When people pontificate about typos as if they weren’t

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.

Essential writing fuel!
Essential writing fuel!

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


12 thoughts on “When people pontificate about typos as if they weren’t

  1. People generally comment on the content of my blogs if they feel so moved. Comments like … this is a load of carp. I ignore them.
    The only time I have corrected someone’s typo is in poetry.
    Great post. I suppose as well that when people mention typos well at least they’ve actually read the post and that is a positive thing.
    All the best. Kris.

    1. I agree – at least a reaction means they’ve read it…even though they are validating their own self-worth by taking cheap shots…

      Love the ‘load of carp’ typo term! I have a mental image of a trailer-load of large and annoyed goldfish being deposited in a kind of writhing heap on the critics in question… 🙂

  2. Not yet, praise [insert name of deity]. Usually what happens is I get a lot of hits on a post, then I notice a really embarrassing typo, and wonder if people were only going to my post to snicker.

    1. Luckily these sort of people are only a minority…albeit a noisy minority… I had the problem with a Facebook post a few months back, which provoked some disingenuous remarks from people who KNEW it was a typo. Not sure why they bothered, as the readership life of those posts is about 15 minutes.

  3. Some things can just slip through the editing process. As a copy editor I read clients’ books and then scan again to make sure I got everything. With my own books I read them a dozen times and sometimes still can find something I missed. More eyes do help. Best wishes with page xx! LOL!

    1. Yes – the problem of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is all too real. In my work in publishing I’ve had to hire proof-editors, proof-readers and so on – including for the purpose of ‘checking the checkers’. The problem is that it gets expensive and publishing budgets are limited. These days even the big houses are cutting corners.

  4. It is hard to believe people are so petty. And yet, at the same time Hold the Faith received an editorial review that included such idiocy. The reviewer went to the trouble of looking up someone mentioned in the ‘Acknowledgement’, commented on that person. But missed the ‘PLEASE NOTE’ at the beginning of the book that said this book is written in British English. So the reviewer (American felt it necessary to include in the review that there were spelling and grammar mistakes. Hello?
    You seem to catch more than your share of unfair criticism though. You must be a threat to them!

    1. I fear that such pettiness is part of the human condition – it doesn’t afflict all of us, but those that it does afflict feel they have to share their problem with the world. A lot of it is to do with generosity of spirit – and a reviewer who claims a book has ‘spelling errors’ because it uses British rather than American English (both of which are legitimate in the professional world) is clearly the one with the problem. Not the book.

  5. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    My first thought would have been that it belonged in the Roman numeral section. When that failed I might have considered a typo. If I’d read the book, I probably would have realized that the reference went with a certain section. I do agree with Matthew’s feelings about some people make too big a deal over typos, implying that they are better than the author. Either they’ve never published anything or they had a fantastic editor who caught every single mistake.

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