Monday, March 19, 2012

Typo Gremlins

I'm convinced that typos creep into manuscripts every time you touch them, whether you're revising, adding page numbers, or even just carrying your laptop from the study to the kitchen. Typo gremlins are like the sock gremlins that live in the dryer, stealing one sock from every load of wash. They're like the car key gremlins pictured in a Far Side cartoon a friend once gave me. It showed the gremlins gleefully lifting car keys out of the pocket of a coat hanging by the door.

Like all of us, I've had my struggles with sock gremlins and car key gremlins, but lately the typo gremlins have been getting completely out of hand. With Lost in Lexicon, a copy editor went through the manuscript twice, and both I and my editor combed through galleys a few more times, finding errors on each read. After all that, the published first edition still had a couple of typos. Now I can't bear to read the second edition to see if more errors somehow snuck in.

In Tumblehome Learning, we all do everything. I'm chairperson and one of the authors. I solicit manuscripts; I read early drafts and give feedback to authors before turning them over to Ian, our pro editor; I'm art director; and I volunteered to copy edit one of our new books - Kelvin McCloud and the Seaside Storm, a weather-based mystery by Michael Erb. As with every kind of editing, this was an education, sending me frequently to the Chicago Manual of Style. Should times of day be written in words or numerals? How do you handle quotation marks around an an interruption, set off by dashes, in the midst of one person's speech? Which compound words are hyphenated, which join together as one word, and which stay separate? Where should one insist on the past perfect versus the simple past?

As I edited, I carefully fixed typos such as missing letters, extra spaces, en-dashes which should be em-dashes, etcetera. Then I read carefully through the whole manuscript once again, finding a few more errors. Then I passed the manuscript over to my son Damian and offered him a dollar a typo. Well, apparently the gremlins were rooting for him, because he found four typos, two misplaced commas, one badly handled set of dashes within conversation, and one dash that wasn't long enough. He also asked some questions that sent me back to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Damian was great. I'm impressed that he notices so much about commas. But despite his hawk-like eyes, I'm willing to bet that we'll find a few more typos before we're done. Hey, there are probably typos in this blog post. There usually are.


Marva Dasef said...

I so agree! I noticed a typo on an ms of mine the next step being to galley proof. I found that a correction I made, created a typo. I'm blaming it on mark-up mode. A letter was removed which should have remained, but with the insert and cross-out, it wasn't immediately apparent. Only after accepting all changes did I see the lack of a 'g.' Bah!

Anonymous said...

Well, most editors would tell the Blogger that it should be "my editor and I" and "sneaked."

Penny said...

My point exactly. Yes, "my editor and I" is more standard than "I and my editor." I was probably thinking that I went through it another time before my editor did.

As for "snuck," though, it's an accepted variant of "sneaked," and has been so for "decades" according to my dictionary.

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