The Terrible Typo

26 Apr

The typo must be the most dreaded thing for a publisher to see, short of a major printing error resulting in missing or misplaced pages. Most typos are minor irritants, galling if you are a perfectionist but of no real real import – the intended word or the meaning of a marred sentence remains clear to the reader. A few are amusing and can actually brighten the reader’s day when stumbled upon (one just hopes to avoid anything too obscene or offensive, though!). Many will go unnoticed.

I have found that, no matter how closely proofread a magazine is, some will slip through, usually suddenly leaping glaringly into focus the moment it is too late to make a correction (or, should it prove important to make the correction), just too late to save you having to bin a substantial amount of print at a great waste of time and money. Sometimes, they will wait until a very long period of time passes before, miraculously, leaping up off the page at you to mock you long after you can do anything about it. The only good thing about this latter sort of encounter is that not only have you usually gained sufficient detachment that their appearance is not an end-of-the-world incident, but you realise that not a single pedant has deemed it important enough (assuming anyone noticed it) to call you upon it.

But some typos can be embarrassing or problematic. Recently, I’ve had a couple of these – one a problem and one embarrassing. The first was the loss of a single letter from the address of the wiki due to insufficiently firm pressing of the ‘a’ key that meant any paperbased readers seeking to visit it would not find it. Luckily, at that point, the old website was still online so anyone keen to visit could follow the link from there instead, preventing it from rising past a minor problem in status. The embarrassing typo (or, to be exact, a cut-and-paste error) saw my own poetry collection giving someone else the copyright credit – luckily, this was spotted and corrected before more than a few had been printed. Very much a case of how one sees what one expects to see when checking copy!

But, as much as it pains me to see a typo get through into the final product (and there are always many more caught and corrected than ever do get through), I can feel a certain sense of satisfcation that I produce far fewer than many so-called professionals do. At least I have the excuse of being essentially a one-man band and nobody involved with the press is being paid to work on it or is doing it full time. Yet, the number of typos is far fewer than you will see in many glossy magazines or, even, novels, where people are being paid to edit and proofread. I don’t include newspapers here as, although prone to typos, they are produced to an extremely tight deadline. But, even monthly magazines are seldom so pressed for time that they can offer such an excuse and books generally have a quite long lead time before going to press. Yet, you will find all sorts of, sometimes quite serious, errors in their pages. That the small presses can boast so few is, I think, a wonderful testament to the dedication of the vast majority of small press editors who strive to produce quality product with but a fraction of the ‘professionals’ resources!

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