by Michelle Gagnon

There was a lively debate about typos last week in one of the crime fiction forums. This is always a particularly painful subject for me. You see, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my books. I’ve gone through each and every one of them with a fine-tooth comb at least twenty times before they leave my hands and head off to the printer. My sister, a talented editor and copy-editor, has also read through each manuscript three or four times by that point. And of course, my editor and copyediting team at the publishing house have played their part in making sure that the final product is as close to perfect as we can get it.

And yet, somehow, someway, they always get in there.

I first discovered this with my debut THE TUNNELS. My book club offered to read the book, which was a real thrill until they sat down and said almost in unison, “Oh my God, that typo!”

Turns out that a particularly glaring one appears early in the book. I was completely mortified. I raced home after the meeting and dug up my final line-edited copy of the manuscript: no typo. How it got there remains a puzzle to this day.

Which is why I adamantly refuse to crack the cover on my books once they appear in printed form. Because one of those little buggers probably snuck in there. And some sharp-eyed reader is going to make a note of it, and think less of me because of it. Which makes me crazy.

My favorite part of the discussion last week, however, involved other peoples’ “worst typo” ever stories. So I took it upon myself to consolidate the really, truly awful, culled both from that site and other sources:

  • Based on a completely unscientific analysis (conducted by me), one of the more common typos involves neglecting to include the “l” in the word “public.” Several people listed this as an issue, including a woman who produced a newsletter sent to 20,000 pub(l)ic employees, supervisors, and the district office. I would argue that there’s a definite Freudian component to this one.
  • Along the same lines…one contributor used to live on St. Denis Street. Unfortunately their Catholic newsletter incorrectly recorded the “D” in “Denis” as a “P.” And yet somehow, the mail continued to arrive at their house. Apparently they had a better mail delivery person than I have ever been blessed with. Or at least one with a decent sense of humor.
  • Penguin Group Australia once had to reprint 7000 cookbooks due to a typo. The recipe in The Pasta Bible called for “salt and freshly ground black people.” The lesson here: spell check and autofill are not always your friend.
  • One author received a note from a reviewer who, “loved the book, but was concerned by the fact that at one point your heroine looks out across a sea of feces.”
  • And finally, one from the history books: A bible published in the 1600s in London omitted the word “not” in the Seventh Commandment, leading to the mandate, “Thou Shalt Commit Adultery.” Perhaps this is the version many prominent politicians were raised on.

So I’d love to hear any great (as in, truly terrible/mortifying/hilarious) typo stories.

15 thoughts on “Tipos

  1. I have a typo example not from a book but a piece of dictation a transcription company sent back. In this neck of the woods we have a place called Queen Creek. Instead of “Queen Creek Elementary” the transcriber sent it back as “Cream Quick Elementary”. Makes me laugh every time.

  2. This is my favorite typo, from The Last Oracle by James Rollins:

    “Her entire form shook as teats spilled in shining streaks of joy.”

    Sure creates a unique mental image!

  3. Our church newsletter carried an item once that must have warmed many a parental heart:

    “Our youth group enjoyed a great weed at camp…”

    What a week that must have been!

  4. after pulling a midight in the e.r., a friend and i went to 7 am mass….and read in the weekly bulletin, of the $1500 cost for ‘snot’ [snow] removal. i’m not sure it would have been that funny on a rested brain…however, we shook the pew with silent laughter….wondering why kleenex was so expensive!! p.s….i do hate that word…tho’ am not sure mucous is much better.

  5. I attend a Korean church where English is the second language. I lost count of typos long ago, but suffice it to say I am no longer shocked at how many ‘peepoles’ we have in our building.

    The most blatant typo of sorts I have ever experienced though was not even part of the text. After listening to my self-narrated audiobook 65 Below a listener sent me an email to point something out. About two minutes into a particularly tense emotional scene where the retired Marine protag & his State Trooper ex-fiancee are meeting again for the first time a decade, there is a very brief moment of silence interrupted by a distant yet distinct “Brrrriiiippppp” and the conversation continues without falter.
    Yes….I farted.
    It got missed in multiple edits and were it not for listener #4568 reporting, it would still be there. All those that went before him are probably still giggling.

  6. Just remembered another one. Years ago a nice Chinese couple opened a restaurant near us. To save money, they typed up their own menus and made copies. One entry read as follows:

    Non-Alcoholic, $4
    With Alcoholic, $6

    [I thought, for six bucks they send a besotted guy to join you at your table]

  7. This one was exquisite.
    A hospital I was employed at was making a big quality impovement push. I was in the ER when an administrator came in with a box full of promotional gear. Hats, t-shits, sweat shirts, jackets, coolers, pens, etc. He proudly informed me that a semi-truck full of the stuff had just been delivered.
    Boldly printed on each and every item “Commited to Excellance”

  8. A close friend runs a small company that provides washer and dryer service for condos and apartments. When setting up a meeting for a condominium contract, he sent a letter thatthat said hew was willing to meet with the “condominium broad” at any time.

    He now has someone else proofread every document he sends.

    Typos seem to be more frequent in published work now than before. Maybe it’s just because I notice them more. Certainly, reduced editing budgets have somehitng to do with it, as well. What I don’t understand is, now that we can trade edits online, how can typos that were not there before appear in the book? With old-fashioned typesetting, I can see it. Not when they should be able to import an electronic file. Formatting issues, yes. Typos?

  9. I’m a copyeditor/proofreader at our local newspaper. The office staff is committed to double-checking any references to our local Mormon congregation, because we found out the hard way they don’t like to be referred to as the “LSD church.”

  10. Dana, here’s my guess. The typos probably occur after the edited file is imported from Word to the graphic design program. After that point, the author and editor will review the book again, but any changes must be input manually by the designer. Of course the revised file is checked and re-checked, but typos always slip through…

    (At least, that’s what happens where I work, in government publishing.)

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