Why Typos?

As I’ve been reading through my own book (yes, I actually use it on a daily basis as reference), I’ve been finding typos here and there. I’ve also gotten a couple of e-mails pointing out other typos, and it really bums me out. Logically, writing over 600 pages without a mistake is probably not possible the first time around. But it still bothers me.

My initial reaction is: why didn’t the editors pick it up? Sure I wrote it, but there is a length review process before everything goes to print. The plain and simple fact is that proofreading a technical book is not so simple. You can’t accurately rely on Microsoft Word’s spell and grammar checking because of all the code that’s intermixed with regular text. The alternative is to have someone read it line by line and fix mistakes, but who has time for that?

I know a lot of the typos are related to either code examples or descriptions of code examples, but thankfully all of the sample code still works. All I can hope is that the book sells enough to warrant a second edition where I can fix these mistakes.

Update: Jim (my editor) takes some of the blame on his blog for the technical editing mistakes. Like I said, I don’t feel like there’s any one person to blame, but it’s nice to know I’m not standing in front of the firing squad by myself. Thanks Jim. :)

Comments

  1. tim from philly

    I&#039ve noticed the error, but I&#039ve otherwise been pleasantly surprised with your book. I don&#039t mean that to sound like a backhanded compliment, it&#039s just that there are so few good javascript books that address the professional scripter. So more kudos to you!

    As for the errors, I wonder why someone couldn&#039t read it line by line? Isn&#039t that what technical reviewers do? (forgive me: I&#039m not at all familiar with the publishing industry). Also, maybe I&#039m the exception but I&#039ve never had *that* much of a problem with mistakes as long as there is a good errata page--one that is maintained! I become frustrated when there are mistakes (especially in code), and you can&#039t get in touch with the author, there are no forums, or the book lacks a regularly updated supporting website. Larry Ullman (php books) comes to mind as one who really does it the right way (sorry, different publisher :) ).

    FWIW, I&#039ve gotten to the point where I assume wrox books are going to be riddled with errors. I notice you have a forum (haven&#039t needed to post yet), and you&#039re obviously accessible, so I think you&#039re doing all you can do. So I hope you take this as more of a criticism of your publisher and not you, and I understand you might not want to reflect negatively on them, but I will. They have always had problems in that area.

  2. Nicholas C. Zakas

    Tim - I guess in a perfect world everyone would have time to read the books that are put out line-by-line, but I just don&#039t see it as reality. Unless I could get my dad (who is a professional proofreader) technically trained and have him proofread my stuff, I just don&#039t think producing an error-free book can happen in one cycle. As an author, it&#039s definitely frustrating to have mistakes in the final copy, especially since I had so many people look over the rough drafts before the chapters were officially sent in for publishing, but at this point the cat is out of the bag so there&#039s no reason to point fingers.

    For what it&#039s worth, I&#039ve sent in a bunch of errata requests to Wrox to put up on the errata page. I&#039m also thinking of starting my own errata page here. I&#039ve also started reading the book myself to hopefully find all the mistakes I can.

    And to your point, I&#039m hoping I can be an accessible author and answer people&#039s questions when they find a mistake. Hopefully, this experience will just make my next book a more error-free endeavor.

  3. Guilherme Blanco

    Nah... don&#039t think it can happen, Tim.

    I remembered while reading PHP - The Bible by Tim Converse & Joyce Park... I documented all errors in the book, the correction and when I finish reading it I sent it to the authors and publish industry... 2 editions have been released, I checked both and the comments and correction I made were useless... they do not correct it.

    So, document 458 errors, explain all of them and suggest correction were useless.

    Maybe Nicholas is more interested than Tim and Joyce, basically because he already listened my suggestions or anything. But it&#039s very difficult to find a person that read the book line by line as I did in the past and documented all errors. I can tell you that it&#039
    s just for crazy people (huh?!) and that have nothing more to do.

    Cheers,

    Gui Blanco

  4. tim from philly

    Guilherme - I AM crazy! AND I have nothing more (better?) to do...Just kidding. :-) (or maybe not)

    I hear what you guys are saying, and I understand. I can say that with books I&#039ve read in the past, as long as I had easy access to correct(ed) code and other errata, I&#039ve never really thought twice about mistakes. And I realize it&#039s not possible to put out a totally error free publication.

    Nicholas - I think your putting up your own errata page is a great idea (if permitted)--or maybe post them on the forum.

    Not to take up too much more time, as I&#039ve made my point...but, I think when authors engender a sense of community and classroom spirit, even among their professional readership, it goes a long way. Thinks like this weblog, a forum, timely errata pages, easy access to clean code, and when all else fails email, make for an enjoyable learning experience. It also reminds me that this is ultimately a human endeavor-for both you and the readers.

    Looking forward to a possible project-based book...Thanks, Tim

  5. Nicholas C. Zakas

    Tim, don&#039t sweat it. I completely understand what you&#039re saying. I&#039m just trying to be as receptive and accepting of my own mistakes as I can. Don&#039t hesitate to contact me if you find any specific mistakes you think should be brought to my attention.

    Guilhereme, if you want to send me a list of all the mistakes you find, I&#039d certainly be grateful and take them into account if/when the next edition is written. :)

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