Tuesday, April 21, 2009


It's tough trying to get a foot in as an author when you're not the best speller. There's only so much help spell check can give. Sometimes the errors are simple typos. Sometimes they're not. The odd thing is, you can read quite well over the errors without (for the most part) losing the meaning. Yes, there are times when a letter seriously affects the meaning of the word, at which point you lose a lot of credibility, but it's amazing how much you can read with typos.

I read a chain email once that, using typos, explained that humans only need the first and last letters of a word to be correct for their brains to tell them the words, even if all the other letters are scrambled. Incredible. And yet, as impressive as our brains are, we like words spelled properly. It drives me nuts when I see posts using short forms that don't 'officially' exist. Or even non short forms, that just seem 'cool'.

And it's strange. When I read books (and other things) I hate finding typos. It feels like the person was being sloppy when, in fact, their eyes probably passed over the words, reading them as if they were spelled correctly. And it's so easy to miss letters and mistype them yourself. I find with my own work I often have to let it sit for a while and then print it out to find typos. If I edit on the computer I tend to read what I want the words to be rather than what they are.

In the writing business it's important to catch spelling mistakes before you post or submit work though. Editors look for any reason to disregard you, and bad spelling - even just one typo - seems to be a favourite reason to send work to the discard pile. It almost doesn't seem fair. Yet, from their point of view, if you have one typo you'll surely have more...

So, does anyone have tips on editing so that they can catch these tiny (or not so tiny) errors? Do you use spell check, beta readers, let the work rest for a while or some other tactics?

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