When Typos Get Serious – As in a Writer’s Blog

by Bill Henderson

Bad typo on highway

Typos are the bane of my writer’s life, particular when it comes to online publishing. When I’m dead and buried I really expect my gravestone to read, “Hear lies…”

Back in my 20s and 30s, I almost never created boo-boos on the page. And even if I did, no matter. A novelist who publishes is spoiled because, unlike your high school English teacher, your editor doesn’t particularly care. Every book gets assigned to a copy editor–end of problem. As a result I’ve never been much of a stickler for typos in my students’ work.

But online, I’m not just the writer, I’m also the editor and publisher. There’s no one to make it right but me. And my general drift toward generating more and more errors is trending up at an alarming rate. It’s not just the number, but the actual substance of them.

Some are worse than others. I just had an exchange with a client in which I noted I had some more “pacific” notes on some matter I was pointing out for her. Why “pacific” for specific? Did I unconsciously feel the comment might be a tad harsh? Or perhaps it’s that she’s located across the country, on the Pacific coast. Or was it just pure sloppiness?

I’ll never know because I’m pretty sure the mental trickster in me won’t ever tiptoe into the full daylight of my consciousness. Hello, Oliver Sacks.

My client simply thought it was funny. No harm, no foul. It’s when they appear in supposedly finished work, like blog posts, that it begins to hurt.

I have to apologize to Fee, the reader whose comment inspired my last post. Not only did I publish “feela” for feels, I also omitted a key quote, one that contained the wording I was replying to. In this context, screwing up was unforgivable––and worse, I let it stand for days before it jumped out at me.

Well, I suppose there’s only one answer, as usual: try harder. Read it over upside down. Or backwards. Have my wife scan it. Use the spell checker. I’m not good enough about these things. As bad as it gets, however, I can console myself with knowing I haven’t made a typo as egregious––or indelible––as the one pictured above. Yet.

And thank God for the correctible nature of internet publishing.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Natasha Fondren September 5, 2010 at 2:23 am

Aww! I find the more I write, when writing is going well, the more I make mistakes I would never in a million years make otherwise, like “hear” and “here;” “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” It’s embarrassing, because I know those cold! Duh!

2 Bill Henderson September 5, 2010 at 4:35 am

That’s par for my course, Natasha. I wish there were a truly contextual spell checker that could figure out not only which of the famous “pairs” you really mean, but also prompts you when you repeat yourself and flashes red at anything weird, like a dropped word, a vestigial verb error, a mangled author’s name. It would be nice too if it brought you a beer every now and then.

3 Craig September 13, 2010 at 8:37 am

As I found with a piece of marketing copy I have written recently, it pays not to misspell the word ‘house’ as ‘horse’!

4 Liz September 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm

This is true. It’s kinda “R” rated, but I once misspelled Bangkok “Bangcock,” much to my client’s displeasure. But the mother of all typos comes from an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in which Larry David is entrusted with writing his aunt-in-law’s obituary. I would quote it, but trust me, this is not the place.

5 Jessie Mac September 24, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Hi Bill, you shouldn’t give yourself a hard time over this.

There will be days when you’re mind is elsewhere or words just don’t want to connect or all words look a bit alien.

In a book, where others other than yourself have looked over it, readers may not forgive but on a blog when you’re striving to write something interesting every day or every few days, you may be a little harsh with yourself.

Anyone who maintains a blog has my respect. Be kind to yourself.

6 Bill Henderson September 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thanks, Jessie. It’s comments like yours that keep me going.

7 lukeraftl January 7, 2011 at 3:40 am

haha. i nearly used the word ‘right’ instead of ‘write’ the other day – caught it on the way out. that could have been embarrassing!


8 David Sandrock June 9, 2013 at 9:04 am

My twitter page is full of errors. My dsi unfortunatly does not have a spell checker, and it is has a fricking touch screen keyboard.

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