The blog of author Harper Alexander

The Hilarity of Typos

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Let’s face it – no matter how good of a writer or typist you are, our manuscripts all suffer those inconvenient little buggers that are typos.  Maybe you got going a little bit too fast, or it was late and you had a brain glitch, or a combination of the two, or you slipped and forgot to fix it, or you accidentally pressed two keys at once and didn’t know it, or you placed one hand on the keyboard a set of keys over from where it ought to be placed without realizing it.  Whatever the case, you’re usually blissfully ignorant to the fact that you’ve had a blunder until you’re going back through and proof-reading, and suddenly you’re going just a little bit high-lighter happy marking all these oopses that seem to manifest in greater numbers and with greater frequency than you really could have ever suspected.

What I’ve noticed about my typos, though, is that they have a frightfully uncanny tendency of showing up in all of the places that are supposed to be written and read with utmost dignity.  I am constantly ruining the dignity of some of my most dire scenes with the most ridiculous typos.  Suddenly, I’m snorting (and groaning) at what was supposed to be moving.  I’m guffawing in a character’s sorrowful face.  I’m snarling in frustration and giggling in stitches knowing I’ll never be able to take this scene seriously again.

I may be writing something along the lines of ‘and then he leaned in and kissed her’, except it comes out more like, ‘and then he leaned in and kicked her’  Or, even worse: ‘and then he leaned in and killed her’.

I may be trying to say ‘That living, breathing young man in the room with me was marked to get stabbed in the back’, and instead come up with ‘That living, breathing young man in the room with me war marked to get stabbed in the back.’  Or ‘…stabbed in the bag’.  Or ‘stacked in the bab’.

I might intend to say, ‘She reached down and touched his dead, cold face’, and instead have it come out as, ‘She reached down and touched his dead, cod face.’ (What a great image.  Now I’ll always picture him with a ‘cod’-face.)

I was trying to say ‘he was stripped of his innocence’, in one book, but instead I got this: ‘he was striped oh his innocence.’  Striped oh.  It sounds really awesome if you say it with a Scottish accent.  ‘He was striped oh his innocence!!’

I’ve tried to say ‘for the boy’s sake’, and managed instead to impart, ‘for the bog’s sake’.  There’s quite a notable difference, as I’m sure you’re aware, between a ‘boy’ and a ‘bog’, and it does not work well to substitute one for the other.

Instead of ‘she stopped and faced him’, well… Here’s what she did instead: ‘She topped and faced him’.

During one scene of conflict, I meant to say ‘she bent over him with a knife in her hand’.  But I somehow neglected two words and ended up with – ‘she bent over with a knife in her’.  Really changes the dynamic, doesn’t it?

What was supposed to be, tragically, ‘The last thing he felt…’ (he’s dying) instead came out, ‘The last ting he felt…’  No man can die with any dignity feeling a ting.  Babies, and their baby-talk – they can get away with feeling ‘tings’.  Not a grown man on his rugged deathbed.  Suddenly, as he’s dying, a baby-talk narrative intrudes: ‘The last ting he felt…’

‘He slunk ever closer’ ends up coming out ‘He slunk every closer’.  Really?  Every one of them?

Here’s another that really demeaned the essence I was going for…  It was supposed to say ‘He knew better than to take the threat as empty’.  Instead, it said: ‘He knew better than to take the treat as empty’.  Bah!  Treat?!  ‘Treat’ does as much justice to ‘threat’ as, I don’t know, a lollipop does to a club (lame example, but I’m not feeling particularly witty right now).  Have my characters all taken to fighting and threatening each other with the likes of candy, now?  What is this?

‘There’s nothing left to live for‘ turns into ‘There’s nothing left to life for‘.  And, at this point, there really isn’t.  I’m over my head in typos that have butchered (I just typed ‘buthered’) the pride of my life’s work, debilitating what I had been approaching as a respectable project.  It’s hopeless.  At this point it can’t be saved.  There’s too much!  It’s too ridiculous!  Baahhh, the humanity!

But wait.  I’m not just going to give up on my precious masterpiece.  I’ll give it another go, one more chance to redeem itself.  And then, where it was supposed to say ‘there was nowhere to go’, it says, instead, ‘thee was nowhere to go’.

And I take this as a sign.

(Not really, of course.  I’m just being dramatic.  But it can really make you wallow in the *facepalm* stance, finding your work riddled with these indignities and injustices.  It’s as if the thing is really determined to mock you for trying to write something dignified, something moving, something meaningful.  It’s as if it’s determined to resist taking itself seriously.)

In one instance, it was a whole paragraph gone wrong.  And it was at the end of a chapter, so it was supposed to be all convicting, so you can imagine my consternation when, printed out, it only succeeded in flopping around and falling on its face.  This was one of my less serious stories, so it wasn’t as debilitating to its essence, but it did happen to be one of the few parts of the book that was supposed to be more serious.  It was supposed to read:

 I can’t believe this,’ he thought – ‘I really can’t believe this.  I will never,’ he swore, ‘never forgive myself for this.’

Annnnd, instead, it came out like this:

I can’t believe this,’  he thought‘I rally can’t believe this.  I will never,’ he sword, ‘never forgive myself for this.’

My sister and I now quote those typos quite often.  They sound hilarious when spoken out loud.

Then there are the times it’s really no huge typo, but the smallest thing can make the phrase sound so ridiculous.  Like when you’re trying to say ‘because it was’, and instead you write ‘because is was’.  Is was.  Is was?!?!  Bahaha.

Or when there’s a random number thrown in the middle of a word.  Like a 4 in the middle of ‘features’ (featur4es), because the 4 is right next to the r and the e.

Or when you actually misspell the simplest words for no reason better than that you’ve had a long day.  You know better, but they just insist on being difficult, or laughably phonetic.  (I’ve noticed that my default ‘tired’ typo seems to be spelling the word ‘of’  O V E.  How bad is that?)

Thennnnnn, there’s the matter of unexpected profanity.  I am not one to lace my writing with profanity, and so it comes as quite a surprise when I’m reading along and discover I unintentionally used some very colorful language.  Or some very suggestive language that has to be crossed out (BLACKED out) immediately, lest anyone else in your trusted group of proof-readers should happen across the suddenly very awkward scene before you can print a replacement page.

My conclusion, from all this, is that the ‘tormented writer’ has to also have a sense of humor.  For those of you who have some preconceived notion that writing is a dignified career, I’m here to say: AHAHAHA.  No, but really: I’m afraid you’re sorely mistaken.  Just ask the first-draft manuscripts of a seasoned writer.  They’re hilarious.


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