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I, Alice

Ah, typos. So easily overlooked by the writer. So easily spotted by the reader.

Tell me you haven't done this: Written an email, thoroughly vetted it for disagreeable verb tenses and inappropriate apostrophes, only to notice, during that brief microsecond before your missive inevitably launches into cyberspace, that you left a word out.

"I think that a good idea."


It happens. Some of us catch typos more frequently than others. But some of us don't even care, anymore.

I recently read an article about how the apostrophe is becoming obsolete, simply due to the extra step it requires to toggle to the symbol keys on a smartphone's keyboard. Who has time to distinguish between "your" and "you're" when all they really want to know is if they should stop for toilet paper on the way home? Autocomplete will probably insert the right word for you, anyway. There's no need to know the rules.

A lot of people believe we're texting and tweeting our way into grammatical oblivion. Online news articles are now littered with typos, whether the source is Fox News or MSNBC. Bloggers (ahem) don't even seem to acknowledge their spellcheck flags before publishing weekly posts. Mistakes are the new norm.

Heck, the onslaught of grammar heresy is even carrying over into texts—no, not the personal message kind, I mean real texts this time, like manuals and books. The collections of words without hyperlinks, those musty, stagnant things.

Well, unless they're ebooks. Or print on demand books. They aren't so stagnant—in fact, they're anything but, as exemplified by this first hand account.

Not long ago, while I was attending an Indie Author Day event at my local library, one of the authors stumped a congenial librarian who was leading a discussion about how we could get our books into libraries and bookstores. The author asked if we needed to resubmit our books to them after we, you know, changed them.

"Change them? You mean... like a new edition?"

"Well," the author hesitantly replied, "I don't know if it would be a new edition, but... You know, like when someone points out a typo, so you fix it. You upload the new version, so after that, when people order the book, they get the one without the typo."

"The one without the typo."

"Yeah. Do we need to give you the one without the typo?"

"No, that's alright," the librarian said after a pause. "You don't need to give us the one without the typo."

The librarian was very polite, but I could tell his world was slightly shaken. To be fair, I think everyone's world has been slightly shaken. The digital age has thrown the concept of permanence out the proverbial window. We all handle trauma differently. Some of us have more trouble letting go of the old ways than others. At this point, I imagine hardcore grammarians are having seizures.

Regarding my own indie-author novel (because yes, all my blog entries inevitably circle back to me, it's my blog), I've had readers point out a few of my typos and grammar ticks. The most notable one was on page 122, where a sentence began with "I Alice" rather than "I let Alice." I swear, my cat stepped on my delete button and omitted "let." It was there, and then it wasn't. I have since fixed the sentence and re-uploaded the file. And yes, I appreciate the copy edit crowdsourcing.

Because make no mistake about it, I do not tread carelessly into the grammatical minefield. I do my best to implement agreeable verb tenses and appropriate apostrophes. I try, no matter how obstinate her mood, to keep my cat from pouncing on my keyboard. I do indeed believe it's my responsibility to create a product on par with its professional counterparts—especially if I'm going to ask a few bucks for it! But let's face it: It's just me and my girlfriend and our circle of friends cranking these things out. We don't have the Harper Collins editing staff on task with a bucket of red Bics and yellow highlighters.

Typos happen.

Self-publishing, especially in this digital world, provides a different opportunity than traditional publishing. And by default, it provides a different product. I think of self-publishing as more of a taco truck than an elegant restaurant. The truck markets itself by word of mouth, it moves around a lot, and sometimes, it can't even be found. The tacos are a bit sloppy, a bit do-it-yourself, a bit more homemade than professional.

But damn, if those tacos aren't tasty.

And fret not! If you notice I accidentally omitted the onions, just let me know—I'll upload them for you.

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