would a spelling mistake in a book make you stop reading it?

Until my friend, who is French, pointed out the spelling mistake* in the sign above, I had never noticed it. Now whenever I walk past it, I have a chuckle to myself. Does it matter there is a tiny error in the spelling of one of the words? In the great scheme of things, probably not. But what if there’s a spelling mistake in a book you are reading? For me, no matter how wonderful the book, a spelling mistake reminds me of the mechanics of the writing and jolts me out of the fantasy of the story. I can forgive one mistake. More than one, however, and I begin to doubt the writer’s ability to write and I want to stop reading. That’s why we (that’s me and my publisher) go to such lengths to get the words in my books right. This is the stage we are at with my latest novel Food Of Ghosts. I hate this part of being a writer because I am useless at it!  No matter how hard I try (and don’t talk to me about spell checks programmes!), at least one pesky mistake always remains undetected, if not two or three or four. That’s why, when I’m finally done, a proof reader always checks my manuscript again. This takes time and effort, and usually money. Not all writers and publishers, especially self-published writers and small Indie publishers, can afford to do this. Some of them argue spelling mistakes shouldn’t matter, that it’s more important to get the story out to the public and if there are a few mistakes in the script, so what? I’m not convinced. For me the words have to be as  error free as possible. If that requires more effort and time, then it does. What do you think?  Would you  still read a book if it had more than a few spelling mistakes in it?

*If you can spot the spelling mistake in the sign above, do let us know 🙂

And how good is your knowledge of Edinburgh? Anyone know where the picture was taken?

To thank you for taking the time to comment, your name will go in a hat and at the end of the month of July one lucky winner will receive a copy of The Blue Suitcase.

Last but not least, a big well done to Adrienne Allan our June winner of The Blue Suitcase!


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14 Responses to would a spelling mistake in a book make you stop reading it?

  1. Adrienne Allan says:

    Hi Marianne. First of all, let me say I am delighted to win a copy of The Blue Suitcase. Secondly, I am reading this post on my BlackBerry so the screen is too small to spot the spelling mistake. It would annoy me intensely if there were spelling mistakes in a book as it would ‘break the spell’ for me. I tend to lose myself completely in the story when I am reading but being of a pedantic nature an error like a spelling mistake would be very noticeable. One mistake would be irritating but any more than that would completely spoil the story for me. I passionately believe that printed books in any format should be error free otherwise someone hasn’t been doing there job properly. I have been disappointed recently to find that one of my favourite authors posts error-strewn messages on Twitter. All the spelling mistakes have made me think differently about her books now.

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Great to hear from you Adrienne. If you send me your address, I’ll get the book out to you today 🙂 And do let me know if you want me to dedicate it to yourself!

      As a reader, spelling errors in a book annoy me incredibly. Like you, I want to immerse myself in whatever story I am reading. An error distracts me incredibly, this even though I am the world’s worst writer when it comes to making mistakes – although I think the mistakes are more due to making typos when editing and rewriting (which is what writing is all about) rather than not being able to spell. The funny thing is, I can usually see errors in someone else’s work straight away, but miss them in my own, which is why I think a good proof reader is worth her or his weight in gold 🙂

  2. Isobelle Lauder says:

    Until recently I would have said that spelling mistakes would not stop me reading a book but very recently I read a short story that had spelling mistakes and it spoiled my enjoyment and I became critical of the writing as well as the spelling! So I would say it would irritate me to read a book with spelling mistakes and I would stop reading it.

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Hi Isobelle, thanks for your comment. Words are such powerful things, aren’t they? A misspelling seems such a small thing, but it has such a big impact on the reader. I think it’s the way the magic of words work – when we are watching a film or listening to a story we are instantly engaged. But to enjoy the written word we have to create images in our heads with the words before we can enjoy them. It’s a delicate process and when a misspelled word interrupts it, we have to start all over again. If it happens too many times, it can sometimes simply not seem worth the effort. Thanks again!

  3. Sue B says:

    I think the accent should be over the first ‘e’ in ‘crepe. Or maybe a circumflex? It doesn’t look right anyway…explains why your French friend spotted it! The way it is, you would have to pronounce the final ‘e’. CrepAY!
    Spelling and grammar errors drive me crazy, whatever I’m reading. My friends make fun of me because I never shorten words in a text message and always use punctuation. I’d stop reading a book if there were lots of errors, but I’d forgive one (or maybe two) if I was really into the story by then.

  4. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Hi Sue, thanks for comment. Yes you are right 🙂 My French chum says the same: the accent should be over the first e. As it is, the word is pronounced, as you rightly say, as crepAY, which is not a word in French at all. Ha ha! It’s incredible how such little markings can make such a big difference.

    I don’t shorten my texts either, although I have started to use 4 for ‘for’ and 2 for ‘to’. But only sometimes ;o) This does mean it takes me ages to text though. My children say that’s because I am not texting but emailing ha ha! Thanks again!
    ps I will forgive one or two errors too, especially after finding a spelling mistake in the first print run of The Blue Suitcase. Agh!!!! It was corrected in the later print runs. Phew!!!

  5. Kate Adamson says:

    I spotted it but I see I was beaten to it! The book that most annoyed me for errors was the one of the Stephen Fry series about language! The book was poetry poor anyway, but the number of spelling mistakes made me want to throw it across the room.

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Hi Kate,
      yep, Sue pipped you at the post, next time ;o))
      I’m surprised that anything written by Mr Fry has mistakes as he seems such a language guru (not sure if that is the right word?) and so fastidious about words. I wonder if he really wrote the books or just gave permission for his name to be used? They were based on a TV series, weren’t they? So I assume researchers did all the work. Maybe the books were churned out to take advantage of the interest in the TV series? Still books on language of all things, should not have spelling mistakes in them! (of course, if the books had nothing to do with the TV series, ignore this!)
      Have you come across Mr Fry’s “The Ode Less Travelled”? And if so, how did you find it? If not, no worries ;o) Thanks for comment 🙂

      • Kate Adamson says:

        I am pretty sure it was rushed out as a TV tie-in and Stephen Fry never saw it – it’s not written by him, but by the producer (although it has SF’s picture on the front). A lot of it seems to be pretty much a transcription of the voice-over. It’s surprisingly bad. Went off to the charity shop straight after I read it because it was winding me up!

        Funny you should mention The Ode Less Travelled because I have it out of the Poetry Library just now and am on exercise 11 or 12 or something. I was planning to write a lot of fresh stuff while at Ledbury Poetry Festival last week, but got distracted by tennis and was lacking in inspiration, so doing the exercises kept me feeling like I was working on poetry to some extent! The first time I read it a few years ago, I really didn’t like it, but coming back to it after taking a poetic form class is really useful.

        • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

          Hi Kate, great to hear from you again:) I hope Ledbury visit was still worth it, despite the distraction of tennis and your inspiration going AWOL! That’s the worst thing about inspiration, the not knowing when it’s going to strike or abandon you. A great idea to keep going by doing exercises, though 🙂 I didn’t much like The Ode Less Travellend either…I thought a bit too academic for beginners, but maybe I’ll look at it again too. Thanks again!

          “If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” – Dan Poynter

          • Kate Adamson says:

            That is a fantastic quotation!

            Yes, I think it’s not a beginner book really, although he intended it to be. For beginners, I would recommend the Open University’s free OpenLearn courses – very approachable in asking ‘what is poetry’ and ‘what effect do rhythm and rhyme have’ which I think is a better entry point than straight into all the forms.

            For poetic form in general my favourite book is ‘Rhyme’s Reason’ by John Hollander. But I do like the exercises in the Fry book. I like that he usually gives you some nice mundane non-threatening topic to write about! They are really treated as exercises rather than trying to produce something poetically worthwhile straight away.

            Ledbury was good, but in a more indirect way (plenty of ideas and techniques to be going on with) rather than actually writing something valuable while I was there.

  6. Hi Marianne, to be honest one or two spelling mistakes in a book of one hundred thousand or more words isn’t enough to put me off. But if there are many, of course it diminishes my enjoyment and its simply unprofessional on the part of everyone involved in the production of that book. But more than the mistake itself, I get frustrated when people don’t think its important to make the text as accurate as possible. Words are our business, would we be happy with any other industry that dismissed the importance of product quality?

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Hi Virginia, well said! Of course, we are all human but as writers, it is our duty to our readers to at least try to make our words as exact in every way.

      “In all of narration there is only one way to be clever and that is to be exact.” RL Stevenson

      Thanks for comment – and your name will go in the July hat for the chance to win a copy of The Blue Suitcase! 🙂

  7. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Hi Kate
    i like that quote too ;o) I used to tutor the OU online Start Writing Fiction and Start Writing Plays courses (and the online long Creative Writing A215 course). The new free open learning courses seem to be abridged versions of the old start writing series. The courses were excellent value, so I imagine the poetry one was good too. I don’t know why they stopped doing the 10 week courses ( they were very popular) in favour of the open learning tasters, though the tasters are a great idea. I think the Open University is GREAT, but the class sizes on the online short courses were a tad large. At times it seemed like conveyor belt tutoring ( which is what we don’t do with our own courses!). Thanks for pointers regards poetry books, always helpful 🙂 talk soon 🙂

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