The Mysterious Case of the Kitten on the Keyboard

After a book’s been typeset but before it goes to the printer, it goes to proofreaders. (I’ve detailed this process here, here, and here). Pages are sent to three to five proofers (because no single human will catch all the errors). It’s a vital part of the publishing process.

It’s a vital part of the blogging process, too, but the proofing generally happens after I’ve published. :)

Let’s face it—there’s not enough time in my day or in the lives of potential proofers to look over my 750-word epistles on demand. One of my favored bloggers, Michael Hyatt, says we should do our best and move on in a post he titles “Should You Hire Someone to Proofread Your Blog Posts?” Mike notes that his readers are his proofreaders.

I’ve read and reread a post many times before it is published. It’s usually marinated for several weeks, too, between the writing and the posting. I’ve read it aloud to the Irishman and to myself. So I like to think I catch most of my own errors. And I do catch quite a few. (Nonetheless, you’ve heard the one about the lawyer who represents himself, right? He has a fool for a client. Ha.) But I have a close circle of friends who know how mortified I am when a typo slips through, and usually one or the other of them will send me a quick email. The error is quietly fixed before most of you ever see it.

Sometimes, though, Your Editor posts … and then leaves the office for many hours. The morning after this post published, I received a frantic email from one of my friendly proofers:

Gah! JC! Quick! Wrong they’re!
*things appear when there most needed*

Oh, that one’s awful, all right. Fingernails-on-blackboard awful. And I remember exactly what happened. I have a little cat—we’ll call her Bean (not her real name*)—who has to pass over my keyboard to get to her spot on my desk, where she spends a large part of her day sleeping. She frequently adds, wherever the cursor happens to be, a string of letters and numbers to whatever I’m working on, and I am vigilant about removing them. (Though sometimes I miss them. I’ve gotten puzzled emails from authors: “That comment on page 37—77777777fgww. What’s that about?”) In this case, characters were added … and then I removed too many and my they’re became there.



My own final read-through might have caught it … but I had someplace I needed to be and was in a hurry. What interests me most is this: of my several eagle-eyed unofficial proofers, only one caught my mistake. (Remember, publishers hire three to five proofers to make sure they catch all errors.)

Here’s the takeaway: typos are easy to miss, even by experienced readers. A lot of people don’t see them at all. So don’t beat yourself up if one slips through. I sure don’t.

Now—I wonder what Mike does about his cat?

* No, really. She was rescued from a woman who didn’t love her, yet had named her Precious. I happen to think Precious is fine as an endearment but undignified as a name, and promptly rechristened her Bean.


Tweet: You’ve heard the one about the lawyer who represents himself? Goes double for editors.
Tweet: My they’re became there. And therein lies a tale.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  1. Ramona says:

    Confession. I pay NO attention (NONE) to typos in other people’s blogs. NADA. In fact, I read one particularly well-written political blog, and I find it amusing that people note his typos in comments. I couldn’t care less. The reason: I acknowledge that people are the WORST proofers of their own work. So your “there” wouldn’t even have registered on the scale of things to email you about.

    I realize all too well why you don’t want to make mistakes like that, and if you ALWAYS misused “there” we’d be having a private little chat about it. (Like the friend who consistently used “defiantly” when she meant “definitely.”) But a goof in the middle of a competently composed post? Nah. I just attribute it to fat fingers (or cats) and move on.

  2. Ahhh. You’ve released me from guilt. Well… not really. haha (You may have guessed how Type A I am. ;) ) But see—it really IS worse when you know the editor is reading your post, comment, or whatever. I physically break out in a sweat when I know something’s slipped past and her trained eye is on it.

  3. AND… I love Bean!!! (She could be Miranda’s twin.)

  4. Bates says:

    Hee! Love this one.