Typos, And All That

I’ve recently been engaged in a many-partied conversation regarding “unclean” manuscripts that nevertheless become books.  By unclean, I mean the ugly little errors–misspellings, omitted words, spacing, paragraphing, missing/wrong punctuation and on and on–that go under the collective epithet “typos.”  It’s easy to publish a book these days.  All it takes is money, and often not much of that.  So what duty does the author, editor, publisher–whoever is involved in making it available to the public (usually in exchange for a few dollars)–owe the reader when it comes to typos?

Some say typos don’t matter, all books have them, it’s the story that counts–people who worry about such things are elitists or anal or unable to write themselves.  Others who profess to care about typos want someone else to correct them, most often authors who have editors or publishers apart from themselves who are supposed to clean up after them.  Still others are indeed “fussily concerned about minor details” (definition of “anal” in the OED) who go to extraordinary lengths to eliminate typos, often without success.

I suppose in the era of old-fashioned letterpress printing (utilized by most publishers until the 1950s), the guy arranging the locks and type could be blamed, but with the advent of digital and print on demand there’s no longer any technical middleman.  The product that emerges from the “creators”–authors, editors, proofreaders, beta readers, humans all–is what shows up on the printed page.  This circumstance, of course, allows for finger-pointing all around, not least from certain readers who get a kick from pointing typos out.

I suppose I fall into the “anal” camp, but I don’t consider typos to be “minor details.”  A novel is not just a product–it’s also, theoretically, a work of art.  If you want to be an artist, there’s no such thing as a minor detail.

New Hope Tour (cont’d)

This is the Carolina Coffee Shop, the College Coffee Shop in Lucifer’s Promise.  It’s located on the south side of Franklin (High) Street in Chapel Hill.  The alley to the right is called Porthole Alley, once home to a home cooking-style restaurant called The Porthole, now just more space occupied by UNC.

The College Coffee Shop

The College Coffee Shop

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