Thursday Thought ~ The Importance of Correct Spelling


How many times have you picked up a novel and found a misspelled word right away?  How many times did you find another on page 20 and more on pages 31 and 32?  How many times did you start a novel only to put it down because the text, punctuation and grammar were all wrong?

I’ve started quite a few novels (sadly, most of them were self-published) that made my skin crawl and my brain hurt.  How could authors, who want to be taken seriously, not edit their novels?

As a beta-reader, it is my job to point out grammar mistakes.  Sometimes, especially with new writers, they gasp and say something like, “I don’t understand.  I used spell check.”

As an author, I’m here to say, spell check is nice, but you can’t rely on it.  There are so many words in the English language that sound the same but spelled differently (their/there), and spell check doesn’t catch them all the time.  It also doesn’t catch transposed letters.  For instance, you may have tried to write “won” but you wrote “own” instead.  Or you wrote ‘thread’, not ‘tread’.  Spell check won’t pick up on these mistakes.

Consider the following examples:

  • Many people believe he worships  Satin. (I think the word is “Satan”)
  • Placing big dames in the Mississippi River may prevent flooding.  (perhaps, but doing so may cause drownings instead)
  • The mom clutched her toe-headed son to her side. (poor kid has a toe for a head.  I think the word is tow-headed)

It is amazing how one little, misspelled word can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

It’s also important to make sure you catch your misspelled words if you are advertising yourself as an authority.  Take the follow example from a business card:

Inferior Fashion Decor

Not exactly a great selling point…unless you’re looking for ‘inferior’ solutions.

What it boils down to, if you want to be taken seriously in your field, whatever it is, your words, at some point, will speak for you.  When they do, make sure they are the right ones.  Remember, the pen is mighty, so take the time to edit.  The fulfillment of your dreams may depend upon it.

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32 thoughts on “Thursday Thought ~ The Importance of Correct Spelling

  1. Dear J. Keller,
    Thanks for putting a link to my blog about errors that escape Spell-Check. I understand what you mean about picking up a book and finding errors on the printed page. It takes you out of the story completely.

    Celebrate you and your gift of writing.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

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  2. It’s terrible when people don’t proof-read their own work. They should also have a couple fresh sets of eyes review it too. Errors should be infrequent–maybe a dozen a novel. But as I take trip #100 through my own novel, I can attest to the fact that there are errors there not from lack of diligence or hard work, but from a mind’s ability to transpose what should be there. I had the word “sideway” for sidewalk. it made it through a dozen drafts and past two beta readers. We all knew what word was supposed to be there and we read it as “sidewalk” even through “sideway” was written there.

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  3. It is so important to have others review your grammar and spelling. I can go through my stuff a zillion times and still miss an error. Even after having gone through the manuscript, had my writer’s group go through it and the editor, I still ended up with a spelling error in my first book, as someone so kindly pointed out to me. This might just have been the fault of whoever formatted it, a mere typo, and maybe it wasn’t proofread after that step, but I am almost ashamed to say that it’s in there, even after all our careful editing. At least it’s only one.

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    1. You know, one error is okay. Even two errors are acceptable, but when they are on almost every page…someone didn’t do their job, and I blame it on the author for not making sure the job was done correctly. Just because one delegates work to someone else, that doesn’t absolve him/her of ensuring the work meets expectations.

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      1. So true! If a writer wants to have repeat customers they must make sure that it is the best it can be before putting it out into the world. There is so much out there already that readers will not take kindly to shoddy writing that wastes their precious reading time. 🙂

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  4. Hear, hear! I’ll always mention in a review if I find just one spelling mistake in a book. “Some typos…” or for bad punctuation, “Badly edited…” or “grammatical errors…” I don’t care. It’s so unnecessary.
    I came across an author who raved about the fantastic editor he used on his book that was filled with so many grammatical errors I black-listed them for future reference. Story editing was fine but you can’t let the bad grammar through. That’s just not on.

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    1. Yes, it sort of makes you wonder about some self-proclaimed editors. I mean, I edit on the side, but I don’t make it my living. I know we are only human and our eyes are going to skip over some mistakes. It’s bound to happen, but when I come across a book that is glaring with mistakes, I have to wonder if the author or the editor actually read the final product. Odds are, it may be a good story, but if I can’t get past the mistakes, I won’t finish the book. I also am less likely to read anything else by that author in the future. Sad. It also makes me wonder if the author has pride in what he/she does. As my writing is a reflection on me, I am anal about dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’. I don’t want my name on this side of the blogosphere. 🙂

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  5. Ha! You know what my big problem is? I trust my typing, and sometimes my brain goes faster than my fingers. The worst, though, is that dang auto-correct on the querty keyboard on my phone. It comes up with the derndist things and makes me look lika an oaf.

    Like you, I cannot stand an editing error in a novel, mostly because it drags me out of a story. Such a pain and a genuine shame.

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  6. Only last night I had an impassioned plea-conversation with my son about ‘it’s’ and ‘its’. This is a mistake that just drives me insane (and I see it soooo frequently) and I begged him not to do it, because I automatically judge the people who do!

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  7. Not only do spell checkers not catch the mistakes you noted, sometimes they’re just WRONG! Do the Microsoft Word programmers really understand the difference between “its” and “it’s?” Obviously not by the way they handle my WIPs.

    Although I write in Scrivener, I compile into Word for my beta readers. And Word wants me to revise my use of “risen” in a sentence to “Sea levels haven’t RAISED that much.” Say what?!

    Yes, writers, please get a good, professional editor before self-publishing. It’s worth the effort and cost!

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    1. Here’s where we need the ability to edit our own comments. 🙂 My sticky keyboard dropped the s from levels. The correct sentence is “Sea levels haven’t risen that much.” Word wants it to be “Sea levels haven’t RAISED that much.”

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    1. The author is lucky you’re sticking with it. I wonder, has anyone ever notified the authors to tell them their books are full of errors? Is it worth it to you to do so?

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  8. I had a hysterical vision of the officials in Mississippi rolling obese women down the levee to shore it up, and giving them chocolate to appease the gals and to further protect the land downstream. “Let’s gain weight, ladies! Think of the homes you will save!”

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  9. It always amazed me that I’d still find tiny errors after going through my manuscript a zillion times. I even found one mistake after both my editor and a senior editor went through it! It was supposed to be “expect” but instead was written as “except.” I just read it wrong so many ways because it’s so easy to betray the eyes.

    So knowing how tricky it can be to catch everything, I’ll forgive an error or two. But beyond that, it does get distracting.

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    1. I hear you. I’ve found tiny errors in my manuscript after having read it a gazillion times. I’m not sure if there is a ‘perfect’ manuscript, but there’s a big difference between an error or two versus pages of mistakes. I lose respect for authors who don’t take the time to polish their stories.

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  10. Ya, I’ll only tolerate a couple of mistakes. Beyond that, and I put the book down. If the author doesn’t care enough to get their book properly polished, then I don’t care enough to read it.

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  11. I’m glad I spent the money hiring a copyeditor to proof for me. I’m sure some mistakes slipped through all the various checks (me, editor, copyeditor), but hopefully they are few and far between! Putting out the best quality product is important. It makes me especially sad when I pick up a legacy published book and spot multiple mistakes, sometimes on every page! There’s no excuse with the money publishing houses spend on editing!

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    1. Exactly. I understand one or two mistakes as we are all human and can’t catch everything. However, if the author didn’t care enough to make sure it was polished, I don’t care enough to read it.

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