Thursday, December 15, 2011

The emails that make me cranky

At the day-job yesterday, I got the sort of email I dread.

No, not the ones promising a discount mortgage with the purchase of internet porn (I actually kind of like those). This one was pointing out a typo in a brand new brochure we just got back from the printer in great big boxes stuffed with 10,0000 copies.

"Where it says ozyacetlyene," wrote a business associate, "is this supposed to be oxyacetlyene?

Um...probably?

It's a tiny word in a small block of copy describing the tool used to create a sculpture. I grabbed the description straight from the art organization's website, but I damn well should have double-checked the spelling and I know it.

I hate that.

On the grand scale of typos, it's not the worst I've ever seen. In my younger years as a journalist, I missed it when my spell checker corrected a university president's name from "Marilyn Wessel" to "Marlin Weasel" in an article about funding cuts.

She wasn't amused.

I've been writing for my supper in one form or another my entire adult life, so you'd think I'd be used to uncomfortable typos by now. Still, I have a crippling fear of looking at anything I've written after it's printed and published. You want to know how many times I've opened a copy of Making Waves?

Once.

And the only reason I did it was because I had to read a section of the book for a speaking engagement. I decided to read from the uncorrected proof so if I did find any typos, I could assure myself they'd been corrected in the actual, printed copies of the book.

But the first time I read from the proof, I stumbled over a typo right in the middle of the Newlywed Game scene. I recovered and kept reading, but for several days after that, I couldn't shake the horrible thought:

What if it actually went to print like that?

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I looked in the actual, printed copy of Making Waves, and dammitalltohell, the typo is in there. It might not be apparent to everyone, but it's obvious when you read the scene aloud (so, uh...don't do that).

I went back to my uncorrected proof and scribbled a correction so I don't stumble anymore when I read the scene in public. Still, it bugs me.

I'm pretty sure that's the last time I'll look at a printed copy of one of my books. I'm keeping that in mind as I stare at the small pile of uncorrected proofs I just got in the mail for Believe it or Not. Do I look? I'm pretty sure the real book has already gone to print, so if I find a typo now, I might not be able to do anything about it.

I know there are more important things to stress about in life, but sometimes we have to fret about the little crap just to keep our minds off the big stuff (like the fact that I'm facing a really daunting edit on my third contracted romantic comedy, Mad Crush).

Do you get freaky about typos, or can you let them roll off your back? Did you happen to catch the typo in the Newlywed Game scene in Making Waves?

Wait. Crap. Why am I telling you about that? Now you're all going to go look, aren't you?

This is the worst blog post ever.

14 comments :

Brenda said...

Typos are inevitable and one or two out of 70,000 words is easy to overlook. It's when there's one every other page that it becomes distracting. That said, I just proofed a corporate brochure that's already been printed in hard copy once and found *30* typos b/c the designer sent it right to print without a final proof!! Apparently he thinks I can spell and punctuate right the first time (although we've both agreed he'll never do that again!). It literally made me sick to my stomach thinking it's out in the world in such shoddy form, but I'm trying to get past it by telling myself no one will notice it as much as I do. Right? Right???

Linda G. said...

Marlin Weasel? Best. Typo. Ever! *grin*

I only freak out about my own typos. Everyone else's I let roll off my back. ;)

LynnRush said...

LOL. I hear ya. I was told about a typo in my novel and it drove me nuts. I mean, I know there will be typos. we have humans doing the editing, humans are imperfect. But yes, it still bugs me. Always will, but I can't control it. All I can do is my best to try and find every typo and the same with my editor.

I find typos in books from big publisher and small publisher alike. Such is life. They usually do NOT detour me from the story, so I don't let myself worry about them too much.

julieglover.com said...

I hate typos too. It amazed me recently while reading a manuscript I've edited umpteen times to find a misspelled word. How could I not have caught it before? And then I worry that there are more mistakes lurking in the shadows of pages where I will never find them.

I like when authors care. When reading other people's books, I often see the typos but a few in a book are to be expected. No one's perfect. But authors who don't care about getting it as close to right as they can, who say that spelling and grammar don't matter, that really bugs me.

And I don't even remember the Newlywed Game typo, although I remember that scene quite well. So your point came across anyway!

Mark Simpson said...

Even in the simplest things like emails and facebook posts, typos have driven me into panicked attempts of recall, edit, delete, whatever...followed by hanging my head in shame with apologies and corrections.

Any good craftsman knows that the devil is in the details, and like pixels in an image all these individual details add up to a finished work. But nobody notices the details as much as the creator; it's the overall result that leaves an impression.

I can't tell you how many times we've butchered songs on stage (at least it seemed that way to us) and still left people raving. The overall sound was good because we were meticulous in preparation, but if some of those details are flubbed during delivery the performance is still carried by all the others.

With the exception of you and your editors, (evidently not even your editors) very few people will ever notice such an error. The reader's mind is on the story not the nuts and bolts, and since most of us only consciously read every third word as we blaze through text, (if that even) the vast majority of minor errors are passed over unnoticed time and time again.

So it's okay, Tawna, though I wish I would've caught that nick in your Athena-like word armor. I am forever panning for gleaming grains of your failure, those rare joyous moments of feeling slightly less inferior. But the fact is I didn't, and you pointing it out before I could discover it myself only compounds my shame.

Laura Maylene said...

This topic makes me so deeply uncomfortable that I can't even post my own response. In fact, I'm going to close this window now and pretend the whole thing isn't happening. Carry on.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I actually like it when I see typos in published books. It seems more... honest. Like when you go to dinner and see a girl all dolled up and you feel inadequate in your sweats and t-shirt (or does this only happen to me?) but when she stands to leave you see a small tear in the calf of her pantyhose or something. It's not vindictive, but it's a relief to know even the super-people have mistakes in the final product.

Nancy Kelley said...

I hate my own typos with the fire of a thousand suns. I am a perfectionist, and I haven't quite accepted yet that I am not, in fact, perfect. I asked a friend who'd read my book if there were any typos, and she shrugged and said, "Only a few really minor ones." Yeah. I won't be reading my book either.

However, in other people I'm more forgiving. A small handful of typos in a published book doesn't make me crazy, because I know from personal experience that no matter how much editing you do, you're not going to catch them all.

Why can't I be that accepting of my own flaws?

Matthew MacNish said...

You must not be a welder.

mordantkitten said...

Neil Gaiman has said that he doesn't look at copies of his books because he will be sure to open them at the page the mistake is on.

Proofreading is as close to a savant talent as I have, so I virtually always see other people's typos, and almost always catch my own before releasing copy. I can't HELP it. They jump up and scream at me. So when I do let one past it's traumatic. That pamphlet thing would probably keep me up for a night. *twitch*

BarbN said...

worst blog post ever? oh, no, sweetie, I gotcha covered on that one. I have several dozen that are worse than this one. :-)

Yup, I'm with you. My own typos make me writhe with shame. writhe. and not the fun kind of writhing, either. And although I don't remember one in Making Waves, I do notice them when I read. In fact, I keep a list of ones that are unintentionally funny. But I also don't really care that much about other people's typos-- everybody makes mistakes. Like Linda G, the only typos that horrify me are my own.

Patrick Alan said...

There are two typos in your blog post.

Skye said...

I agree that a few typos in a book-length manuscript of any sort are to be expected. Even so, it still makes me nuts. I may even wander around handing my business card out to restaurants and companies using reader boards offering to proof their words for a reasonable price, just so they don't drive me mad.

I found a typo in my resume a few years ago that almost made me cry. I and a couple of friends had gone over the damned thing a dozen times and I was looking for work in Portland, with no luck even getting call backs. Then one day, I realized that "Manager, Technical Publications" read as "Manger, Technical Publications." Yup, just decorate me with a bit of straw and I'm good.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I find typos in other people's work almost automatically now, because it's part of my job to do that. College students' papers have several typos. But if it's only one or two then it doesn't bother me too much.