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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

16 August, 2005

Are typos inevitable?

The consensus seems to be that a few typos may occur. I typed “ocur” here but my word-processing program promptly changed it to “occur.” So much for small mercies. We have word processors powerful enough to correct even before we notice the mistake.

Caferati was conceived as a forum to learn and to grow. I guess that purpose wouldn’t be served if someone says that if there is one typo in the contribution he/she was put off and didn’t read the entire contribution. That is not serving any purpose here.

I have read many contributions though they were replete with typos and were full of muddled thinking. I had to literally wade through the prose to find out what the writer wanted to say. But then I got all of what was being expressed and have commented, if, and, when I had the time, or, when I felt that my comment would make a difference.

Let us not be “holier than thou” here. Get this straight and let it remain in your heads always: TYPOS ARE BOUND TO HAPPEN IN ALL WRITING. Nobody can write a first draft without typos. But as we go along we should try to reduce the number of typos at least as a gesture of “courtesy” to our esteemed members, as somebody mentioned on this thread.

That said, in a literary forum like Caferati we can declare at the beginning of the contribution that this is a “work in progress” and therefore there is bound to be typos and grammatical inconsistencies. In this case the writer is merely “workshopping” his work for the views of the members. He is not presenting it to Caferati members for publication and as the moderators repeatedly point out, they don’t edit anyone’s contribution.

None other than Geoffrey Chaucer, considered the father of English poetry was a bad speller. Consider the following extract from his poem Troilus and Criseyde:

But, you lovers, that bathen in gladness,
If any drop of pity in you be,
Remembereth you on passd heaviness (Remember past sorrow)
That you have felt, and on the adversity
Of other folk; and thinketh how that ye
Have felt that Lov durst you displease, (made you suffer)
Or you have won him with too great an ease.

He writes “passd” for “past” and “Lov” for “love.”These notes were not made by me but were gleaned from a scholarly study of Chaucer by Michael Murphy (so, do not assume that I am being “holier than you”). Editing was so bad then that even bad spelling escaped the editors’ attention.

With technology came word processors and this sanctimonious obsession with, “give us flawless prose, or we won’t even look at it.”

To be fair to those who come on board to write and learn how to write, let us be generous and tolerate the typos and grammatical inconsistencies if it is mentioned at the beginning of the work that it is a “work in progress.” At least we must make that much allowance, in the common interest, as none of us here (I may be wrong!) claim to be above board as far as typos and grammar are concerned.


Blogger Ozymandias said...

You seem to have posted this to singularly provoke comment. So here goes.

Typos are inevitable. They are small mistakes after all, and several rounds of proof-reading cause fatigue. By the law of diminishing returns, more and more effort leads to lesser effort, so one or two mistakes do stay in. But that would actually be the mark of a careful writer.

Muddled thinking is very different from typos. Muddled thinking gives no hope from the writer, that what is written is comprehensible. It causes only more typos. Why write at all at the cost of clarity? A post rich in typos is like a cake rich in seams of uncooked batter. But the other extreme is zero tolerance of typos; do that if you are a zero typo writer. Let the sinless stone the sinner.

I don't agree with you John that Caferati is a place for workshopping writing. You should not be welcome here if you expect others to clean your hair. Your post must be treated as a finalised piece, and subject to review subsequently. A piece reworked to achieve greater artisitic merit is a happy re-read; but to see the idol merely polished again, what pleasure is there in that?

Finally, Chaucer (1343-1400) is free of blame. He lived and wrote in an era when English spelling was not standardised. That came after Caxton's press (1476) and Cawdrey's dictionary (1604). See this link for more facts on this. There was no way of deciding which spelling was right and which wrong. I can only consider Michael Murphy a whiggish pedant. But now there is no such excuse.

I'll conclude this way. A typo or two marks quality in either first attempt, or sincerity in presenting one's work seriously. A work in progress is sloth, a deadly biblical sin. A profusion of typographical errors is a rabid insult to the intelligence of the reader.

16 August, 2005 22:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't waste your breath, Raamesh. I smell a sloppy writer making excuses.

And this one usually manages to confuse several different arguments.


17 August, 2005 02:28  
Blogger John said...

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17 August, 2005 11:12  
Blogger John said...

Raamesh, well reasoned riposte to my article. My, you come out with arguments impossible to counter, but I will try with the meagre resources at my command.

Agree with you on most points except the one on Chaucer. What nonsense? Where did you get the idea that the origin of words "love" and "past" cannot be researched?

The word "love" originated in the eighth century and by the 14th century when Chaucer began writing the Canterbury Tales words like "love" must have been in constant use and must have been standardized.

As for you Arun, what makes you think you can make attacks like this to my person? Come on, go get your examined by your shrink, if you have one. Better still, crawl back into the woodwork from where you came, and stay there.

17 August, 2005 11:20  
Blogger manisha lakhe said...

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18 August, 2005 17:55  
Blogger manisha lakhe said...

John, if you had indeed studied Chaucer, like you say you have, you would know that the English language had not evolved to what it is today.

As far as typos go, I have to agree with Arun, typos do reflect rather poorly on those defending them.

We have all have seen your short stories. They are far superior to the rant pieces about television and typos you seem to favour lately. Has provoking a multi-comment debate become your goal now? What a pity!

18 August, 2005 17:57  
Blogger Ozymandias said...

For the debate on Chaucer, which is getting more pedantic and less literate, you must read Melvyn Bragg's The Adventure of English: (published by Hodder & Stoughton pp354; ISBN 0-340-82991-5).

18 August, 2005 18:25  
Blogger the still dancer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

22 August, 2005 19:00  
Blogger the still dancer said...

And this man presumed to offer me words of advice!!!
John, old chap, do read a bit of phonetics and the etymology of English words. You have confused the origin of certain words with the standardisation of their orthographic forms. The word "love" may have originated in the eighth century (which I doubt, because the word is Middle English in origin. The equivalent OE word was lufu), but the spelling had by no means been standardised in Chaucer's day. In fact, even in the bard's age, the symbols "u" and "v" had no clear distinction. To go back to GC, the English of his times had a much greater harmony between speech and writing, which explains spellngs such as "lov" and "passd". The latter, incidentally, is pronounced "past" and so the same spelling would have been used for both words.
As I said, this is not the space for others to alleviate your ignorance, so do educate yourself a little before prognosticating.

22 August, 2005 19:01  
Blogger John said...

So Arka, it was you masquerading as "Arun". I guessed as much. The first two letters gave you away. Since the cat is finally out of the bag, why this cowardice, why post as someone else when we know each other, at least, our blogs know each other? Is it some kind of self denial or self flagellation?

Since you are bent on pontificating further do please refer to the following piece on the origin of the word love.

"The word love goes back to the very roots of the English language. Old English lufu is related to Old Frisian luve, Old High German luba, Gothic lubo. There is a cognate, lof, in early forms of the Scandinavian languages. The Indo-European root is also behind Latin lubet 'it is pleasing' and lubido 'desire'. The word is recorded from the earliest English writings in the 8th century."

Like it or not, I don't wish to continue this discussion any further. I might lose my temper, old chappy.


23 August, 2005 14:50  
Blogger the still dancer said...

But of course you do not! Now listen, and listen well. I do not give a tuppence about your temper, but you surely have lost your mind. I have never, repeat never, in my life commented anonymously. I do not feel the need to do so, because I've never had the slightest qualms in standing up for my opinions. If an opinion requires hiding behind a facade, then in my book it is not worth proffering. How could you even dare to suggest that I had commented anonymously under a different name? If at all I was "cowardly" enough to comment anonymously, why would I need to leave a name in the first place? You surely are losing your marbles.
Now pay very close attention: by alleging that I am the person who has commented as arun (on a ground no more substantial than the fact that our names share the first two letters and also are synonymous) you have indulged in libel and defamation. I am tempted to take a very serious view of this issue, but then again, that would be stooping to you level. I will put down your behaviour to an utter lack of self-esteem and senile dementia, and accord to it the apathy it deserves, rather than give it vicarious publicity, which is what (I'm sure) you're angling for.

25 August, 2005 10:11  
Blogger John said...

Kashyapeya, you accuse me of senile dementia, a convenient ploy of avoiding the issue. I have still many more years to reach that stage. So, don’t you worry!

For a 25 year old you seem to have a lot of ego, which is bad for a writer. I am 47 and almost twice your age and I know from bitter experience. It is you who started this exchange with a condescending and provocative reply to one of my posts here.

If you harbor ambitions of making it to the Booker Prize (which you do) maybe you should be more humble. I would be glad if you make it to the Booker Prize and would applaud your effort. It is good. I think every young writer in India should have the Booker Prize as his or her ultimate aim.

But as a person who has spent more than 20 years writing, I see that your ego and your prejudice can hurt your ambition. It can make you blind to your shortcomings, of which there are many in your writing. I won’t point instances here but as an editor I can spot the weaknesses of your prose.

So pray why this unnecessary provocations? Let us shake hands and move ahead in improving our writing skills.



25 August, 2005 14:49  

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