I want to share with you the details of a very real group of demonic entities that are out there and are responsible for the downfall of the writer. Now I’m not talking about critics or readers who post negative reviews and pick apart stories and characters like a pedantic cannibal. No, these are a clandestine race of grammatical monsters who exist to manipulate the words of writers for their own sordid amusement.
The Typo Demons are a collective of diabolical beasts that interfere with the spellings and punctuation of a story. They are never seen or even spoken of and little is written about them, but they are always there, just out of our peripheral vision, patiently waiting to wreak havoc.
These demons are extremely clever and sneaky in their actions. You may already be shaking your head at me talking about them, calling me a crazy fool, or something much worse. But I’m onto them and I hope by writing this, many more of you will be made aware of their antics and my join me in a war against their kind. And if you still don’t believe me, be very wary next time you edit a story, for the greatest trick the Typo Demons ever pulled was convincing the writer that they don’t exist.
So what’s the deal with them?
A Typo Demon will sit on your shoulder while you work on your current potential masterpiece. Your words will be flowing as your mind’s inner thoughts transcend with creative gusto down your arms and into your typing fingers, bringing literary genius onto the screen. It’s a good writing session, you may tell yourself.
You sit back after a few minutes and inspect your work. There’s some red lines underneath a few words; a couple of misspellings, a place where the space bar didn’t register, a name that your word processor doesn’t recognise. With a couple of clicks and taps on the keyboard, everything is how you wanted it. Hey, that scene kind of works, in fact it’s kicking a little bit of ass! You retire for the evening, proud of your work.
Pleased with your efforts, the next day you pick up that book you’ve been reading. It’s great, a really gripping story with twists and turns aplenty that dares you to try and predict how it’s all going to play out. But hold on, there’s a mistake there! The author has accidentally put ‘on’ where it must surely read ‘in’. No biggie, it’s taken nothing away from the story, but it’s there, like a pus-filled zit pulsating on the nose of a supermodel. It’s almost like it’s highlighted in bold, italic, and in a bigger font, the mistake screaming out at you to notice it. How could the author have missed that? Well, they didn’t, is the answer. It was the Typo Demons at work again.
You tell yourself that such a rudimentary error would never occur in one of your stories, you read them over and over again, sometimes out loud, making sure everything is where it should be. But just to be on the safe side, you re-read your current tale just one more time. Yeah, it looks good to go.
After multiple proof readings you finally summon up the courage to send the story out. Your finger quivers above ‘send’, you wonder whether you really did check it thoroughly enough. Of course you did, it’s fine, just send the thing off! Click.
Result! Someone actually likes your story and they are willing to publish it. You pump your fist in the air and shout something like “Fuck Yeah!” Days, weeks, or months later you log on to the site or open up the book your story is appearing on/in (is that right??) only to stare in dismay at the words in front of you.
“What? Really? No, I never put that in, I would have noticed, that sentence makes no sense. Oh, everyone’s going to read that and think that I’m such an amateur.” Well that is what someone who doesn’t know about the Typo Demons would say.
When you hit ‘send’, when your story is sent off into the void of cyberspace, that is when the Demons have their wicked way with your work. Perhaps the publisher or editor doesn’t have the time to correct these typos and changes nothing of your story, or perhaps they are secretly working with the Typo Demons? Stranger things have happened.
I can’t be the only one this happens to. Only recently I waited with anticipation for my current story to appear online. I hadn’t read it in a few weeks since sending it off so decided to sit back and try and enjoy the story like any other reader might. But in just the second paragraph, there it was. An extra ‘I’ had been inserted into the tale, thus rendering the sentence grammatically inaccurate. I fell to my knees, held my arms aloft to the skies and screamed “Noooooooooo!” They’d done it again, the bastards. I didn’t bother reading any further, I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction.
OK, so you may be reading this and muttering to yourself that typos are a common thing for a writer to have to seek out and destroy through meticulous editing. And I agree, there’s many a time that I cringe when I read back a paragraph typed in haste. But why are these typos so difficult to notice in your own work? Why do they only stick out so obviously when any one else does it?
You may say it’s because you are so invested in your own story that these little things disguise themselves in plain sight, like the best serial killers do, as you wonder whether the protagonist would really think that, or if the timeline of their actions makes sense. Or maybe you feel like you already know the story so intricately that you tend to speed-read it by the sixth or seventh time of checking.
But it’s none of those. Have you not been reading?
Yes, the Typo Demons are the bane of the writer’s life, but how do we stop them? Perhaps there’s an incantation or spell we can use to summon the Spelling Angels or something, to banish them back to whatever dank, decrepit hole they spawned from. Or if enough people are made aware of them, their power may become so weak that their trickery no longer has any effect and they will be annihilated in a conflagration of infernal flames.
Or maybe we should just concentrate more while we edit.
Photo credit: pietroizzo via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: _boris via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA