I have an imaginary friend who wrote a 900-page novel about a secret war in a remote land under the snows of the Arctic; a land where five-year-olds carry mammoth-killing swords, all dwarfs speak with a Glaswegian accent, and warrior women wear chain-mail bikinis to the beach.

Let’s call my friend Hubert. Hubert Q. Wetherill. Hubert’s novel, Age of Chronicles: Dragons of the Dark Demonic Kingdom of Frostbitten Darkness, took him seven years to write.

Hubert is now in the market for an agent. But one piddling detail is going to sink his plans for total fan-girl domination at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

That piddling detail? Hubert’s query letter.

You see, Hubert sent his manuscript to beta readers, learned from their feedback and improved it; then to a professional editor with whom he got along splendidly, and she beat Dragons of the Dark… into shape.

But Hubert totally forgot to ask for help when it came time to compose his query letter — you know, the primary document about your novel that captures an agent’s attention. And Hubert, much to Mrs. Wetherill’s chagrin for the past eighteen years, can’t spell worth a damn.

So his query letter reads like a catalog of common blunders. To wit:


I see this howler everywhere: bitter-hearted Facebook posts, cocktail napkins, customer surveys. Even corporate codes of conduct.

Can you use it in a sentence?
Absolutely! Combine with vulgar language for bonus points.

Gina should of kicked him in the nards when she got the chance.

Has a certain plebeian charm to it, don’t you think?


Can you use it in a sentence?
You must! Only then will your life be complete.

Peter Parker’s struggle to maintain seperate identities was taking a toll.


My favorite.

Can you use it in a sentence?
I don’t see why not. Here you go:

The phone company called again, but I’m defiantly not interested in switching carriers.

Finally, this is how Hubert Q. Wetherill, fantasy novelist un-extraordinaire, committed career suicide:

Dear Sirs/Madam:

Age of Chronicles: Dragons of the Dark Demonic Kingdom of Frostbitten Darkness is not like other fantasy novels out there, it defiantly took more time to write than the average fantasy novel. It is also better because of that. In fact it stands seperate from all the others in it’s genera, because it takes place in our Earth but in the North Pole, under it, so it’s not an imaginary world.

Age of Chronicles: Dragons of the Dark Demonic Kingdom of Frostbitten Darkness is about a blacksmith’s son that should of grown up to get maried but instead didn’t and went off in search of adventure against his fathers and mothers wishes. It is a rivetting emotional story invloving dragons, dwarfs and adventure similar in vein and mood to Cloud Atlas but I think it’ll be much bigger and if you give it a chance it could be even bigger than the Avengers. No in fact I’m sure of it. There is guns and dragons and magic and romance and adventure and romance and danger and readers will not be able to put it down. What do y9u say?


BIO: John Magnet Bell is a professional translator, blogger and photographer. He’s on a quest to write 5,000 unique, copyright-free story prompts over at Start Your Novel. You can prettify your wall or your iPhone with John’s photographic work, available from Society6.

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9 Responses to 3 Killer Typos That Blow Writers Out The Water by @StartYourNovel

  1. Suzanne Main says:

    Fantastic! Can’t wait to see Hubert’s website when he self-publishes after failing to hook that agent!

  2. Bell says:

    Thanks for having me over, Lucy. Happy Tuesday!

  3. Nate says:

    I suspect that spellcheckers are contributing to defiantly. People who try to spell it definatly get corrected by the computer, and they think it’s fixed (spellcheck is giving them too much credit, assuming a simple typo rather than a conscious spelling error).

    • Bell says:

      You’re onto something there, Nate.

      It doesn’t just happen with “definately.”

      Another example off the top of my head: MS Word misinterprets voilà and suggests “viola” instead.

  4. Ron says:

    taks all sorts I s’pose.

  5. Jenni says:

    Ugh. “Should of” turns me into a raging grammar nazi. Or how about that wonderful phrase, “for all intensive purposes”

    • Bell says:

      Have never run into that one, I must confess.

      Isn’t it symptomatic of the state of Internet culture that people who like proper writing get dubbed ‘grammar Nazis’?

      Intensive purposes =
      1) shedding fifty pounds in one month
      2) learning a new language in a week
      3) translating Finnegans Wake into Mandarin in two hours and a half

      At least that’s what the phrase conjures up for me. 😉

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