January 15, 2013

Spell check and then check again - Tracy Krauss

This month our lovely moderator, Brenda Leyland, asked us to share
an anecdote of some publishing or editorial incident that still makes you chuckle, cringe, or cry. I knew exactly the story I would share.

Here's a funny story (although it was disconcerting, too) about the difference between ebooks and print books. A reader contacted me when he was reading WIND OVER MARSHDALE to let me know that he found two errors in the book. Both of them used the word 'sBillyach' instead of 'stomach', and as he surmised, it was because of a 'find and replace' done on the book.

Originally, one of the minor characters was named Tom Chang. My editor felt that this was too similar to the main character's name 'Thomas'. (Rightly so.) I changed Tom Chang's name to Billy Chang.

You guessed it. I didn't specify my search enough and every time the letters 'tom' appeared in the manuscript, it inserted 'Billy'.  Think of the possibilities: stomach, tomorrow, stomp... it seemed the list was endless! Naturally, another spell check was in order, and I was able to fix the problem. Or so I thought. I guess even after the most diligent checking, a couple of mistakes still slipped by.

Here is the good news. I contacted my publisher and she fixed it quite easily since the book was still only available in its e-version. This would not be possible with a print book. Either you'd be stuck with a run of books that had the error, or, even in the case of Print-On-Demand publishing, it would cost to get it fixed. (Probably at my expense since I did sign off on the galley.)

Lesson learned? Spell check twice.


  1. I do a lot of medical writing, and liberal use of the F3 key to spell out abbreviations sometimes results in bery strange typos indeed. Spell check doesn 't help me much, though, because it thinks most of the medical terms are errors, so I just have to proof read carefully.
    God bless,

  2. Hi Tracy,

    I read the same version apparently as your other reader and came across those errors. To be honest, it gave me quite a chuckle every time. I knew what had happened because the same thing has happened to me. When I thought I was being so brilliant and saving time by using that Find and Replace thing it actually took me longer to search and fix all the automatic insertion errors. Oh well, don't worry. I didn't hold it against you. I've read other e-books with exactly the same problem. It's a learning curve we're all experiencing together! And we're probably all having a good giggle over it.
    Pam M.

  3. Well that is odd.... my comment didn't post. So I'll try again.

    Tracy, I had a good chuckle on this one.....that reader must have been scratching his head on trying to figure out what 'sBillyach' was supposed to be.

    I'm still laughing. A good reminder to proof-read after we make changes.

  4. My first reaction: was is supposed to be "bellyache"?
    No spell check is intuitive.

  5. Someone asked if it was something unique to Canadian culture!

  6. I've never used search and replace, because of this sort of thing happening. I have come across it editing for someone else. She changed a character's name from Rick to Roger, and so every time there was a word with rick, like brick or trick, I'd be finding bRoger or tRoger.

  7. That's funny William! I've snce discovered that you have to be very specific in your search and specify 'exact spelling', not 'find and replace all'... then of course, another spell check is in order just in case!


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