Look at what arrived in the mail today …

A package from Tim Ferriss


Regular readers and followers of my Tweets will know that my team and I have a pastime of picking up grammar mistakes, apostrophe abuses and bad punctuation. Some might suggest that I should get a life. But I do run the Sydney Writers’ Centre – and grammar and punctuation are the tools of my trade!

If you haven’t seen our little punctuation rants, they regularly feature in our Get Published newsletter and you also can find some here on our Writing Bar blog.

After years of editing, I’ll admit that I just can’t help myself! My friends can’t stand it when I go out to restaurants and read a menu. I invariably find a litany of grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes on the selection well before I’ve even started reading about the main courses. You’d be amazed at how many variations of “cappuccino” there are around.

Anyhow, when I recently read the Australian edition of Tim Ferriss’s latest book The Four-Hour Body, I was at it again. While learning about how to “slow carb”, I was also marking up the errors, ones that most likely occurred as a result of being “lost in translation”: metric conversions and wonky tables/chart.

Multiple tweets to Random House Australia (@randomhouseau) went unacknowledged and I figured: you know what, if I was the author, I’d want to know, so I can fix it in the next print run. (Chances are that if I was the author I may also find someone like me quite annoying!)

So two weeks ago, I found myself scanning the errant pages, marking them up in red pen (see, I can’t help it!), sending them off to Tim Ferriss via his assistant Charlie – and hoping they didn’t think I was being a smart-arse. And that was the end of that.

Or so I thought.

Well, today, a packaged arrived in the post. I hadn’t ordered online lately so wasn’t expecting anything but when I opened it I found a card that said:

Valerie! Thank you so much for spotting errors in “The Four-Hour Body”. We really appreciate your support. Tim & Charlie

Gift-wrapped was a copy of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic. If you’ve ever read Tim’s popular blog, you may know that he’s a fan of Seneca. You can find some posts here and here.

While I’ll admit that Seneca may not have been my first choice for bedtime reading, I’m happy to give it a go.

I know I’m not the only person who has pointed out errors in books. Despite an editor’s best intentions, these mistakes happen ALL the time. I know that magazine editors and publishers get messages from readers – ranging from well-meaning to rude – when a typo is spotted.

But I have to say that I was pretty impressed with this personal thank you (sent via Amazon and using their gift wrapping service)!


About Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is founder and national director of the Australian Writers' Centre, the country's leading centre for writing courses. She is a journalist, blogger and author. Her latest book is "Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business" (Wiley). Valerie is a keynote speaker, small business commentator, and investor and mentor to startups and businesses in Australia.
  • Shawnnita

    Wow! This is fantastic, I really enjoyed reading this post because I am someone who truly needs help with her grammar and punctuation.

    Any chance this course will be online soon?


  • Valerie Khoo

    Hi Shawnnita
    Thanks for your query. The Grammar and Punctuation course is not yet available online. But if you happen to be in Sydney, we do offer a great face-to-face one-day seminar in Grammar and Punctuation at the Sydney Writers’ Centre in Milsons Point.

    You can find out more here:

    Valerie :)

  • http://www.businesschicks.com.au Emma Isaacs

    This is awesome Val. And what great PR for them.
    I am (as you know) exactly like you – quite the grammar and spelling nazi. I annoy my team correcting errors all the time. They promise me they love me for it :)
    Keep up the great work. I’m a fan.

    • http://www.ValerieKhoo.com Valerie Khoo

      The gift is a nice surprise huh? And I am all for pedantic punctuation police. Some people say it’s petty. I think it’s professional. I love it that you have eagle eyes when reviewing copy – sometimes, it can make all the difference.