How To Be An Expert Typo Hunter

You’ve got to be a lot of things when you’re a writer.

Not only do you need to craft characters and worlds from nothing, bring together a cohesive story, and take hundreds of random words and arrange them into sentences that make sense, you also need to check those sentences for mistakes.

But when you’ve been working on a WIP for a long time, writing and re-writing the same sentences, it makes you immune to typos. Suddenly they aren’t just wrong keystrokes or the write right word with the wrong spelling—they’re tricksters—convincing your eyes that what they’re reading is what your brain expects.

Typos are relying on the fact you know your words so well after multiple drafts they can hide in your perfect paragraphs, just waiting to be spotted by your dream agent in your submission package (that’ll show you for deleting their friends during editing pass 12!).

So what do you do to fight back against these gremlins? You turn yourself into a typo hunter.

How To Be An Expert Typo Hunter

Read Out Loud

Just as reading out loud will help you to discover sentences that need work, it will also help you find any typos.

Have It Read Aloud To You

Because you’re still the person who has read the words a million times and the typos know that is your weakness, have someone else, or a program, read the words to you. Hearing them back from another party will definitely expose those little mistakes.

Get Yourself Some Fresh Eyes

And by that, I mean give it to someone else to read. Preferably it should be someone who has never read the MS before. That way everything is new and those tiny typos will stand out.

Read It Backwards

Reading your MS is the easiest way to pick up typos. But because they rely on your brain to sort the words into their familiar order, it can be just as easy to miss the misspellings. If you read your MS backward, starting from the last chapter and reading your way to the first, you’ll trick the part of your brain which knows the order the words are supposed to be in and trap those typos.

Work In Sections

Sometimes even just the idea of having to read 80,000 words yet again is enough for your brain to count itself out before you even start. If you want its help to track down those typos, break the task into sections. Read just one page and then take a break. Go scene-by-scene, or chapter-by-chapter, working in small sections, focusing on the task at hand and not the 50,000 other words you’ve still got to check.

One trick I like to use, which also works for editing, is to copy 500 words of your MS into a different program or document, read/check that, and then move onto the next 500 words. It might seem like a slow way to work, but it works for me.

Go Out On A High(light)

If you’ve worked through every other tip and are still finding typos, or you want to be as thorough as possible, the final extreme typo hunting trick requires color.

Get your hands on a colored highlighter, print out your MS, and as you read, highlight every word. That’s right. Every. Single. Word.

This kind of pass isn’t about reading your story (which at this point you should be reciting from memory), it’s about concentrating on each individual word and making sure it’s correct. If a typo gets past this check, they are simply a part of you now and you should adjust your life accordingly.

In all seriousness, typos in your MS is not the be all and end all of your writing career. Find what you can, fix what you can. Read your words out loud, get someone else to read them, read the MS backward, work in sections, and color code those sentences. Anything to stop those typos from winning. And if there’s one (or five) in your submitted MS or published story, an agent, publisher or reader won’t dismiss your whole book because of it. They understand just as much as you do what schemers those typos are.

— K.M. Allan

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

45 thoughts on “How To Be An Expert Typo Hunter

  1. During my meeting with my writer’s group a few weeks back I used the same two words back to back four times on every page. I swear I read those pages a half dozen times before I brought them in.

    It is so important to have others read it or try new things like you suggested.

    As always great suggestions. Thank you!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hunting every single typo is just impossible, even by professionals. I doubt I’ve ever seen a book that did not have some sneaky typo, misspell, or a misplaced comma. What we can do is to give it all we can, whatever method we use, and hope for the best. I’ll definitely try some of the methods you suggested, though I’m against printing it. As a nature lover, I don’t want to waste 500 pages per draft (save the trees!). Instead, I just convert it to e-book format an read it on my e-reader to force a different format/font size.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ruth Miranda

    I always read aloud. It does wonders, in every sense, not just for the typos. And some readers won’t forgive those two typos… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Some great tips Kate, I’ll have to find a program that can read the words out to me-I’ve never even thought of that.
    Even though I’ve heard of these tips, I don’t use them as thoroughly as I should, what a great reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on K. D. Dowdall and commented:
    This post, your post…definitely had me in mind. Thank you…I have a difficult time seeing my own errors and typos. This, I should Post on the wall in front of me. My friends would, no doubt, appreciate it. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for the info. We authors all need help in editing.
    One thing I do is read through the previous chapters before I go on if it has been a few days since I wrote in the MS. This way I get a feeling for the storyline and catch mistakes.
    I reread the MS several more times before handing over to my beta readers. The extra eyes can help. Even though I am a copy editor of others’ work I could miss some of my own edits.
    Leaving the MS for a few more days or a week then reading it again can bring out those pesky edits to fresh eyes. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Yes! These are perfect exercises to do to find typos! I encourage my students every semester to read their work aloud and to get it peer reviewed. I also really like the reading backward method, I’ll have to let them know about that one. Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. These are all fantastic tips! I’m hoping to start proofreading my WIP soon, but right now I’m actually proofreading resumes and cover letters now that I’m applying to jobs and….I MAKE A LOT OF TYPOS. Mostly, I just leave words out and my brain fills in the blank for me. So I have sentences that don’t make sense. I will definitely use this — especially the highlight tip. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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  11. I am presently editing, and always print out the MS in a different font and size. I find this helps a lot. MS Word has the facility to read your work aloud, although I haven’t tried this yet! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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