Reading Can Be Tricky

I read in weird ways. I suppose it partly comes from too much screen time and partly because of the way my reading has evolved. I have the Kindle app on my phone and it has been a blessing when I’ve been waiting for my darling son. But my elderly phone gets drained by the kindle app so I often read on the kindle app on my laptop instead. As I don’t seem to sync them up right, I’m usually reading one book on my phone and a different book on my laptop.

But sometimes I review books and I’ll be dipping into that book at the same time as I’m dipping into the sort of stories that I don’t want to admit to reading – at least not in front of my teenage son. Not only is Romance not dead but it’s available in large quantities if you know the right apps. Of course, sometimes I dip into places like Royal Road as well, and I’ve rummaged through quite a few old books via the Gutenberg project which I usually download and then read on the Calibre app (which is also pretty good for formatting my self published stuff).

That’s just the ebooks. I usually have a non-fiction physical book around to dip into as well. I’ve been looking into a lot of the superstitions as research for my series on #HazardousToYourSanity so I’ve got a small hardback reference on local superstitions by my chair and another paperback book of fables in my knitting bag.

This isn’t something to be proud of. I’m surprised that I can mostly keep straight with the different plots, especially if you add in all the extra plots that are happening in my own writing. However I’m not so much ashamed of it. What is making me uncomfortable is the typos.

Neil Gaiman said that no matter how much you proofread a story, the first thing you would see when you opened a physical copy would be a typo. And it’s true – only God is perfect. I’ve heard that there are rug makers hand knotting expensive rugs who deliberately put an error into their pattern because they don’t want to be disrespectful. I know that there are typos in my work. I know that I’ve messed up grammar, clarity and punctuation. I know that I have no room to talk. However I can’t stop spotting typos. And as you can tell from my reading practices, I have a lot of opportunities to see them.

The trouble is, when you are rattling away with a great streak of inspiration, you miss stuff. Spell checkers can only do so much. One story (which I adored and have re-read a few times) had someone who ‘titled’ their head. I suspect that it should have been that they ’tilted’ their head. Both words are correctly spelled without context, but I would be intrigued at someone who ‘titled’ their head in confusion. I’m not blaming the author – it’s exactly the sort of mistake I would make. Once upon a time I wouldn’t have noticed but a few experiences of proofreading and I’m picking up misplaced commas.

Mind you, I may think that the commas are misplaced but I’ll be the first to admit that my punctuation is far from perfect. I know that when I went back and re-edited The Forgotten Village I felt almost like I was translating into English. There were so many mistakes and I have no room to complain about any author.

I’m spotting all these tiny mistakes, feeling a pang of sympathy with the author and moving on. I am in no place to criticise at all. And I’m not in a place to criticise facts either. I may have written articles on research, but I know that I still get things wrong. After all, sometimes you don’t know enough to know how wrong you’re being. A lot of the time, it doesn’t matter one tiny bit. I was very much enjoying a cozy mystery (which I’m not detailing here because I absolutely do not want to throw shade on someone who’s a far better writer than me) and they had a brief throwaway description of someone threshing hay. You don’t thresh hay.

My actual real life knowledge of farming is limited to driving past some fields. However I’ve read a lot about medieval farming and I’m great if we’re talking about out of date practices. Threshing is beating a crop until the seed separates from the stem. Hay isn’t harvested for seed. It’s grass that is preserved to feed livestock over winter. You make hay or you can put hay in bales but you don’t thresh the dratted stuff. Do you know how much impact this had on the story? Zero, zilch, nothing, nada. The author did nothing wrong, but the reader, that is, me, needs to get a sense of proportion. I just can’t help noticing them.

Today, when I caught another tiny typo, I thought I would get this off my chest and send sympathetic vibes to all the authors out there. I also want to beg, plead and beseech that if you spot a typo or a mistake of fact in anything I’ve written – please tell me. I’d be grateful if you were kind, but I’ll take it on the chin if you just pointed out what I got wrong with honesty.

I also feel confident that as I’ve written an article on mistakes there are going to be a few in here. Please be kind.

2 thoughts on “Reading Can Be Tricky

  1. Love this article Lyssa – when I had my thyroid removed I swear they took my spelling part of my brain too as after the treatment I really can’t remember how to spell some words. WordPress took away their spell checker too. I think it is easier to notice spelling mistakes and typos in other people’s work than your own. I am reading a lot of the reprinted Persephone books at the moment and the punctuation is full of semi-colons and colons something you don’t see very often in more modern fiction.
    I hate to say it but I really don’t like the use of the American – English ‘Z’ in place of an ‘S’ and I spot one here as I would always write cosy – perhaps I am too old fashioned!!

    1. I never learned how to use colons and semicolons in school, and I regret it deeply. I indulge in commas instead. I always feel bad about pointing out any errors because I’m so aware that I make so many.

      As for cozy/cosy – I’m all for using ‘cosy’ in most things but ‘cozy’ seems to be almost a technical term as in ‘cozy mystery’ or ‘cozy paranormal romance’ I’m not sure how to spell it when I’m describing a type of book. I should use cosy, but I find myself using cozy as a search term. I get confused.

      Thank you for the feedback – it really helps
      LM x

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