A Small Request Re: Notifying Me About Typos

First: I appreciate that you folks call out when I make typos in my entries. Thank you.

Second: When you call them out to me in comment threads, could you do it as matter of factly as possible? The reason for this is that I make a fair number of typos, and all the “I assume you meant [X] here” and “I think the word you’re looking for is [X]” padding around your helpful correction makes me feel like you’re all being smug dicks about finding a typo.

Which you are not — I realize this — but you have to understand it adds up over time, and through no fault of your own, since you’re just making the one correction, and you’re trying to do it in a novel, friendly way. It’s just when you (or at least, I) see those constructions over and over, eventually my brain feels like it’s being poked at. What you’re intending as friendly comes across on this end as “hey, asshole, you screwed up again.” Again: I know that’s not what you’re aiming for. It’s me, not you. Even so.

So: If you’re going to call out a typo, for my own sanity, just say “you have a typo here: [excerpt with typo]” and I’ll go in and fix it. Better yet, e-mail me about it. Thanks.

56 Comments on “A Small Request Re: Notifying Me About Typos”

  1. I only notice and or care if it’s something my brain trips over. I never notice 99% of the typos people point out here.

  2. The internet is not a race to be right. It’s also not a competition to correct the missteps of others.

    Well, shit, what do I do now?

  3. “It must have been so hard not to include a typo in that post.”

    Well, I dutifully emailed a typo report (for something else), and was so self-conscious about trying to evade the “typo reports will inevitably include typos” rule that I forgot all about the “don’t pad things out” part of the request by the time I sent it out.

    Which I now think goes to show that, one way or another, the Forces of Irony will getcha when you’re reporting errors (or at least if you’re trying to be too clever about reporting them).

  4. Katey:

    Well, I do genuinely believe people are trying to be helpful. The point here to make is thing are different on each side of the “trying to be helpful” equation in ways people may not realize.

  5. Oh man, I hate when I make typos. The assumption is you shouldn’t because you write. I write my blog in one sitting. I quickly edit and post.

    Then I get on with my novel writing. I love when people tell me I have typos and I always quickly fix them. Even as friendly as it is I have gotten a few which made my brain ache.

    I can’t imagine what it is like for you. Your site gets a 1000% more traffic. My head would explode.

  6. As a typesetter it took me ages to realise that, when an editor tell you “$word should $correction”, 50 times in a manuscript, they’re not being evil or purposefully picking holes but just flagging errors.

    If you’ve got 100,000 words then even a 0.1% error rate will still give you 100 typos in a book.

    Typos just happen, even to good people.

  7. If you prefer that people email you about a typo, doesn’t that run the risk of you getting a lot of emails pointing out the same typo? While a comment could let everyone know that it’s already been pointed out and there no need for further comment or emal about it. Or doesn’t it work out that way?

  8. I only point out typos when the writer leaves out important words like “not,” or when they used entirely the wrong word that either negates their argument or turns it in completely the wrong direction. I work with a guy who is vocabularily challenged. He gets like 90% of the way to the right word, and then screws it up. One time he replaced “oversaw” with “overlooked.” Whoops. Pretty much the opposite of what he intended to say. He also says “is what it is, is” on a regular basis.

  9. It’s not your atrocious spelling that bothers me, it’s your inability to read. “TUNA” is quite simple, and even phonetically accurate. How you confuse it with “dry kibble” is beyond me.

  10. What I think is amazing is our ability to read text with typos. Try reading this:

    Jhon Slzaci feurqltney kssies scik yleolw trutels.

    There is no way you should be able to read that – but you probably can. Somehow the human brain is able to descramble words on the fly, especially if the first and last letters are correct.

  11. What you’re intending as friendly comes across on this end as “hey, asshole, you screwed up again.”


    This is funny to me as I am in the middle of reading Old Man’s War.

  12. From your God-Engines-in-bookstores post:
    “TGE will soon be shelves at select Borders locations.”

    I originally drafted a whole comment back in that post along the lines of:
    “Shelves? How can I buy it if it’s been made into shelves? Will I get kicked out of the store or get the cops called on me if I’m caught taking the shelves apart to get the books out? (etc., etc., rimshot, Yackety Sax, comment about being here all week followed by veal endorsement and so on.)”

    I abandoned it because I didn’t know how to avoid coming across as a Typo Dick, but I’ll mention it here because it’s sort of on-topic, clearly “s” and “d” are next to one another on the keyboard, so it’s a typo anyone could make, and I was more taken with the image than I was looking to pick at your mistake.

  13. Thy ain’t no typos, Johhn, theys just a new way of spellin. Anglish is dynamik, you no?

  14. I think you are being too nice. If you commit a major factual error, I think a kind and tactful email is helpful.

    I’m thinking something along the lines of:
    “John, I think you should probably check your calender again, but New Years day is traditionally celebrated on Jan 1, not Jan 5.”

    Otherwise I can’t imagine that you or anyone else really wants to hear…

    John the 2nd sentence in post #8 on January 11 contains several gramitical and typing errors. I spurn and forswear you unless you issue a correction forthwith.”

  15. Dear M. Scalzi,

    I hate to be a nuisance, and I am aware you are a busy man with many demands on your time. I shall therefore be brief. It will suffice it to say that when reading your post, I may have discovered an error either in your post or in my understanding. (I can’t say which, needless to say, for if my understanding be wrong, then surely I do not have the requisite knowledge to discover this.) I’ll cut to the chase here, and say what I mean: I think there is a typo in your post. Yes, I know you may say, “What? Impossible! I checked this post thoroughly and verified for myself that no typos exist.” But bear with me: Where you wrote “matter of factly,” my instincts regarding grammar, syntax and the construction of words tell me that you should have written “matter-of-factly.” My knowledge of grammar no doubt appearing as nothing besides your compendious understanding of the subject, I should be grateful if you were to clear up this misunderstanding.

    R. Humphrey Gröbner

    …I’ll get my coat.

  16. Matthew in Austin@ 17:

    Jhon Slzaci feurqltney kssies scik yleolw trutels.

    “John Scalzi frequently kisses sick yellow truffles”????

  17. Turtles! Not truffles!

    I know nothing about Scalzi’s truffle habits, and I will not pass on unfounded truffle-related gossip.

  18. #23, I believe that’s ‘turtles’ not truffles. And to the original poster, #17, WTH did you come up with that one?? LOL :) To our host, as long as you promise to get your -there-they’re-their- and -its-it’s- correct, as well as not randomly adding apostrophes to words that you pluralize, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

  19. There isn’t another place for me to put this, so I’ll mention it here. I only just noticed that you have little mouse-over snarks on the Whateverettes.

    Is there no end to your funny?

  20. I can empathize with you quite well. I’m a trainer in my company’s IT department, and, even worse, I was an English major in college. So, my coworkers take great delight in pointing out every typo or misspelling I make. It’s not in cruelty, but over time each and every smirk seems magnified.

  21. That makes a lot of sense. Glad to see that you are taking things in the spirit they are intended. I guess one gets so many negative reactions to being a spelling nazi that one sometimes overcompensates… and I can see how that only makes it worse.

    Have you fixed Agent to the Stars yet? 8^D

  22. “…makes me feel like you’re all being smug dicks about finding a typo.”

    I’m sorry (and I truly care about spelling, punctuation, and grammar) but people who point out typos are smug dicks.

  23. Anyone who survived the Common Core should be able to handle a little comment here and there about typos and misstatements.

  24. *I make typos that I’m apparently unable to see until I hit the post button.
    I type pretty quickly and my fingers will just pick a random spelling of their/they’re/there even if I *know* and practially visualize the correct word. I am cognizant of this and attempt to ensure that the correct spelling of the word is used but refer back to *.

  25. I prefer to have any typos on my blog pointed out so I can correct them.

    As a professional writer, my site is a representation of my writing skills, and people may come across posts of mine months or years later, possibly even copied over to other sites (but still attributed to me, with any luck). I’d prefer such posts not be ridled with erors, as that might make readers question my competence (perhaps even subconsciously), and get in the way of future jobs.

    YMMV, obviously.

  26. Oh, and ditto John that an e-mail is the best way to go about it. I’m online enough that I can generally fix it within the hour, which keeps me from being slammed with error-correcting e-mails.

  27. Those aren’t typos, they’re intelligence tests! Can you spot the required corrections?

    Having dyslexic fingers, I sympathize. I swear my BRAIN knows how to spell all those things and put them in proper order, but….

  28. Hey asshole, you made a mistake here:
    “eventually my brain feels like it’s being poked at”

    Wrong “its”.

    I can’t believe nobody noticed yet!

    (actually, I’m kidding, but I had to read through 3 times and use the search function in my word processor to be sure!)

  29. I don’t usually point out typos, but one that drives me nuts is “take the reigns.” Sportswriters make this mistake all the time.

    I don’t even know why it bothers me.

  30. Personally, I’m big on typos, and I usually point them out. I guess I qualify as a ‘smug dick on typos’. The only reprieve my colleagues and family members have, is when I myself make one which is a lot more often than a smug dick should.
    But when that happens I love to watch them gloat in their childish manner mirroring my own immature behaviour. Really, it’s a lot of fun.

    Whenever I review a colleague’s document I love to correct the word ‘licence’. Licence is the noun, and license is the verb (really, it’s simple, just replace it by ‘advice/advise’) and watch them splutter ‘but!… but!… Word says…’ and point out to them that we standardise on British English in our company.

    Also, this is a good place to point out Bob’s Quick Guide to the Apostrophe, you Idiots!

  31. I would LOVE the opportunity to find typos in God Engines, but is this book even available yet? Amazon now gives a 3-6(!) week timeframe for delivery. That usually means out-of-stock…forever.

    Did Subterranean drop the ball on this one?

  32. No, and I know from people who ordered from Amazon that they are shipping (and I also know they ordered more copies). But remember you also have the option of buying from Subterranean directly.

  33. What you’re intending as friendly comes across on this end as “hey, asshole, you screwed up again.”

    For the benefit of those of us who actually are intending to be rude, smug, and superior, could you explain the best way to get this across in future?


  34. “For the benefit of those of us who actually are intending to be rude, smug, and superior, could you explain the best way to get this across in future?”

    For me, and I do a lot of proofing, for authors and publishers, I always am respectful. It is much more difficult to write well then to criticise well (Pope put it better, of course). I appreciate good writing, and I just want to help the author make it better. So, I might say, “I found a couple of things you might want to look at in order to make the paperback even better.”
    If I’m not sure what the author meant, I’ll say so: “Did you mean to say THIS, or were you trying to say THAT?” I try to give options. Sometimes it’s just a plain typo, so you can’t do more than say: “On page 23, line 5, it says Flingon instead of Klingon.” But sci-fi is more difficult to proof than Horror (my usual area) since so much language can be made up; it could be Flingon.

    Help the author–don’t try to “prove” you are better than the author. If you really hate the typos and the author, then don’t say anything.

    –Pegleg (my nom de Web)

  35. I’m almost always grading freshman essays, so my ability to turn off the proofreading app in my head is pretty much zero. But I also know that I’m a smartass, and any attempt on my part to point out an error is going to come across as smarmy, so my intention is to just shut up. I’m mostly successful.

    I think it’s healthy to interpret typo-corrections charitably, but public comments about typos are inherently irritating. Even if the comment is well-intentioned, the choice to post it publicly rather than point it out privately comes across as, “Look u mistaked and I am so S-M-R-T for seeing it!”

  36. I should have mentioned what Jason B. said. I almost never make typos public–unless I cannot find an authors email. As soon as I have the email, I send them directly to him/her.

    I may talk typos with my friends, but I won’t publicly make fun of an author in print. And I tend not to name the author I’m speaking of with friends.

  37. For whatever reason I tend to be forgiving and overlook typos in blogs, but I hold “news” sites to a high standard. Maybe I just watched/read too many Superman comics and movies, but I have this impression that news people are supposed to be perfect with spelling and grammar. If you can’t even get your headline right you should not be in the news business.

    Our need for instant gratification has completely killed the news biz.

  38. “makes me feel like you’re all being smug dicks about finding a typo.”

    I agree with #31 (Dormilona).

    They are being smug ducks.

    For you typo commandos, that was an intentional typo on my part.

    Seriously, though, when I judge a writer’s ability, I am not looking at typos so much as creativity and imagination and character development and world building and playing with language. And Mr. Scalzi, you have ability in spades. There are many more proof-readers with ability than there are writers that I enjoy to read.

    Okay, to be fair to the smug ducks, I am sure that you are well intentioned, and you do have your place in the world and it is appreciated. Many can quack, few can write.

    Thank God for emotionally intelligent proof readers like #47 (Strauss).

  39. “Many can quack, few can write.” – Kathy E. (#52)

    I love this! I’m turning it into a big sign and putting it on the wall above my desk at work.

  40. Often when I read a book, I will find typos, and I intend to write the author a friendly email about it; later, because right now I’m in the middle of reading the story.
    Then of course when ‘later’ arrives, for the life of me I can’t find it back.

    Do you keep notes while proofreading your ARCs, John?

  41. Philbert,
    I write notes in the back of the book. I might make a small mark under the typo or in the margin alongside the line. In expensive editions, I’ll put a large post-it note in the back and write on that.
    Then I’ll email the author with edition, page # and line number, and suggestion.