|Photo by Jeff Deck|
Let’s get this part out of the way: I’m a terrible copyeditor. I can’t spot typos for the life of me, my comma usage is suspect, and I wouldn’t know a dangling modifier from a split infinitive.
As a result, I really don’t get very exercised when I spot typos online or in books. I figure, hey. It happens! We’re all busy, right?
But sometimes I feel distinctly in the minority. As Amazon reviews can attest, people get extremely outraged about finding typos in books. The grammar and typo police takes no prisoner.
So, You Tell Me: Do typos annoy you? If so, why?
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan says
This would have been a great poll question. Yes, I notice typos, grammar problems, and misused words, and they do bother me.
Matthew MacNish says
I don't think I have a detailed enough grasp of grammar and punctuation to even be able to recognize most typos, let alone be bothered by them.
I do have a decent vocabulary and spelling skillz, though, so misused or misspelled words can bother me, if they show up often enough.
The Sentence Sleuth says
As a copy editor, I say absolutely it bothers me! So much so that I complain about errors daily on my blog!
Typos do bug the crap out of me. I don't know why, because we are all guilty of them here and there. What really drives me insane is unnecessary quotation marks. There's a store in my town called Pet Supplies "Plus". WTF?!?!?!?!?
P.S. I assume/hope that James Scott Bell thought he was being cute when he left those typos in his post.
Oh my gosh, yes! Soooo…much. ESPECIALLY when I find them in my own writing. It's embarrassing because I can spot them in someone else's writing…but not in my own until I'm rereading something for the first…or fifth…or hundredth time. I wonder why that is? I guess, we're just too close to our own writing to always catch that stuff.
Denise M. Baran-Unland says
Yes, especially in my work, because there's always another…and another…that I failed to spot, despite ruthless weeding.
Queen of typos speaketh.
I do notice them. They do give me pause. Then I just feel better about my own, like we're all human here, right?
Except for Franzen.
Nicole L Rivera says
I rarely recognize misspelled words so when I find one in a book I feel like I've spotted treasure after a long hunt. I love typos…when I notice them 🙂
Not all all. I think they're kind of cute sometimes.
Rick Daley says
Your pretty lenient. If their are typos I, get really mad. If a sentance is full of typos its hard for me to assertain it's meaning.
In all seriousness (like you'd ever believe I was serious), it depends on where the typo occurs. In email, blog posts, tweets, chat/IM, texting…who cares?
Even in formal business email I see typos all the time. You have to be able to read past them, or nothing would ever get done.
When I find a typo in a published book I may chuckle to myself for having caught it, but it doesn't bother me.
WORD VERIFICATION: wayap. In New England, the oppostie of way down.
Typos, drive me mad. A book I read recently had a continual typo. I had been so looking forward to reading it, because it had some good reviews, but the typos spoilt it for me.
Although I do have a bit of a nerve complaining, because like Jen I have a total blind spot for them, when it comes to my own writing. I read what I think should be there and not what's actually there.
So forgive me if this comment has any.
Rick Daley says
Please add WORD VERIFICATIONS to my list of approved holders of typos. I meant opposite. Thank you.
WORD VERIFICATION: doessome. When one is only partly engaged, e.g. he doessome of his work.
Ms. Casey says
I wouldn't say that they annoy me. If anything, I'm a little proud when I spot them. I'm with you–people are busy, and I'd much rather have a book with well-developed characters, voice, strong plot, etc. than something that's meticulously clean but dry.
That said, I'm one of those hyper-organized people who is careful about my own typos. So I'm still slightly embarrassed when I don't catch my own errors!
If it's just a few, I notice, but it doesn't bother me. It just reminds me that I'm not the only one who makes mistakes. =)
Josin L. McQuein says
Yes typos bother me, and I blame word find puzzles for it.
There's a visual phenomenon that allows your brain to process groups of letter as the word they make up, even if they're not in the correct order. This is one reason people can pick out words in a seek-and-find, even if the word is backward or diagonal. Your brain recognizes the string of letters for what it is.
A little signal goes off and makes you go back and read the section over and over until you pick out the appropriate letters.
When I see a typo, even if I know what the word is supposed to be, my brain stutters on it like stepping in gum. And I hate stepping in gum.
Ted Cross says
Yes, because they really disrupt the flow of my reading, pulling me right out. I recently read The Dragonbone Throne, which is a major novel by a big publisher, yet it was full of typos. I couldn't believe how bad the editing was.
M. Forsyth says
In books, yes. They take me out of the story, remind me that I am in the hands of a human intelligence. Sometimes bad prose can do that. When I'm floating along in the "vivid and continuous dream" of fiction, though, and a "teh" appears? RAH!
Marsha Sigman says
Typos infuriate me.
And I don't make that many in my manuscripts…but I do stutter and repeat the same word back to back. I have no idea why.
Y G Mason says
Yes, they're distracting – especially in books. Although this wasn't in the actual story, when I bought a copy of Villette the other day, on almost the first page was a heading that said 'OTHER NOVERLS BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE'.
In books they bother me because the interrupt the flow of the book. In the real world I just find them amusing.
Dorothy L. Abrams says
Okay, let me try this again. I removed the previous post because when I hit "publish your comment" I saw a blatant typo.
I thought that I likely could not pass that off as "Just seeing if you are paying attention." So as I was saying:
Typos bother me most when they are mine. I feel vindicated when they are someone else's. That being said, I used to teach grammar and composition. The fact is our rules of grammar are ever evolving. How commas are used is unsettled at best. Our spelling is more codified now than in the 1700's, but it was not always so. I suspect in the electronic age of tweets and texts, even that will change. One of the basic characteristics of English is its flexibility. Not so its speakers and writers, eh? [There, I hope I found all the errors, but I only taught English. I never was a good copy editor.}
Brandi Lynch says
I can forgive most typos because they are easy to overlook. What really gets me recently are the major errors I've found lately in books I buy. I've found in several novels recently places where there was apparently an option of how the sentence could be written. Instead of choosing one, they're both included which puts the brakes on the story flow if it doesn't completely turn the line into senseless garble.
Patricia Lynne says
Typos don't bother me one bit. In fact I read a book the other day that had a couple typos and I got excited that I found them. To me, it's kind of like seeing a mistake in a movie (like in Lord of the Rings where a car is supposed to be driving in the background. I was so bummed I didn't notice.) I feel like I'm really paying attention to notice.
D.G. Hudson says
Typos? (We must assume that they are typos rather than incorrect spelling – right?) If there are a few, it doesn't bother me, but if it happens frequently or if they are common words, it makes the writer seem lazy.
I agree, it's hard to see them sometimes when reading our own writing, but has proofreading become a LOST ART? Is everyone in such a hurry to push out that book that we forget Quality does count to some people? You may call them the grammar & typo police, but I think some people just want to see quality in writing.
There's too much of this feeling like you said — that we're all too busy. (especially when we factor in real life, blogs, social networks and our techie toys)
Proofreading and editing were part of my job in the past, and most of the errors we found were made because the writer didn't check his own work.
I tend to notice incorrect spelling of words more than punctuation and grammar, and like Mr. Bell – they jolt me out of the story. It won't deter me from reading a favorite author. However if it's a new author, I probably won't pick up another book of theirs.
Readers can be fickle, for whatever reason. Don't give them one.
I'm in the not at all bothered category. It seems petty to get frustrated by typos.
The Red Angel says
Some of my friends like to jokingly call me the "Grammar Nazi," so umm I guess this means typos do indeed annoy me haha.
Yes, I become extremely annoyed when I spot a typo, spelling, or grammatical error. It is especially irritating when I noticed errors in published novels. In Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson's recent book, Towers of Midnight, I found a disturbing amount of errors.
Fortunately, some editors and publishers take their work seriously. From what I saw of Control Switch On by Ira Teller, the author and editors made sure not to allow even the smallest spelling error into the book; which is much more enjoyable for the reader.
Gill James says
Typos don't annoy me – more often than not they amuse me. They're accidents. However, poor grammar and incorrect pucntuation do annoy me. They're about people not knowing how to write.
Craig Allen says
It depends upon the context. In an email or something obviously written "on the fly" I can get over one or two. After that I start to wonder if the writer cares at all about language.
In books, in anything other than first drafts, I start having problems with them. I well understand that writers often can't see them, simply because their mind "knows" what should be there and reads it that way. However, that doesn't excuse them.
In what other profession do we accept that? If the man who built your car fails to put it together properly, wouldn't you care?
Joanne Sher says
In a word – YES! More than anything in my own stuff, but in others' too. UUUGGGHHH. (Are there typos in Jacob Wonderbar?? Just wonderin' – I'd still buy it. Just curious)
Like Dorothy said, they bother me the most when they're mine . . .
I'm a freelance copyeditor so typos bother me greatly, particularly when I see them more and more in traditionally published books. To me, they're a sign of tremendous carelessness. I find it astonishing, given the number of people who work on a manuscript, that typos manage to slip through so frequently. The typo issues with e-books are even worse, and I don't believe it can all be attributed to problems with Kindle formatting, for example. In an e-book published by Macmillan that I read recently, there were literally dozens of typos. I can't imagine the print version, which was published several years ago, was so horrendous. To get books from their backlist into e-book format, are publishers hiring someone to type in old manuscripts and not having them proofread first? (I don't know what process publishers use to do this–it seems like they'd still have the electronic files for their books and would simply convert them, but I don't know. I'd be curious because the typo problem appears rampant in e-books.)
Nathan, as far as your own typos, I've read your blog for years and can't recall any issues. If you're doing your own proofreading, then you're doing a great job of it.
Sasha Barin says
I can basically glue the author's fins together for spelling "their" as "there".
Sierra McConnell says
They amuse me more than anything, because I have such terrible spelling myself.
I once came into a training class to prepare the computers, and saw a sign boldly declaring:
"Please sign into the competer and begin your training."
And constantly on the Symon Boards I'm seeing things like:
"Training is in the Colden Rod room." When it's the Goldenrod room. You would think people would know where they work. Even though it was cold that day…
Ella Schwartz says
YES!!! Typos annoy me greatly. It's like chewing on tin foil every time I find one.
Robert Gray says
For me, it's a lot like going out to eat. If I'm getting a quick bite at a fast food restaurant, I only expect that they get the order right and that the food is somewhat warm. If I'm fine dining, my standards are much higher. Likewise, if I'm reading a small press or self-pubbed title by a relatively unknown or new writer, I don't mind if there are some errors, as long as the basics are covered: good story, compelling characters and a decent command of the English language. If I'm reading the latest best seller, my standards increase.
Okay so am I the only one who realizes you meant to say excited instead of exercised?? YES, typos annoy me greatly; having been a newspaper copy editor only enhanced the fact that my brain goes into auto-editing mode every time I read something and I often find myself correcting sentences without even realizing it. 🙂
No it doesn't bother me at all. I would just figure that everyone make mistakes and it's a bit unfortunate that copy editors mistake might end up being printed thousands of times but sure it's not the end of the world is it? Though when a characters name is the typo that can be confusing. I've read a couple of books where 2 characters names have been switched in a sentence and i have to read it a few times before i realise that it's a mistake and not just a really confusing twist.
Typos irritate the heck out of me. I'm getting used to accepting them in informal types of writing, like blogs and comments – my son makes fun of me because I spell out most of my text messages instead of using all of the abbreviations.
But punctuation and spelling mistakes just grind at me like a piece of gravel in my shoe. Especially in printed articles, but mostly in advertising.
If you buy ad space on a billboard and apostrophize your plurals, to me, you are not saying
"Three-for-one Taco's!" you are saying,
"I AM A BIG FAT IDIOT!"
I don't want to give my business to idiots.
But I love tacos.
No, but I feel smart when I find one. Except once a fabulous cookbook left out half of the steps in a recipe. First time I've ever returned a cookbook.
It depends, online, I figure one maybe two people have looked something over, so not as much. But a 'real life' published book? I expect it to be typo free. More than anything it makes me feel a tiny bit superior, "Hey I found this typo that nobody else noticed." But I'm not going to write about it in a review unless it's an overwhelming amount.
(Also, I use commas like I use my salt, freely and on everything.)
Sommer Leigh says
I fall in the minority with you Nathan, they don't really bother me. If a book has excessive typos, which I find in self-published stuff more often than traditionally published stuff, I can't continue reading. But one here, one there? They barely register and when they do, oh well? I get the meaning and that's what matters.
This is especially true for blog posts, emails, and Tweets. I certainly don't spend extra time editing them, so I don't expect someone else to either.
But it does really bother people. I remember in book five of the Harry Potter series there is a typo later in the book where the word "four" is used when the intended word was "for." A friend of mine noticed it first and ranted and raved about this error, as if the whole series was propped up by it. I just don't fall into this category of being overly bothered by one or two.
The grammar and typo police takes no prisoner.
Wouldn't that be "take no prisoner"?
Steven Gomez says
To borrow a phrase from Tolkien, I "cordially dislike" typos and grammar mistakes. However, I try not to flaunt it. If it's a friend on Facebook who regularly mistypes everything, I leave it be. But if it's someone who should really know better, I GENTLY correct them. 🙂 (Though I find they generally correct themselves.) I think the main thing about correcting people's typos or grammar errors is to do it politely.
By the way, Nathan…
"The grammar and typo police takes no prisoner."
Shouldn't that be "take no prisoners"?
nathan: i'm curious…can you amend your post to have a voting option? i'd actually like to see a percentage breakout….
Nathan Bransford says
No, I meant exercised not excited:
3b : to cause anxiety, alarm, or indignation in
I don't know about the police/take no prisoner issue, like I said, I'm not really a copyeditor.
Kevin R. Bridges says
I think it may not be genuine annoyance in some cases, as much as people catching something that the professionals did not, and feeling superior.
Bryan Russell (Ink) says
Well, considering my dayjob is editing and proofreading, yes–in the sense that I'd rather they weren't there.
But I don't get up in arms about them. They happen. Even the best writers and copyeditors miss an occasional one. I like it as clean as possible, but hey, sometimes shit and/or comma splices happen. I've done it. I'm not gonna pan a book just because there were a couple of missed typos.
But my red pen (tracked changes) does like to sniff them out with eradication on the mind…
(and boy do I see some funny typos, too…)
Okay, so here's the thing with me. I have ADD, so sometimes I have my own issue with typos. However, it bugs me to such a degree that I go through and check everything I write 3 or 4 times. Typos still happen, but if I can catch the majority of them, I think a professional proofreader or editor should be able to find all of them. That is, after all, their job.
If I have paid for something (be it book, magazine, or newspaper) it should be the best darn product possible. This means that someone should be paid to hunt down and correct all the typos. The reason for this is that typos often yank me right out of the story. I have to re-read sentences and try to figure out what they meant, rather than what they wrote.
If it's something for a professional purpose it should be typo-free because otherwise it just looks like you don't care. For instance, I was reading something from an editor about why I should hire her but there was a typo in the letter. Sorry, but I'm going to hire the editor who does not have a typo in their letter. They cared enough to check it again and maybe read it out loud or have someone else look at it first. I'm a perfectionist, I want anyone I work with to be the same way.
If it's something online, something I have NOT paid for, or something that is more casual (i.e. txt, personal email, Facebook post)? I really don't care. I have a dyslexic sister and a mother who can't spell if her life depends on it. I know what they mean most times and if I don't, I can ask because it's more casual and I know them. I can't do that with a book/magazine/newspaper. It's totally on me to figure out what they meant and sometimes, especially in books with scientific terms or made up words, it can lead to quite a bit of confusion.
I guess I'm saying that depending on the situation it does bother me.
Typos annoy me in professional work–because I expect the work to be professional. It's not something that will make me quit reading if the story is good, but it is something that will make me lose respect for the people involved if there are too many. It's one reason why I avoid self-published books–they are too often unprofessionally presented.
What annoys me more than typos in unprofessional settings (i.e. blog posts, Facebook, Twitter)?
People who call out the typos, especially if it's a rare occurrence. If I'm updating my Facebook feed and accidentally miss a comma, you can still understand what I'm saying and there's no point in calling me out on it.
That said, if you *constantly* post on Facebook with incorrect grammar, I do silently judge you. I'm a bad person in that way.
(This was a much longer rant than I thought I'd make! I guess, in essence, if it's a professional work, grammar SHOULD be PERFECT. If it's not a professional work, and you exhibit decent grammar, I like you. But if you're either the perpetual grammar nazi or the perpetual lazy writer, even in an unprofessional setting, we're probably not going to be friends.)