Spell Ink Miss Takes


Accurate spelling is a necessity for those who wish to impart a clear and concise message. It’s true that everyone makes mistakes and typos are easy to overlook. But the glaring anomaly of a spelling mistake comes with a hidden subtext. Each published and printed typo suggests the author isn’t as bright as they think they are. If an author doesn’t know how to spell a word, do they really know what it means?

You sing spell chequers is now scene as away too a void type O’s. Butt spell chequers own lee drawer a tension two miss spelt words. Eve on the most sew fist a catered check hers ah knot all ways a bull to sea if a word is out off con text. (Using spellcheckers is now seen as a way to avoid typos. But spellcheckers only draw attention to misspelled words. Even the most sophisticated checkers are not always able to see if a word is out of context.)

Spelling is arguably the most important element in the written word. Style, content, character, plot (and every other intellectual nuance in fiction) can only be built on a foundation of good spelling. Yet many writers assume, because they know what they wanted to say, everyone else in the world will psychically intuit the message they were trying to impart.

To view the worst examples of failing adult literacy one needs go no further than ebay. A disproportionate number of ebay auctions include typos. Regardless of whether people are selling labtops or shakespear memorabilia, there are an inordinate number who appear to have difficulty spelling their own names, let alone the items they are trying to vend.

Admittedly, ebay is never going to be held up as an example of fine literature. But it’s worth remembering that the effects of reading frequent spelling mistakes are cumulative. The more typos a person reads, the less likely they will see errors in their own writing.

Again, this would probably only apply if a character in your story has “brought alot off guds frome ebay,” but it’s worth bearing in mind that these errors can influence a writer’s output.

For his signature line, the erotic author Mike Kimera writes: “What you read is not what I wrote. I provide the text, you provide the meaning.”

The same sentiment could be applied to ebay, although paraphrased slightly: “What you read is possibly what I wrote. I’m too dumb to construct a sentence. Spelling and grammar are not my strong suit. you’ve got a price and a picture to look at. What more do you want? The words are just a bonus. I provide a jumble of deformed sentences. You can struggle to understand what the hell it was I was trying to say.”

Erotica demands accurate spelling more than any other genre. Literary fiction can excuse typos as “deviant authoring.” Science fiction writers can feasibly argue that certain words will be spelled differently in the future. But erotica requires a smooth and uninterrupted narrative unimpeded by errors. Any mistake can cause inadvertent amusement and ruin the reader’s mood.

To illustrate: in my novel Ruby and the Beast the protagonist watches a medieval party in full swing. Early English music plays in the background. Couples dance while the majority of revellers feast on freshly cooked meats. The heroine’s attention is caught by a solitary figure jumping onto one of the tables.

Which, worked well until a pre-publication reader spotted the typo I had let slip. Instead of the word “figure,” I’d written “finger.” Instead of seeing a dramatic point in a story of medieval machinations, the reader watched a dismembered digit dancing on the dining table.

There are ways to battle occasional errors in text. But they all boil down to the same thing: diligence. Reading. Rereading. Reading aloud. Reading after a time away from the MS. Reading backwards. Having someone else read your MS.

I don’t know if it was Lincoln or Twain who said, “it’s better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” But I do know the same principle applies to publishing. “Its bet her Toby thaw Taff Hool, than too publish and ream move hall doubt.”

“The Write Stuff” © 2006 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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