T is for Tyops #AtoZChallenge

Post by Guest Blogger
Katie Anderson

“I typed fish instead of fist and the scene just went downhill from there.”

That’s a real quote from my housemate. She was merrily typing along when one character slammed his fish into another character’s jaw. The second character wondered aloud where the first character had gotten such a large salmon, especially since they were standing in the bowels of a castle in the middle of a land-locked nation. The first character replied that their story’s plot no longer held water. More aquatic puns ensued, and the writing project never really recovered.

I bet we can all cite at least one moment where our eyes came to a screeching halt on the page and the spell of the story was broken. For me, it was when Dumbledore used the word “ancestor” instead of “descendent” to describe Voldemort’s relationship to Salazar Slytherin at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I just stared at the page, astounded that the author, the editors, and the publishers could have all missed such a thing. (Note- this was fixed in later editions of the book.)

The fact is, typos happen. They happen a lot, actually, and they tend to fall into one of three categories: incorrect spelling, incorrect usages, and incorrect facts. Each of these has their own sets of problems, but the good news is that they are all easily fixed. So without further ado, I present: How to Avoid the Fish Fallacy, or a Guide to Finding and Fixing Typos.

1. Incorrect Spellings

How to identify: This is a typo in its purest state. Somewhere along the line, a word has picked up a few extra letters, dropped some, switched a few around, or any combination of the three. Usually these are minor errors; poeple for people, Carribbean for Caribbean, etc. Sometimes people get way off track though, and we have to wonder what they meant to say in the first place. Don’t fall into that second group.

How to find and fix: If you’re using a computer to write, use Spell-check. Pure and simple, that red squiggly line can be your best friend. If you are writing by hand or using a typewriter (hey, whatever works for you), then you are going to need to be your own Spell-check. Proofread each page carefully, and keep a dictionary handy. There is no shame in double-checking a word, but there is a little bit of shame in your work ending up on the Google Images page for typos.

2. Incorrect Usages

How to identify: This is when a word is spelled correctly, but it is not the right word for the context. The Harry Potter example above is an incorrect usage. The classic their/ they’re/ there and it’s/ its confusions also fall into this category. The rules of the English language are confusing, and they change as our language evolves. The same is true for the connotations of words. Make sure you know what your word choice really means.

How to find and fix: These errors are harder to catch, since Spell-check doesn’t catch grammar mistakes, and the Grammar-check isn’t a reliable tool for English. For these kinds of typos, make sure you are having another pair of eyes read over your work. As writers, it’s very easy for us to miss our own mistakes. We see the words repeatedly as we write and rewrite, and our brains become numb to what’s actually on the page. Like I said before, there’s no shame in double-checking.

3. Incorrect Facts

How to identify: These are the sneakiest types of typos. All the words are spelled correctly, all the grammar rules are followed, but things just don’t quite add up. I once read a book that listed orange as a color on the Jamaican flag, and another that claimed the Empire State Building has 110 stories. I’m not trying to infringe on artistic license here, but if your story is set in the real world (realistic fiction or nonfiction), make sure that your words reflect that. If you are changing facts around, explain why. (Jamaica decided to redecorate, or aliens came and parked an eight-story spaceship on top of the Empire State Building.)

How to find and fix: These are the hardest typos to fix, simply because they are the hardest to catch. No digital writing tool is going to help you find these errors. You are going to have to proofread, have others proofread, and become proficient with an internet search engine or a set of encyclopedias. Also, don’t assume that your editor is all-knowing and will catch everything. Take the time to fact-check your own work. As always, there’s no shame in double-checking.

It all boils down to this: double-check everything. Run spell-check, run grammar-check, Google every last detail, have your best friend read over your work, and do it all without fear. You may not catch everything, but each small correction shows that you care about how your work is perceived. You’re proud of your writing, because otherwise you wouldn’t be writing, so take the time to show it and go squash some typos.

And quit proof-reading this blog.

Katie Anderson:

I write a blog called Losing My Cents, detailing my quest to pay off nearly 12k in student loan debt this year while working five part-time jobs. The blog currently averages around 300 hits a month, and is growing quickly.

When I'm not blogging about finances, I'm working on edits to my fantasy novel, posting inane thoughts on Twitter, or working at least one of the aforementioned five part-time jobs. I also enjoy catching typos, unless they are my own.

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