I am always vaguely amused and disappointed by the way some people feel obligated to respond to a minor and obvious typo they’ve found in published work by treating it as literally correct, then going on at length about what the author might possibly have meant by it.
The fact that it’s actually a typo is always obvious – the objective, of course, is to pretend it isn’t, as a device for ridiculing the author.
It’s happened to me on occasion in reviews. One of the more hilarious came when someone reviewed my book Two Peoples – One Land. I’d included a page cross-reference in the manuscript which I couldn’t fill in until the publishers had paginated the book. So I referred to it as ‘page xx’.
This, alas, wasn’t picked up during the publishing process despite the fact that the book went through at least four proof-checks, two of them after typesetting, plus my author read (I’d forgotten about it by then and missed it on the read).
To the reviewer this was cause for long discussion. What could I possibly have meant by ‘page xx’? There wasn’t any such page in the book, even in the Roman numeral opening section. Were pages missing? Clearly it didn’t refer to page 20. What was I thinking? He banged on about it for some time as if it was a deliberate and correct reference, except the page it referred to didn’t seem to be in the book – before finally admitting that, obviously, it had been a proofing error.
But if he knew that, why did he spent a third of the review dwelling on other possibilities? Oh that’s right, it was a sarcastic put-down.
To me that sort of thing says a good deal more about the reviewer than it does about the author they are criticising.
Do you get people commenting this way on your stuff? Or blog or Facebook posts, if you perpetrate a typo?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016