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Typos. They Happen.

So we all know that typos are the worst! Terrible! They eat babies! They are AIDS! Etc, etc.

Typo Google

Even Google knows about typos.

Now that that disclaimer is out there, there are some typos that I secretly love. And those are the ones that (unintentionally) completely change the meaning of the sentence because they end up being a totally different word. Those can be hilarious.

For example, if you accidentally omit the letter “r” in the word pantry, your characters might be searching for cereal in a pair of ladies’ undergarments. Or if you’re not careful with your “i” and “o” on your keyboard, your hero won’t be tying his boat to the dock anytime soon. My all-time favorite accidental typo is when definitely becomes defiantly. It’s much funnier to tell your friends that you will defiantly meet them for wing night. You’ll be there, but there will be all kinds of attitude accompanying it.

These are the most dangerous kind of typos. Not only do they completely take your reader out of the story, but they also are still technically words, so you can’t rely on spell-check to point out your mistakes for you. It pays to have a second pair of eyes review your writing, but if you can’t, one trick is to read your piece backwards, sentence by sentence. It forces you to slow down and really look at what each sentence says on its own rather than in the context of the story.

And that can mean the difference between telling someone to “sit there” or “sit three”.

Have you ever found a typo that completely (and hilariously) changes the meaning of the sentence?

PRACTICE

Let’s have some fun today. Take a three-paragraph practice you wrote earlier, or write something new. Then, make at least three “typos” that change the meaning of the sentence. Last, read the practices of a few other writers and see if you can point out their typos.

The person who points out the most typos wins!

About Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

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  • http://twitter.com/JasonZiebart Jason Ziebart

    A student emailed me the other day to say, “I will defiantly do the homework assignment.” It’s going to be a long semester.

    • themagicviolinist

      LOL! I find it hilarious when I see a comment or e-mail where someone is trying to sound smart and educated and ends up spelling something wrong or uses the wrong “There/Their/They’re.” Drives me INSANE.

    • http://www.facebook.com/yvette.carol Yvette Carol

      Hee hee!
      Reminds me of the Cartoon Network show in which the character seeks to reassure his mother he’s responsible and says, ‘We’re entirely reprehensible!’

  • Missaralee

    It pains me to post this. Typos really do eat babies, so I give you Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal:

    The mayor stood, green velvet top hat sifting at a demure angel on his greasy scalp. He had all the appearance of a gentleman of fassion, but the assembled crow knew he was a bass and cruel snake of a man. Without scrupple or hesitation he had pressed men and woman into factory service. He had closed the schools and drugged the children into the streets to collect empty bottles and soiled rugs to fuel the fires of industry. Today’s proclamation was expected to be equally distateful. Gerald stood in the crowd, hooded and wrapped in filthy burlap. The crones chattered darkly about the stale bred of the day and the bear rotten produce sold in the market. A form apple hadn’t been seen anywhere in the town, apart from on the mayor’s table, fir over a year. The assembled humanity were rope and pestilent, made sour and lustless through starvation and want. The mayor’s horses received butter treatment and smelled a fair sight better.
    A soot covered child darted past Gerald, lifting his purse from his belt. Gerald did not stir to pursue the child. An ordinary ban never would have noticed the theft until later when he was left without coin to buy bread and ale. Gerald’s purse held only 10p bit it was copper enough to deed the child today. He was always in the habit of carrying an easily ponched purse when he ventured into the market square. The talent of these youth and even babes as young as sox impressed him. A thief was a soil taking charge of his own fortune after all, and who was Gerald, chief of all thieves to deny his charges their duly acquired mark. Of course a slippy attempt to lift his pures would have resulted in a sound scolding and cold dunking of the unfortunate youth. Mastery of this craft was essential to survival. The hapless bumble paw that crossed his path was fortunate. The lesson Gerald would mete out would not quickly be forgotten but would not come at the price of the child’s hand. A dozen youth a week, who didn’t have the advantage of a sound education in the arts of the rogue, lost the right to their hand, and with it the chance of earning a loving, whether through honest or crooked means.
    Gerald’s attention was drawn back to the stage when the head of the butchers’ onion lumbered up and planted himself next to the velvet-bedecked mayor. The soiled and spotty man was a head taller than the mayor’s hat and stood twice as wide at the shoulder. The copper and meet stench of odd blood oozed off him and was blown out over the crowd by the breeze off the canal behind them.
    “My dear citizens” began the mayor in his characteristic nasal squeal. “I am most delighted to have you all assembled here for this mist prodigious and prod day.” He swept the sickly hat from his head and made a graceful and mucking bot to the crowd. “Our dear friend Mister-.”
    “-Ivanoff” grunted the butcher.
    “Our dear Mister Ivanoff has made a most illuminating and modest proposal for the prosperity and god health of all. We are indebted to him for his innovative and determined mind.” Sweeny half smiled at the huge man, shoring yellowed teeth alongside gold and mercury. “Henceforth form this day, all children between the aged of on and five may be sold live to Mr. Ivanoff for six copper apiece, to be hot dresser and prepared for the tablet of our illustrious townsmen and merchants. This tender flush will be made available in all find ships and taverns and within the year we will shirley draw crows of gentlemen and ladies from the neighbouring tons to sample of our find product.”

    • themagicviolinist

      It pains me to see these typos, too.

      I found “angel” was supposed to be “angle.” I thought “fassion” was supposed to be “fashion” but now that doesn’t sound right. “Woman” was supposed to be “women.” “Distateful” was supposed to be “distasteful.” “Bred” was supposed to be “bread.” Was “bear” supposed to be “bare”? “For” was turned into “fir.” “Better” turned into “butter.” Is “soot covered” supposed to have a hyphen in between the words? I always forget. “Bit” was supposed to be “but.” The sentence that ends “their duly acquired mark.” is supposed to have a question mark. “Living” instead was “loving.” “Meat” was turned into “meet.” “Mist” was supposed to be “most.” “Proud” was turned into “prod.” “Mucking” was supposed to be “mocking.” “Bow” was turned into “bot.” “-Ivanoff” is missing a comma before the quotation mark. “Good” instead was “god.” (I make that mistake all the time). I think “half smiled” is missing a hyphen, as well. “Shoring” was supposed to be “showing.” “Form” was supposed to be “from.” “Aged” was supposed to be “ages.” “On” was supposed to be “one.” “Flush” was supposed to be “flesh.” “Shirley” was supposed to be “surely.” “Neighbouring” was supposed to be “neighboring.” “Tons” was supposed to be “towns.” “Find” was supposed to be “fine.”

      Did I find them all? :D

      • Missaralee

        I think you only missed “hot dresser”. You also found some I didn’t intend to make! I admit I’m a little iffy with hyphens. Also, I’m Canadian, so the extra “u” in words like colour and neighbour are intentional. Cool, eh?

        • http://twitter.com/JewelsCat Giulia Esposito

          I’m iffy with hyphens too. I wouldn’t have written half smiled as half-smiled either. My American friends find all the u’s in words like colour annoying whenever I email them. Though I’m sometimes annoyed by the amount of z’s the British turn into s’s…

        • themagicviolinist

          Ah, I knew color was something that a “u” was added on to but I didn’t know neighbour was. Interesting.

  • themagicviolinist

    Ugh. I hate typos. My favorite one was someone talking about “Hairy Potter.” Looks like the boy who lived needs a good shave.

    These few paragraphs are from a book I’m writing about students with eyes that let them have magical abilities. They go to a special school called “Oculus Academy.” There are three typos in this practice. See if you can find them! :D

    A wolf pranced on me when I wasn’t paying attention and knocked me over. I let out a gasp of surprise and pain as the wolf dug its nails into my leg. I looked around frantically for something that would help me and noticed the stone broccoli that Heather was still holding. I concentrated on moving it and it launched itself at the wolf’s head. He whined and staggered sideways, giving me time to wrestle it to the ground. It faught hard, trying to snap at my hands.
    “A little help here?” I said through gritted teeth, glancing at the girls and Quinn.
    Tiffany managed to create a mini sun that shone straight into the wolf’s eyes. The wolf howled, squinting its red eyes shut, momentarily blinded. It was easier to stay on top of it now. Flora created a pile of leaves that began to swirl around the wolf’s head, whacking every bit of fur it could reach. The wolf, still squeezing its eyes shut, bit every leaf that came close to its mouth. Heather managed to create a giant turkey, which was quickly turned to stone by Quinn. I stared hard at it and dropped it on the wolf’s head. The wolf howled and rolled over, disappearing just like the other wolf had in a shower of sparks.
    I stood up, somewhat shakily, and looked around. The students were fighting with everything they had but the wolves kept attacking. I kept my eye on Matthew and realized he was not only controlling the wolves, he was creating more. Every time one wolf was defeated another once appeared.
    “Hazel!”
    I turned my hear to face Josh who was running for me. I opened my mouth to ask him what was the matter when he turned sideways and slammed right into me, knocking me onto the ground. Two wolves, spit frothing at the sides of their mouths and growling ferociously, leaped into the air exactly where I had been standing moments before.
    “Thanks,” I said.
    “I saw it coming,” Josh said with a shrug. “Ms. Marmalade talked to me yesterday about using my powers. I can’t do much besides prevent what’s about to happen.”
    “How far into the future can you see?” I asked.
    “Only a few minutes into the future at the most right now,” Josh said, frowning a little. “Ms. Marmalade said my powers will strengthen with time and practice. Sometimes I have to work hard to see what’s about to happen and sometimes I just see what’s happening without trying to.”

    • http://twitter.com/JewelsCat Giulia Esposito

      This is FILLED with typos, too many to list. The one’s that annoyed me the most were its when it should have been it’s and the ones were they made the sentence lose all meaning for me. Great practice!

      • themagicviolinist

        Thanks! :D I made three huge ones and a few smaller ones.

  • chelseih

    Ahh. Typos. When I’m writing an article that I use the word “shirt” a lot, I’m always afraid I’ll return the piece to a client without as many r’s as it needs.

    • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

      That is when “file find” is your friend. ;)

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Ha. Nice.

  • http://twitter.com/JewelsCat Giulia Esposito

    I also hate typos. I once read my way through a poorly edited ebook and had to school myself into reading around the typos instead of mentally correcting them. They drive me nuts. Not that I’m not guilty of them myself, I’m horrid when it comes to typos. And I don’t think the technology age is solely to blame. I’m always leaving out words when I write with pens, or worse, adding on e’s to every other word. I think the best “typo” I ever saw was a little kid who wrote “the penis” instead of “the pen is”. I wasn’t exactly sure how to point out that error to a grade one student, so I began to seriously emphasize the importance of placing spaces between words.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      That’s hilarious, Giulia.

      • http://twitter.com/JewelsCat Giulia Esposito

        I know, I almost died laughing when I read it. It was a moment of what I like to call readers whiplash.

    • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

      Reader whiplash-nice! I add “e”s to the end of words a lot too. My biggest (most published) typo when typing on my computer is my/by… On my phone, well, that’s a different story.

      • http://twitter.com/JewelsCat Giulia Esposito

        Oh, the things I’ve typed wrong on the phone….

    • http://www.facebook.com/karl.tobar Karl Tobar

      I don’t know about you guys but I tend to speed-write when I write checks. So I’ll skip the word “hundred” or the word “fifty” whatever, so I end up with a bill that says 130.00 but I wrote “one thirty dollars.” I really mess up a lot when writing by hand :(

      • http://twitter.com/JewelsCat Giulia Esposito

        Well, I’ve never done that with cheques, but yeah, I often speed write by hand. Amazing I can read it. I sometimes prefer the pen though if I’m stuck creatively, it juices up the inspiration for me.

  • Li

    His house pants turned yellow. I watered them nearly every time I was thirsty. The globe terrarium looks more like a fish tank now than the tropics. He will see I am a good domestic and love me as a mother. And I will be stuck in the mirk of his changing pants, sopping and limp.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      I water those pants every time I get thirsty too. Sometimes a few hours after I’ve had something to drink, too.

  • http://twitter.com/NomDePlume Susan Leigh Babcock

    I’m enjoying this thread, as well as the original post. My most embarrassing typo (my most common one is “withe” — an actual word — when I mean to type “with the,” and which I also do when writing by hand) was a text I sent to a friend: “I hate feeling so fat.” Except I messed up and touched “g” instead of an “f” on my damn iPhone, and Damn Autocorrect turned it into “gay.” That wouldn’t have been so bad if my friend weren’t . . . gay!

    • http://twitter.com/NomDePlume Susan Leigh Babcock

      Oh, and I meant to add that hyphens are impossible! You really have to look them up. It’s something of a moving target, and there’s no way to know every one in every circumstance. That should make us all feel better. In other words, this is a feel-good comment ;)

    • Li

      Very funny! Auto correct causes me a lot of paranoia. It really doesn’t trust me at all.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Oh no! Have you seen this, Susan? http://www.autocorrectfail.org/

      Your story belongs there!

  • Janet B

    Every year at graduation, public schools miss the L. Either on the marquee, or on the announcement. ; ) Uh,oh!

    • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

      I had a professor who did this on the marker board in class once.

  • http://www.elizabethingersoll.blogspot.com/ Beth Ingersoll

    I wrote a rant about this very topic for an assignment on Tribe Writers recently. Typos drive me crazy!!!

  • http://www.youngaspiringwriter.blogspot.com/ Chihuahua Zero

    This happened with me yesterday with the blog post on my blog, on books being used as decor.

    After using the word “piece” multiple times (as in, books being cut up into art), I ended up typing the phrase “world piece”. My dad was the first one to point it out, followed by another person.

    Also, I mixed up the words “ethic” and “ethnic” on a post on biracial characters in YA. A commentor used this as a chance to make a The Princess Bribe reference.

    At least my readers notice.

  • Armada Volya

    I had my character hit a wooden stake with a mullet.

    • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

      LOL. I wanted him to hit a woolen steak.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Business in the front, hammer in the back.

  • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

    I had a friend whose facebook status once read, “Let us sever the Lord together”… yeah, he meant “serve.”

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Actually, you look like a Kaite.

  • http://twitter.com/Karoline_Ott Karoline

    I just discovered a typo in my story where I had meant to write, “He truly did miss his sister,” and instead wrote, “He truly did miss his sinister.” Haha! Very different things!

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      We all miss his sinister, Karoline. You need to bring it back.

  • Hesthermay

    My most recent, somewhat funny typos include…

    – “hurling a fallen tree” instead of “hurdling”

    – “dropping two Aspirins into his head” instead of “hand”

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Wow. You’re so strong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karl.tobar Karl Tobar

    I wish I had done this sooner this is one of my favorite topics!

    Here’s some paragraphs of mine:

    Driving down the freeway in the dead of night is dangerously relaxing. Tunnel vision sets in as Pink Floyd sings about being comfortable. The black sky revels
    nothing. The white lines and mile markers are illuminated by headlights. The white lines keep coming and coming. Eyelids become heavy. There’s a bright green sign on the right, but he didn’t read it because he knew what it
    said. Then there was the stench.

    It smelled like what Jack imagined a squid would smell like if you cut it open and
    left it in a hot car all day. The smell made him wince. His nose tried to retreat into his face. Then he felt the hands on his shoulders – the hands somebody that he didn’t know was in the backseat. A raspy voice said, “We’re coming over!” A wide-eyed Jack turned his head to see a decrepit, fat homeless man’s face, grinning and missing teeth. He was wearing a dirty green beanie hat and an even dirtier overcat. His hair stuck out of his hat like gray spaghetti.

    Jack’s eyes shot open. His heart was racing. It was a hallucination. He looked behind him and checked his mirrors. The hands and stench were gone. Squid man was gone. Jack mumbled to himself, “Wake up, stupid. Wake up, wake up, wake up.” He sapped himself in the face a few times. “Why can’t you ever dream of pleasant things when you fall asleep at the wheel?” he scolded himself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karl.tobar Karl Tobar

    One more thing- no sooner did I check facebook after reading this post did one of my friends post this status: “…wake up earlier to scrap the crap off my car”