How a typo nearly cost me $3000 dollars

Here’s a delightful tale about my adventures in taxation last year. It’s about 450 words and a quick read. As with any post I write about typos, I’m sure there’s at least one.

I love Turbo Tax. Our taxes are relatively simple and don’t require the services of an expert. Some might say these are famous last words, and last tax season, they nearly were.

After a relatively brief and painless session at the computer, our taxes were done. If you’re familiar with Turbo Tax, it helpfully displays the amount you owe the Feds and State at the top of the screen. If you’re lucky, the number is green and you get a refund! In the spot for State, however, there was a red number. A BIG red number, one that was far larger than it should have been.

cursing-squirrelComparing my results to the previous year, there was a $3,000 discrepancy. And it wasn’t in our favor.

I went back through every single page of my new returns. And again. And again. And again.

The numbers were right. As God as my witness, they were right!

Now, I’ll step away for a moment to explain how I couldn’t possibly be at fault here. I’ve been professionally proofreading documents for nearly 20 years. It’s been my responsibility to catch those errors that people have overlooked. I have all sorts of methodologies at my disposal for catching typos and such.

So clearly – OBVIOUSLY – there’s something wrong with Turbo Tax.

That’s all there was to it. Somehow, a withholding on the Federal form wasn’t calculating in the State form. My software was dun broked.

By now, it was after 1:00 am. I tried using Turbo Tax’s help center, both in the app and online. I Googled for other Minnesotans complaining about the same issue—surely, I wasn’t the only one.

And there it was. For the love of all that’s good and just in the world, there it was. My entry of “MN” now read “MO”. My Minnesota form wasn’t pulling the withholding because I only had Missouri withholdings. Now, whether this was the result of a global conspiracy against me or an accidental press of the down arrow key, I’ll never know. My friend in Geek Squad would have referred to this as an ID-10-T error (remove the hyphens to get the joke).

Missouri

Wrong.

The rest, as the cliché says, is history. I fixed the problem and successfully submitted my returns. Phew.

Good triumphs over evil! Well, not really. Actually, it was a humbling reminder that, no matter how careful you are, no matter how many times your review a document, it never hurts to give it one last review.

And then one more.

–Mike


© Michael Wallevand, June 2018

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An illustratration [sic] for the importance of proofing

This post is approximately 600 words, some of which are likely misspelled because that’s what happens when writers talk about typos.

Holy lexicon, do I hate misspellings. When it comes to my own writing, I’m a firm believer in self-flagellation. And I know there’s a special place in dictionary purgatory for self-proclaimed grammar perfectionists and those people who allow typos into published books.

Regardless of how much you’ve typed, or how fast you do it, typos are a way of life. When it comes to typing, I’m a cheetah with 30 years’ experience: bursts of speed followed by periods of rest and reflection. If I’m particularly inspired, I probably reach 120 wpm.

kermit-writing

My skills aren’t perfect nor to I claim them to be. To counter this, I’m a ruthless spellchecker. No, that doesn’t mean I frequently click the button in Word, although that is like having a second set of eyes on your work. I mean that every few paragraphs, I pause to reread what I’ve typed, reviewing for spelling, grammar, flow, pace, and content, among other things. Then I type a few more paragraphs and reread the whole thing again.

You’re probably beginning to develop a picture of my (often annoying and exacting) work ethic, which means we’re about two or three paragraphs from it biting me in the rear.

Even for WordPress items, I’m often writing them in Word, rereading, proofing, and editing constantly as I go. I do this even after I’ve pasted (what looks like) the final copy into the post editor. I preview my text and give it another run-through or two. Using this method, I catch 99.9% of the potential typos I make (that sounds like an unverifiable statistic and possibly hubris, for which I will likely be punished in the form of many typos here). It works very well, nonetheless.

Until that query email I sent.

I researched and researched, finding literary agents’ submission requirements on their websites and Twitter. I found examples of what others had done. I wrote my query. Then proofed and rewrote and edited and rewrote. Finally somewhat satisfied, I pasted it from Word into an email, rechecked and edited again, typed the subject line, and sent it. I liked it well enough that I copied it for my next query, ensuring that I changed any pertinent agent information. I copied the subject line, too.

And that’s when the spellchecker caught the typo. In. The. Subject. Line.

Dammit.

writers-block-1

I had typed “An Illustratrated Children’s book”. Look at it. LOOK AT IT! By the black hand of Delosh, how did I miss that? Did I forget to hit the spellcheck button one last time? But even now, knowing full well it’s spelled wrong, weirdly, deceptively, it still doesn’t look that wrong. I have seen far more egregious errors. Perhaps that’s what bothers me the most.

Fortunately – mercifully – in her rejection response, the agent didn’t mention that the SECOND word she read had been misspelled, nor did she gently remind me of the importance of proofing your submission before sending it. It was the first time I’d appreciated a form letter response.

I probably spend a disproportionate amount of time checking my work compared to the time spent writing, and while I’m OK with that for now, I am relaxing my standards a smidge. You should, too. Chasing perfection is the relentless pursuit of imperfection. And we have more important things to do, like writing great stories.

–Mike
Click for more self-flagellation about typos.

© Michael Wallevand, January 2018


Michael Wallevand is a Senior Product Manager at Thomson Reuters, managing Integrated Marketing Solutions for FindLaw, the world’s leading provider of online legal information and law firm marketing solutions. He has developed products that have generated a hundred thousand unique pieces of content, whilst using organic and paid advertising to drive traffic to attorney websites across the US, UK, and Canada.

Tpyos will always plague you

This post is approximately 450 words. Yes, the title was deliberate.

I love writing, which means I’ve spent a considerable portion of my life doing it. I’ve written thousands of pages and reviewed thousands more. If you’re like me, you’ve developed proofreading, editing, and copyediting skills. We understand that spellcheck isn’t foolproof. Long story short (too late!), we have the tools at our disposal to deliver pristine prose.

And yet, the typos return like locusts, plaguing our writing on a biblical scale.

locusts

Case in point, I recently had a friend review two chapters of my manuscript. Oh man, were these some challenging ones to write. When your protagonist is following a trail of destruction, it’s tough to keep every new discovery fresh. I was also unhappy with the amount of exposition, though I eventually found ways to make those passages feel natural. I also introduced the monster and tested the mettle of our hero. And lastly, I had finally reached the portion of the book where I’d removed one of my important secondary characters, and I needed to make additional hard decisions about his contributions to the story. These chapters hurt my writing brain. Continue reading

My awful query email

I’m currently researching literary agents, somewhat dreading the query emails I’ll need to write because of the perfection they require. Yes, yes, I know agents are people, too. But the query needs to be perfect because I’m trying to sell these people my baby.

Wait…that came our wrong.

Anyways, here is how my mind exaggerates my queries into weirdly desperate cries for help. Something like this:


beggingTo Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for taking the time to read this query. I found your listing while searching for an agent to represent my fantasy novel, The Princess and the To-Be-Named Important Event.

This is going to be painful. My apologies in advance. This submission represents my first attempt to gain agent representation, as well as my first attempt to become a published author. I have no idea how to write a query email. I’ve written thousands of business letters and scores of cover letters, so you can expect this email to be well-written and typo-free. But when it comes to begging for your service, I’m lost. Continue reading