six ways to ride yourself of mestakes
One of my least favorite thing as an author is discovering typos in my own work after it goes to press.
There are lots of opinions on the topic of typos. Some say typos in your work make you an unfit writer. They point out that if a surgeon made mistakes they would not go to her. I heard someone say a machinist is not allowed any margin of error. Because of that, there shouldn't be any errors in someone's work.
Other people intentionally insert typos in their work. Creative freedom.
There is a reason we have created an alphabet and words. It's so we can communicate with others.
I'm of the opinion that mistakes happen but I try not to hurt other people's feelings by pointing out an error in their work - unless they ask me. I also try not to gossip about the "errant" writer to other writers. If you don't want people disparaging you, don't do it to others.
I've read many great works of fiction and nonfiction and have found an occasional typo. I still think the work is great. I've also read writing with so many blunders it was difficult for me to comprehend. There is a reason we have created an alphabet and words. It's so we can communicate with others.
That said, most of us want to put our best foot forward when writing. Avoiding or limiting typos is one way to elevate your writing. Here are a few suggestions to iron them out of your writing.
We are a hurried culture and computers have helped speed things along by making writing and printing fast and easy. You would think typos would have disappeared, but it seems we have more typos today than ever.
One secret to catching typos is to walk away from your work. If you're under a deadline, try to work on something else or take a bathroom break or lunch break before submitting your work. If you're home, throw in some laundry or vacuum and dust. For writers who don't need a fast turnaround, take a day, week, or even a month. It is amazing how that time away can give you perspective on the overall piece as well as helping you find those pesky typos.
Print Your Work
If your work is the size of War and Peace, print it by chapters or subchapters. Some of you may not have a printer. Libraries will offer printing, though I am not sure it's free. If you have family or friends with printers, seek them out. If you're able, offer to pay for the printing. Printers are not too expensive. The cost is in the ink. If you can budget for a printer with ink and paper, that would be the most convenient option.
Read works of others
When you're at the library printing your book, check out other books. Reading is a great way to stimulate new thoughts. It can also help you identify words you are using incorrectly. I just read a post on Instagram about someone who wrote about loving the smell of her boyfriend's colon.
What's wrong with this?
Colon is a body part and I'm not sure you'd find the smell of a colon pleasing. Colon is also a punctuation mark. Cologne is the fragrance someone sprinkles on himself to smell better (we hope). If this person was reading more frequently, she might not have made that mistake. I have often read a book and discovered that I was using a word incorrectly. If you have a Kindle or the library's version, you can often tap on an unknown word and get the definition.
You can also buy books at bookstores or find free ones. Underline words that you don't know and look them up.
Read out loud
Read your work out loud. Break it up in parts or chapters. Some writing software has a "read aloud" option. Try that to see if it picks up errors. I don't use this option often but when I do, it's helpful.
This is another option I do not use frequently but some of my writing colleagues swear by this method. Starting with the end of the chapter or book, read your work backwards. The idea behind this is your brain is not auto correcting as it does when you read from the beginning.
Use Different eyes
Have someone else look at your work. Family members are a great place to begin. I have, however, come to the conclusion that family members love looking for typos because they love pointing out your mistakes. Use them cautiously and sparingly.
Friends or teachers are a great resource but don't abuse their goodwill.
Beta readers or critique partners can point out errors but their primary roll is to evaluate your overall content and provide insight not copy editing.
Hire an editor. This is the most expensive option. Make sure you hire a copy-editor if all you're looking to do is to nab those typos and grammatical errors. When I indie-published my first book, I thought I was hiring a copy editor. Wrong. The person was a content editor. When the book was published there were a lot of typos. Furthermore, if you're seeking an editor, make sure you get a good referral or recommendation. I'm leery of editing advertisements on social media. Some of my writing friends have worked with Reedys. It's a legitimate source.
These are just a few suggestions to get you started. I think if you employ a few of these you will not only decrease the amount of typos and grammatical errors in your writing, you will increase your overall writing skills and confidence.
Do you have any other suggestions? Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading.
Carol L. Paur
Please listen to this month's Talking to Myself podcast with Michele Regenold, a book coach, as she offers more writing tips.