However, a professional is trained to catch awkward mistakes and inconsistencies that your best friend will miss.

Copyediting is not proofreading. Your copy editor will find many errors, but when revising your manuscript, will create more. Proofread after all editorial changes are complete. The proofreader and the editor should not be the same person; enlist fresh eyes.

Proofread your book after it has been typeset. Typos and other errors have a way of unveiling themselves on the typeset page, which is in the proper format for reading. The proofreader will also catch any formatting errors and inconsistencies.

Don’t depend on Spellcheck. While Spellcheck does highlight incorrectly spelled words, it does not correct spelling in context. For example, in writing this article, I typed “perfectly find” instead of “perfectly fine” and Word thought this was, er, perfectly fine.

Reduce inconsistencies in your book by creating a style guide. Refer back to it often. Include:

  • Place and people names. I often find errors in the names of cities, streets, restaurants, rivers, people quoted, and more. “Google” these names and write them on your list.

  • Words that can be spelled multiple valid ways (e.g., first born, firstborn, first-born; B.C/ A.D., B.C./B.C.E.). Choose one and stick to it.

  • Defining characteristics about places and names. In one book, a character strolled down to the river below his house; in the next chapter the same character strolled down to the lake below his house! List character names, eye color, ages, locations, jobs, and any other details. If you change something, change it on your list. I’ve proofed a book where the author changed the name of the main character, but didn’t change it consistently throughout the book!

Finally, the best way to avoid errors in your book is to hire a professional proofreader. Recently I read a book for which the author had gone to a lot of trouble to publish independently, even undertaking a successful Kickstarter campaign. The book’s concept was terrific, and I was looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, the number of typos and other errors detracted from the author’s message and made the book difficult to read. Why go to all that trouble only to cut corners on proofing?


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