According to Amazon, more Kindle books are returned due to bad spelling and grammar than for any other reason.
It’s not hard to see why the Kindle in particular should be so singularly prone to typos.
- Authors are human (mostly), and make mistakes.
- The rush to publish and the DIY nature of the Kindle process means that many authors are dispensing with the quality control processes which were integral to the traditional publishing process. Specifically, instead of using the publishing house’s professional copy-editors they are correcting their own manuscripts which, as I know only too well, is almost impossible to do successfully.
Copy-editors are trained to pick up those howlers and faux-pas that slip unnoticed into the work of lesser mortals. Most professional organisations wouldn’t dream of publishing or releasing any information before it had been throughly checked over for errors by copy-editors or other specialists.
Which makes the following blunders and boo-boos as puzzling as they were expensive.
Back in 2010, Penguin Australia had to pulp 7000 copies of ‘The Pasta Bible’ because it contained a receipe for tagliatelle and sardines which called for ‘salt and freshly ground black people. . .’ It should, of course, have read black pepper.
The most expensive hyphen in history
On July 22, 1962 Mariner 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral, marking the United States’ first attempt at an inter-planetary mission. Unfortunately a hyphen had been ommitted from the coded computer instructions, resulting in incorrect guidance signals being sent to the spacecraft. (Actually there was some speculation that the problem might have been caused by an ‘overbar transcription error’—whatever that is—or even a misplaced decimal point, but the missing hyphen was the most likely culprit. Either way it was an editing error.) As a result, five minutes after launch the Range Safety Officer issued the destruct command and the $80 million spacecraft was blown to smithereens. The spelling error ended up costing each and every US taxpayer about one dollar each.
How’s this for a high profile spelling mistake?
In 2008, 1.5 million Chilean 50 peso coins were released with the South American country’s name spelled as ‘Chiie’ instead of ‘Chile’. The mistake was not caught until a coin collector reported the error. By that time, 1.5 million coins were already distributed to the public. Although the mint has so far refused to remove the coin from circulation the mistake has caused the country significant embarrassment, and several Chilean mint employees lost their jobs because of this massive error.
It’s unlikely that any of us Kindle writers will be responsible for howlers on the same scale as these, but maybe we should learn from them.
If the people responsible for such important projects as these can make such gigantic cock-ups, what chance have we got to catch our own mistakes unaided?
So get a professional copy-editor to check your manuscript. Don’t be tempted to scrimp on this stage.
You may not lose a million dollars. But it might cost you your reputation.