Over the weekend, I ran a poll on Twitter. In it I asked folks in the Twitterverse whether seeing a typo near the beginning of a novel makes them stop reading it. Within a 24-hour period, 30 people participated in my poll. Out of that number, 80% said it wouldn’t bother them while the remaining minority said they can’t stand typos and would abandon the book.
What surprised me was the debate that accompanied the poll. Several people chimed in to express their feelings about the issue. They even broke it down into great detail. Some folks explained that even an editor can’t catch every mistake. Others said their expectations depended on the type of book they read.
Those expectations were high if a novel was put out by a reputable publishing firm because the vetting processes are usually meticulous, especially with hardback or paperback releases. Meanwhile, they noticed that independently released e-books don’t have such stringent procedures, and sometimes don’t have a second set of eyes on the manuscript before releasing it out into the world. So they just weren’t surprised when they saw typos in them and tried to continue reading.
The best part for me was that this was a friendly discussion, with no name calling or expletives exchanged. That, alone, made me so happy because we all know how these things can get out of hand on social media. There’s an adage that says who you hang out with is a reflection on you. And as far as my social media connections go, I definitely liked what I saw in this mirror.
Getting back to the issue of being bugged by typos in novels, I have to say I’m not all that forgiving. This is kind of hypocritical because I’m the one who gets all thumbs with my smartphone, often leaving my social media comments nonsensical or illegible (cough). But I guess my stance on the issue goes back to my journalism background. It was always drilled into my head that the credibility of our work hinged on whether we got grammar or spelling correct. “If you can’t get grammar and spelling right, why should readers believe anything you say?” one editor often said.
I still believe this is true. After all, standards are there for a reason. Taking steps to catch errors smooths out the reader’s path so they can enjoy a novel, without getting tripped up by mistakes.
As I work on my own novel, I plan to keep this in mind by getting at least one qualified extra set of eyes on my work. After all, doing everything I can to produce a piece that’s error-free is simply not up for debate.