Monday, June 4, 2018

My Least and Most Favorite Typos

Annamaria on Monday

Some people come into this world nicely dominant in their left brains and therefore neurologically prepared to spell well and find typos at a glance.  I am not one of those.  I am right-handed and right-footed, but left-eyed: therefore stumped by spelling and blind to bumbled typing.  My blogmate Stan Trollip can attest to my--from time to time--asking for his help to prevent embarrassing myself on this score.  He is tolerant about this.

Not so my mentor and teacher, the head of the Literature Department at the my college, Sister Mary Catharine O’Connor, who taught me creative writing.  She had two PhD’s from Columbia University—one in English Literature and one in Education.  Her short stories were published in The New Yorker.  She was brilliant and uncompromising.  When we handed in a paper, she required us to write “Proofread” on the cover page and sign our names.  And if she found a fourth typo in the paper, she stopped reading, and no matter what it contained, the paper would never get an “A.”  She despaired of me.  I still have the dictionary she gave me out of that desperation.  I revere her memory.  But nothing she did could unscramble my brain and make me good at seeing my own mistakes.

Those were the days of Olivetti portables and no spell check. 

My most inconvenient mistake came, not in school, but in an article I wrote while working in the training department of a Wall Street bank.  I had devised a program to recruit women from the welfare rolls, to teach them skills that would qualify them for jobs in the bank, and to get them on their way to supporting themselves and their families.  The banking community took an interest in the work, and I was asked to write an article describing it for an industry newspaper.  As published the article contained only one wrong letter—a “w” instead of “t.”  What I meant to say was “This program is not available to the public.”   Except that it came out “now available.”  Thousands of phone calls later. . .

Writing on a computer with spell check has improved matters measurably, but perfection still escapes me, as regular readers of this blog have undoubtedly noticed, to my great embarrassment.
My consolation is that I am not alone in this impairment.   Because misery really does love company, I am tickled by discoveries of typos in published books.  My absolute favorite is in the first edition of Bubbles, the autobiography of Beverly Sills.  Knowing how I loved the opera and admired Ms. Sills, my mother-in-law gave me a copy one Christmas.  The first line reads, “I was only three years old the first time I sang in pubic.”  TEEHEE!

It was easy for me to spot that one because it was not my own sentence I was reading.  I had a very close call with a highly embarrassing similar error.  I was reading page proofs of my third novel Blood Tango.  Luckily I caught the mistake before the book went to print.  In that case it was a mistake that was not in my original submission.  I have not idea how it happened.  Again, just one letter was wrong: an “r” had been substituted for an “s.”  And in the the worst possible sentence.  Near the bottom of page 15, a paragraph began, “But Tulio Puglisi knew in his boner that stopping Evita could turn out to be . . .” 

These are my least and most favorite such mistakes.  What are yours?

Upcoming Event for Annamaria:

June 26: 7:30PM
Summit Free Public Library
75 Maple St
Summit, NJ 07901


  1. My all time worst was a character who was not phased by a bad event. That horror got through both of us, the editor and the copy editor. Not the readers though!

    1. That must have been in your Star Trek novel, Michael.

  2. If I believed in God, I'd think that Donald Trump was one of God's typos...

  3. Michael, it was Stan who warned me, at the end of The Blasphemers, that I needed to pay attention to the fallout from the climactic event. He not only saved me from the mistake you describe, but the repair of the damage turned into a major theme in the upcoming A Death on the Lord’s Day. AND you asked, in a Big Thrill interview, whether Kwai Libazo would ever be a main character in one of the series stories. I was intrigued by that possibility. I figured I would make that happen in one of the WWI stories later in the sequence. But—as happens in my process—Kwai had his own idea. He emerged in that role in the upcoming book, with a surprising revelation in the very first scene. What a gift to me it is to have such friends to inspire me!

  4. EvKa, In the face of out nation’s current insanity, I wish I still believed in prayer.