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Thoughts on typos

Posted by John Reed on

I have written and self-published over 100 books counting multiple editions of some. My books are famous for having typos.

How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Own How-To Books

I try to get rid of them before publication. I proofread the book myself. I spell check it. I often have another person proofread it. But typos are elusive. I saw an article about them once at my typographers back in the pre-laser-writer days. It said something to the effect that typos hide with great skill before the book is printed. But after it is printed, they leap out at the reader.

As time goes on, I hear about typos that I originally missed. Often, I find them myself when I am looking at the book. When I find them, I fix them in my computer. Then, the next time I get the book printed, they disappear because I use the new version.

I appreciate readers who alert me to typos. I thank them. On occasion, when they have found many typos in a new book, I give them a free revised copy of that or another of my books and acknowledge their contribution in the acknowledgements section of the book.


However, I do not appreciate readers telling me about typos and putting me down as “unprofessional” and so forth for having them.

A book has about 100,000 words in it. That means it has around 500,000 characters, spaces, and punctuation marks. Yet if someone finds, say, three typos, they feel entitled to give me a tongue lashing over them.

Folks, 3 divided by 500,000 = is a .00001 error rate. Less than 1 incorrect letter, space, or punctuation mark per 100,000.

What is the critic’s error rate?

May I ask what the critic does for a living? And, pray tell, does the critic have less than a .00001 error rate in his or her work?

Does the critic own a car? Has he or she gone over it with a magnifying glass, found imperfections, and sent the manufacturer a scathing email about its lack of professionalism? Have they done the same with their house?

Exponential expense

I am aware that the publishing industry has a tradition of employing multiple copy editors to try to eliminate all typos. I don’t know why, but I am aware of it.

The expense of getting rid of typos rises exponentially as you approach zero typos. For a short-press-run publisher like me, that means it quickly becomes uneconomical. I am not trying to imitate large publishers. If I was that big, I would probably have some anal-retentive types sitting around looking for typos. I am not that big, so I don’t.

I never want to be that big. Being that big would require me to sell through book stores. Been there. Done that.

Bad info versus typos

Where are people’s priorities? The most successful financial author of all time is Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. He is an idiot, and a liar, and a fraud, and his book is garbage. See my analysis of it at

For example, he says in the book to befriend executives of publicly-traded corporations so you can get advance information before the public and buy or sell the company’s stock for a profit as a result. That is absolutely illegal. That is what Martha Stewart was accused of doing. By falsely denying it to the feds, she ended up with a felony conviction and went to prison.

The book also says incorporating enables you to deduct business expenses on your income taxes. No, it doesn’t. You can deduct legitimate business expenses regardless of whether you are incorporated and being incorporated does not allow you to deduct anything that is not deductible for a non-corporate business. If you deduct personal expenses claiming they are corporate business expenses, as Kiyosaki advocates, you could go to jail for that, too.

Kiyosaki’s book was published by Time-Life at one point. Does it have any typos? Not that I am aware of—although one guy told me he found two. Time-Life has anal-retentive types sitting around removing them. Is that good? I can’t complain about it. But how about hiring some intelligent, informed people to check the damned book for substantive errors that could get its readers put in jail? As far as I can tell, Time-Life does not give a rat’s rump about whether its readers go to jail as a result of following the bad advice in Kiyosaki’s book.

Now that, book fans, strikes me as “unprofessional.”

I will continue to focus primarily on making sure the substance of my books is correct. I will also try to minimize typos, but I will not get obsessive-compulsive about it. Over time, the typos disappear from my books until they are almost Time-Life like in that regard. Time-Life, on the other hand, does not remove the substantive errors in its books over time. As long as it sells, baby, it’s fine with them. If you want something to criticize, criticize that.

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