In Your Corner: Common Spelling Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

typo errors spelling mistakes

Have you ever made a spelling mistake?

Well, you’re human (probably), so I’m going to guess that you have. I definitely have. Just the other day, a friend went through a chapter of my latest manuscript and pointed out at least five typos and other errors which had slipped entirely by me.

So, how do we avoid these pesky little guys, spelling mistakes?

The first step is to recognize them for what they are: your brain being highly efficient, not deficient. Research indicates that typos and other errors rarely come from a lack of knowledge or training, but rather from the brain being focused on something else, like narrative, plot, characters, time management, and so on and so forth. These are higher order processes, really quite sophisticated, and as such they take a lot of brain power which otherwise might be spent looking for other things, like typos. Your brain is a beautiful and efficient thing, with certain priorities it doesn’t always share with you, but that’s okay. Just … don’t kick yourself too hard for each typo your friends catch when they read your manuscript. (Yes, I tell myself this, too. Every day.)

The second step is to know which mistakes are the most common. That way, you’ll be–yes–more efficient at catching them. There are struggles that come from words being similar in shape and sound but having different meanings, like foreword and forward. This is called a homophone error. One implies direction (forward) and one is a structural component of a book which serves as a preface or introductory note, usually including the “whys” and “wherefores” of the thing. Complimentary and complementary are also homophones. One means to deliver praise (complimentary) and one means to accessorize well or that one thing works well with another, as in complementary colors. These kinds of errors are what Google was invented for; never be ashamed to look up a word if you’re afraid you might not be catching all of its nuances!

Other common errors include trouble with suffixes and morphemes (substituting “-able” and “-ible” or “-ance” and “-ence”), defying the so-called ‘laws’ of spelling (i before e except after c, u always follows q, et cetera), mixing up how to pluralize tricky words ending in f or y, and composing adverbs. These are common struggles, particularly for people who did not learn English as their first language, and the only way to improve on these is to keep writing. A lot. And to keep a reference guide on hand, like this Business Insider article on these language acquisition-related errors. And again, don’t feel shame about hopping on Google for these.

The third step is to fix the errors yourself, if you can. Don’t rely on spell check for this, since Microsoft Word and other word processors rarely understand nuance, or know how a whole sentence fits together and which words do not fit. (Sometimes it will highlight perfectly acceptable sentences as grammatically broken, and not highlight sentences which need some work.) You should always proofread your work, but you want to make sure you do this after you finish getting all of the ideas out of your head. Some people prefer to set aside five or ten minutes after each daily writing session for this process, but the ideal time is after the whole manuscript is done and you can sit down and do it all at once. That way, you won’t struggle with continuity issues. Also, it’s just … more efficient! Keep a reliable resource to hand–something more comprehensive than that BI article, like the Chicago Manual of Style (there are pocket editions) or the Associated Press Style Book. I really like the MLA Pocket Style Manual, which is what I used in college. They’re updated every couple of years, these resources, so update your collection appropriately.

The fourth and final step is knowing when to let go. As in, when it will be more useful and efficient to place your manuscript into the hands of a professional editor. Trust me, this is no easy decision! The tendency is to feel resentment, or fear that the editor will change the material substance of your work in a way that will make it … less yours. But that’s not what editors are for, much less copyeditors, the professionals who dedicate their lives to examining other peoples’ writing on the sentence level. Know the difference before you go in–we’ve written about editors vs. copyeditors here on SPA before–and choose accordingly. But do choose! Friends and family make for excellent first readers, but you really do need that trained eye on your work if you want to catch the peskiest of all errors, because your readers will find (and mind) them even if your friends and family don’t.

Writing is hard. Finding errors is harder still. But …

You are not alone. ♣︎


ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

From the Archives: “There’s a Problem with Your Book”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: March 1st, 2011 ]

Your book published. Your family and friends have bought it. You’re excited…until they call you to tell you there were so many grammatical errors in the book that it was difficult to finish reading. “Oh no, I should have paid for copyediting”. Now you run the risk of “looking” unprofessional in the author community.

Too often authors are faced with the decision to either save their pennies or invest in editing services. They decide to bypass the editing. Fast forward to publication and many authors wish they would have made the extra investment. Even if you have gone through your manuscript with a fine tooth comb and had friends or family look it over, you’re almost guaranteed to find mistakes at publication. As a matter of fact, when you pay for professional copyediting services, the editor normally still has a 5% margin for error. With that margin of error from fresh and professionally trained eyes, imagine the level of error from amateur and familiar eyes.

When asked what they would have done differently when self-publishing their book, most authors agree they would have invested more money into professional copyediting and customizing their book cover.

So, I’m sold on the need for copyediting service, what do I need to know about working with an editor? Here are a few tips/things to keep in mind when you hire an editor:

  • Proofread and spell-check your work before sending it to an editor.
  • Remember that Editors are human and many work with about a 5% margin of error.
  • There are different levels of editing intensity: basic, moderate, and extensive.
  • Basic copyediting typically catches about 70% of errors in a manuscript.
  • As a self-publishing author, don’t focus on what the editor didn’t find, but rather what WAS found.
  • Review your manuscript again after you receive it from the editor to check for errors they may have missed.

If you want to be a successful author, it is important that you take the publishing process very seriously. That includes investing extra money into creating a polished product.

by Cheri Breeding

The topic of copyediting and the professional-grade book is not a new one to us here at Self-Publishing Advisor, but back in 2011 when Cheri first wrote her post it was not yet the standard by which most indie books were judged.  Since then, the industry has evolved, and we’ve written several times to try and sort out what copyediting might mean to the current aspiring self-publishing author.  (You can read those posts here and here.)


Because we tackle this topic on a regular basis, it’s less helpful to rehash those posts than it is to do something a little different: I want to show you the difference between a professionally designed and copyedited book and one that hasn’t seen as much love and care put into its production.

Let’s start with covers.  To start, first let me say that it’s no exaggeration that there are two terribly designed self-published book covers out there for every good one.  All you have to do is look at the templates people are choosing from …

… to see why this is so easily and so often the case.  A professionally designed cover makes all the difference to your book’s impact on potential readers, and all the difference as to whether they actually choose to pay to purchase it.  Here are two neat examples of self-published books I’ve seen recently that I felt immediately drawn to for no other reason than the fact they are beautifully designed:

What I love most about these two examples is that they put the lie to any claim that genre fiction leans easily toward poor design.  Cazanav’s book is billed as paranormal fantasy, and Taylor’s as literary fiction––but if anything, Cazanav’s is sharper, more specific, and more revealing of the book’s content and tone.  That’s a good move!

So, let’s assume you’re sold on a professionally-designed cover.  What happens when you crack the spine and turn to the first page?  Does anything change?  Yes and no.  As Kyle Beshears writes on his blog, there’s real value to investing time and money into getting the exact design you want inside of your book as well as out.  Beshears chronicles his entire journey to self-publication, and points out that his choices––which always involved taking the cheapest option, even if it meant sacrificing untold hours of time and labor for his entire family––is not, in the end, a path worth following for many indie authors.


Just getting the title page of his book to look the way he wanted (above, on the right) was a lengthy struggle.  Paying a little money up front doesn’t just ensure you get the design you want––it ensures you have an active advocate or team of advocates working for you and on your behalf to make sure your book is as beautiful as you’ve always hoped.

On a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, copyediting does for your sentences what a graphic designer does for your cover––which is to say, a copyeditor will whip your lines into shape and help you revise your book into something even stronger, and more compelling, than you could do on your own.  Relying on friends and family to be early readers is a good move, but relying on them to bring the same expertise and incisive vision as a career copyeditor who has been in the publishing industry for years and years is not such a good move.  Copyediting isn’t about changing what you do––it’s about making sure you create the best book possible and shifting some of the burden of perfection and hyperspecific industry insight off of your shoulders so that you can spend more time doing what you love: writing new books!

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

In Your Corner : Speaking Out and Speaking Strong

For those of you who are new to self-publishing and who are new to writing book-length manuscripts as well, the act of cultivating of a resoundingly authentic and consistent voice can present a particularly difficult (and ongoing!) struggle.  What is voice?  And how do we go about cultivating one, much less stick with it through chapter after chapter while negotiating other, competing concerns?

Voice, simply put, is your personality made manifest in the style, characterization, plotting, and point of view that emerges over the course of your book.  Voice is the unique approach that distinguishes one author from another, even when they’re writing the same story.  Voice sets Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red apart from Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet apart from Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber apart from the Brother’s Grimm and their transcription of the original Red Riding Hood tale.  Distinctive voices allow us to revisit even a familiar, beloved storyline and get something new from it each and every time.

But authors are very rarely the written equivalent of a Maybelline commercial: nobody, and I repeat, nobody is “born with it” in the sense that a kitten is born adorable and fire is born when a lit match touches a candlewick.  Which is not to say any of us use cosmetics companies as standards for authorial experience, but we do sometimes fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to other authors that we respect and admire as if those authors were delivered into the universe with the tools and skill and voice requisite to connect them with their readers in later life.  It simply doesn’t happen that way!  And a captivating voice, like every other aspect of good writing, takes time and work to acquire.

david mccullough

In order to develop clear thinking and therefore a clear voice, an author must do two things that might, at first glance, seem contradictory: pay close attention to detail, and relax into the writing process.  Whoa there, you’re thinking.  I can’t do both at the same time!  And this may in fact be true: everyone’s writing process looks different.  (And mine, I must admit, even looks different from one day to the next.)  Whether you apply yourself to both of these things at the same time or separately doesn’t matter so much as ensuring that you do them both at some point.  And I personally lean heavily towards relaxing first, and then applying a microscope later––but some authors prefer to go into the drafting stage with a rigorous outline and a bundle of research already in hand, which is perfectly wonderful too.

The benefit of paying close attention is that you’ll notice when your voice changes.  I find this particularly applies when reading aloud a passage I’ve written, although that might take more time than you have if you’re reading an entire manuscript.  Keep a weather eye out for shifts in tense, plurality, characterization, and vocabulary as well as sentence structure as you go along––a sudden jump in any of these things can give a reader pause, and halt the flow of your prose.  And sometimes, these shifts slide completely under the radar; after months or even years of writing our manuscripts, we as authors simply cannot edit our own books!  It becomes impossible to hold both the big picture and the finer points of editorial expertise in mind when writing––we tend to either fixate on all the little flaws that only we can see, or our eyes skip over plot holes and inconsistencies in voice because we know what’s going on and our minds fill in the gaps automatically.  This is where a professional editor, like the ones I work with over at Outskirts Press, comes in handy.

Editing is not optional for the dedicated author, but there are all sorts of reasons––including the ones stated above––why we need to seek out fresh sets of eyes in addition to our own during the editing and revision processes.  Casual editors and first readers, such as friends and family, can be useful during the early stages, but what we all really need––what self-publishing authors specifically need––is someone on hand who can recommend changes based on years of experience and a wealth of industry expertise.  Not to mention, someone who will help you spot the points in your manuscript when you need to circle back around to a consistent voice.  A good editor may recommend changes, but ultimately, the author’s wishes and vision for a book are respected––and that is what is published.  A captivating voice is, when push comes to shove, something that taps into a shared relationship between author and text … and that sort of relationship cannot be manufactured.

voice in self publishing

Which brings me to my second point.  To create a unifying and consistent voice, an author really must relax and let the inspiration flow uninterrupted.  Jack Kerouac’s On the Road may be an extreme example of continuity in writing leading to continuity in voice, but it does illustrate the point that whatever you can do to limit your exposure to emotional and physical disruptions while writing––do.  Kerouac locked himself away for three weeks while he typed up the continuous “scroll” that would eventually form the base manuscript for his book, but you don’t have to go to such extreme measures to write a good book or to relax into the writing process!  You know the boundaries of your own mind and attention best, so you know what must be done to cut through all of the white noise generated by everyday life.  And not to harp on like a broken record, but seeking a professional editor for your book will lift the burden of obsessing over the details and leave you free to do what you do best: write.  That’s it, that’s really it: you write books, and you’ll write better books when you’re “in the zone,” or when you’re physically and emotionally free to stack word on word until something beautiful and unexpectedly perfect happens––and you have a book.

Writing is hard.  Writing well is even harder.  But you have a voice that the world needs to hear, and a book that the world needs to read.  And always remember:

You’re not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Decoding the Divide Between Copyediting and Proofreading

Have you ever wondered what, exactly, is the difference between “copyediting” and “proofreading” your manuscript––and whether you ought to invest money into paying someone else to help you with one or the other?  I’ve worked with many, many self-publishing authors who have asked this exact question, and over the years I have compiled what I hope to be an answer that is both comprehensive and workable for you.  So what exactly do these two terms mean?  Let’s start with proofreading.

PROOFREADING is a catch-all term for the kind of feedback you might receive when submitting an annual financial report to your teammates or supervisor for final checks before it lands on the desk of your company’s board of directors.  That is, a proofreader generally conducts a line-by-line review of your piece with an eye for spelling, punctuation, spacing, and syntactical issues in addition to double-checking your numbers and figures are accurate and correctly used.  Proofreading is an intensive and often gut-wrenching process, but it only touches on what many authors call “superficial details”––details that may cause a reader to become stuck or bothered while thumbing through your book, but aren’t likely to require substantial revision of really “core” material.  It’s all about correcting little glitches.

COPYEDITING, on the other hand, is an altogether wilder animal.  A copy editor will look at your grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and syntax––but won’t stop for breath before diving into your manuscript format, bibliographies, references, and citations (particularly if you’re writing nonfiction).  And that’s just the beginning!  A copy editor’s job encompasses many of these finer details, it is true, but it also entails sifting through endless details that you as an author are likely unaware of or don’t have the time and/or expertise to address without sacrificing valuable writing time.  Latin abbreviations?  Check.  Foreign words?  Double check.  Proper use of quotations?  Absolutely.  Because a copy editor is working alongside the author throughout the manuscript revision process––not just showing up to make final checks before printing, like a proofreader––he or she is in a good position to comment on much more comprehensive changes, like addressing continuity errors, inconsistencies in characterization, and matters of organization.  A copy editor keeps the big picture in mind when recommending changes.

And therein lies a key difference between copyediting and proofreading: proofreaders swoop in at the last minute and fix things before they go to press without altering the greater framework of a pieces, whereas copy editors work with you throughout the revision process both to fix minor details and to suggest further revisions that you as an author may or may not be interested in making.  A pronoun/antecedent error is always going to be an error, but some things come down to a matter of taste, and you have to determine whether or not to make certain changes based on what your original (and ongoing) vision for the piece happens to be.

copywriting vs. proofreading

With these differences in mind, how do you as a self-publishing author decide what services your book actually requires, and how do you go about choosing someone to meet those requirements?  In large part, the decision may come down to time.  And by that, I mean that it may come down to what stage of the writing process you are at.  Have you already finished your manuscript and brought it to a stage that you consider fully complete and polished?  If you have, and you are looking to publish immediately without entertaining the possibility of substantial revision or editing, then you probably need to look into hiring a proofreader to scan through your work for typographical errors and so forth.  But if you have a little time, and you’re looking to publish the best possible book that creates the most memorable and pleasant experience for your readers, I cannot recommend a professional copyedit enough.  There is literally nothing, in my opinion, that will set you and your book up for ultimate success than the insight of an expert whose trained eye and experientially-honed intuition may prove to be both your staunchest ally and your secret weapon in differentiating your book from all the others out there.  And that’s really what success in self-publishing (or any kind of publishing) boils down to, isn’t it?  You want your book to stand out from the pack, and there’s no better way to do that than bringing a copy editor in on the process.

I must admit that I am not entirely unbiased when it comes to this conversation––I do work for a hybrid self-publishing company that offers professional copyediting services, after all––but I do believe that the facts and the canon of success stories in self-publishing bear me out as truthful, transparent, and utterly in your corner on this particular subject!  Because when push comes to shove, it’s not about what I want for your book that matters, much less about the bottom line and making a profit.  It’s about realizing your dream and your vision for your book, and communicating that vision to your readers in the most beautiful, professional, and captivating finished product possible.  This is your book––and most importantly of all:

You’re not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

GUEST POST: Rob Mangelson of Outskirts Press on Editing

Every once in a while, we have the pleasure of featuring a blog post written by an expert outside of our small circle here at Self Publishing Advisor.  This week, we get to hear from Rob Mangelson, an independent contractor and marketing professional affiliated with Outskirts Press, a hybrid self-publishing company based out of the Denver, Colorado area.  We’ve actually run across the folks from OP before–as recently as two weeks ago, as a matter of fact–but here we have a chance to catch a few words direct from the source, so to speak.  So with no further ado, here are some of Rob’s thoughts on the subject of editing.

A professional editor is your last, best hurdle before sending your book off to publish. While it may seem an optional service, there are compelling reasons why you may not want to think of it as “optional” – not when your reputation and product quality are at stake.


It’s humbling to submit a highly personal work to someone we imagine gleefully buying red ink by the barrel. However, in this case, red ink is your best friend. Here are three ways your investment in a professional editor will pay for itself:

  1. An editor is your best beta-tester. Your book is your product, and there’s no better way to “test” your product before it goes to market than with a professional editor – more than one editor, if it’s feasible. A test run of how your product might perform in the marketplace more than pays for itself, allowing you to tweak your writing and marketing to reach the right readers and keep them hooked once you do. In a perfect world, every publishing author would have the luxury of both an editor and a team of beta readers, but if you have to choose, hire a pro.
  2. Editors help you get your point across. You know what you mean to say – but will readers understand the ideas you’re trying to get across? There’s no way to know until you get someone “outside your head” to view your work from the perspective of a potential reader. This is one of the main missions of the editing process, and one that ensures that your words have the intended effect on the intended target audience so you can resonate with readers – and sell more books!
  3. Editors see “invisible” problems. By the time a book is close to finished and nearly ready for publication, most publishing authors have gone through it with a fine-toothed comb, often multiple times. But no matter how thoroughly and how often you review your own work, even the most conscientious authors can become blind to errors in their own prose. Even a couple of minor errors in your book can destroy your credibility and hurt your sales, making the services of a professional editor well worth a modest investment.

Remember, editors are, like you, avid readers and writers with the added advantage of having expertise in their field. Use that expertise to your advantage to get the most polished product possible. You’ll never regret it.

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with our guests and our archival visits by watching this space every Tuesday!

Self Publishing Advisor