Typograpical Erors

I’d been meaning for some time to write about one of the more pedestrian problems of reviewing from uncorrected proofs when I came across this sentence:

He stopped to tie his hoot, then continued, quickening his step, peering around comers before crossing intersections. 

It’s from City of God, by Paulo Lins, which has perhaps the most typos I’ve ever seen as a reviewer.

Now, I’m not saying anything negative about the book. I find Lins’ writing to be very involving, and I’m certain that all – or nearly all – of these little goofs will be corrected by the time the book is published. And almost everything I review has typos. Like anyone, publishers have time constraints, and if reviewers are to get their copies in advance of the publication date, then final copies won’t yet be available.

But in a way, I’ve never really gotten used to overlooking them. When I have to pause and use context to decipher the author’s intent, it interrupts the flow of reading.

Af first Hellraiser didn’t accelerate and they didn’t even dance at the policemen… 

Dance at the policemen? Is that some criminal tactic specific to Brazilian housing projects? I mean, I’ve heard of capoeira, which is kind of dance-fighting (not to be confused with the dance-fighting found in West Side Story) – oh, I get it – glance. They didn’t glance at the policemen.

Also, because I’m reading the book specifically in order to judge it, it’s always felt a little weird to me that I’m supposed to take it on faith that any errors, large or small, will be corrected.

Review galleys always have a disclaimer. Specific wording varies, but this one reads:

Please remember that these proofs are uncorrected and that substantial changes may be made before the book is printed. If any material from the book is to be quoted in a review, please check it against the text in the final bound book, which will be sent to you when it is ready. 


Actually, there’s a Catch-22 here. The publishers send us uncorrected proofs knowing that, at Booklist (as at Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus), we do everything we can to publish the review before the finished copy is available. This serves both our purposes (letting librarians make purchasing decisions before patrons are clamoring for the books) and theirs (getting some buzz going before the newspapers and general-interest magazines weigh in).

So of course we don’t have time to check the quotes. Also, we often don’t receive finished copies of the books we review.

It’s probably a moot point, because Booklist reviews are so short that, if I do quote from the book, it’s usually only a phrase, or a sentence at most. And if I suspected anything was funny with the quote (“ran a digger through the paper,” for example) I’d call the publisher first. They’re probably more worried about long-form reviewers – yep, critics – who like to quote and quote and quote.

Anyway, the typos don’t keep me from liking City of God. I suspect that there are more of them than usual because it’s a translation, and I’m sure it’s a tough translation at that, because it’s chock-full of colloquialisms. (Like the way I used a colloquialism there?) And even if at first I think that “hut it was best not to nuke trouble” is some strange Brazilian slang, I get the gist.

It’s easy for me to tkae the high road, becasue my copy is so clena.



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

9 Comments on "Typograpical Erors"

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  1. You forgot to embed a rimshot at the end of the post…

  2. kgraff@ala.org' Keir says:

    Try the veal! Don’t forget to tip your waitress! I’ll be here all week!

  3. Nice article. I think the errors you describe (hoot for boot, and dance for glance) may be OCR (i.e. optical character recognition) errors. To the computer the “h” looks like the “b” sometimes, and because spell-check won’t mark hoot as an error, the computer accepts the rendering. So these may not be typos but OCR errors.

  4. jreese@timeoutchicago.com' Joel Reese says:

    Sometimes, though, those errors can really affect your perception of someone’s writing. I once read a short story that spelled Foghat-the influential band who graced us with “Slow Ride,” as if you needed reminding-with two T’s. Completely took me out of the story.

  5. crumj@ohsu.edu' Janet says:

    Even worse are the typos in published books! It appears that copy editing has been outsourced to spellcheck. I’m amazed at what gets into print these days.

  6. kgraff@ala.org' Keir says:

    Jeffrey, I think you’re probably right-many of the errors I found were repeated the same way every time. (That’s not usually the case with other galleys.) But it seems unusual that they would scan a manuscript. Maybe the translator uses a typewriter….

  7. Joel, I guess you’ve never heard of Foghatt. They’re the influential band that graced us with “Sloe Ryde,” not to mention “Fuel 4 tha Sitte”…

  8. Very interesting entry. I didn’t realize galleys were sent out far enough in advance for there to be such an unfinished copy. I have to agree with Joel that those errors you do see completely remove you from the experience while reading. It’s a break in that alternative reality you prepare yourself to sink into (one hopes) every time you pick up a book.

  9. hpm0@lehigh.edu' Helen P. Mack says:

    I echo the comment about typos that make it all the way into the finished product. I have recently encountered two books (one published by Elsevier, one by Erlbaum) that were each accompanied by two pages of errata. Given the fact that people generally don’t even consult the errata pages, readers are receiving inaccurate information without knowing it. It seems that there is no editorial review of the manuscripts, and, more often than not, no plans to issue corrected reprints. At my institution, such books are either returned or discarded, depending on price. Either way this is a huge waste – waste of authors’ time, waste of publisher’s salaries for editors, waste of libraries’ staff time and money!

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