What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos | WIRED

You have finally finished writing your article. You’ve sweat over your choice of words and agonized about the best way to arrange them to effectively get your point across. You comb for errors, and by the time you publish you are absolutely certain that not a single typo survived. But, the first thing your readers notice isn’t your carefully crafted message, it’s the misspelled word in the fourth sentence.

It is infuriating. There is also the Law of Conservation of Typographical Errors. This applies to long works such as books. It states that for every typographical error you correct, another one spawns in the book. I’ve seen it happen.

When you’re proof reading, you are trying to trick your brain into pretending that it’s reading the thing for the first time. Stafford suggests that if you want to catch your own errors, you should try to make your work as unfamiliar as possible. Change the font or background color, or print it out and edit by hand. “Once you’ve learned something in a particular way, it’s hard to see the details without changing the visual form,” he said.

Indeed. When you do that, you see it in a different light. I often use a different font to proofread what I’ve written on my computer. But their are still typos anyway.

Source: What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos | WIRED

7 thoughts on “What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos | WIRED

  1. At one time the Library of America publishers, who were trying to produce authoritative editions of major American literature, used to have two-member proofreading teams; one member would read the text aloud backward while the other followed the printed text. The idea, as I understand it, was to “defamiliarize” the text and thus make it easier to spot tyypos.

  2. Homonyms are more bedeviling for me every year. I regret, but recognize, that my mind is heading downhill on that score. But I marvel that I can read and reread my text, and not notice missing words, doubled words, and bizarre misspellings. Spell check helps less than I expect. I also notice that commercially published books have plenty of errors that spell check would have caught.

    • This homonym business is interesting to me. I have noticed the same phenomenon in myself, and, for some reason I can’t explain, I attribute it to prolonged internet exposure.

    • Homonyms are a huge problem for me too, especially from / form. It’s one of the main reasons that I love Spellcatcher, and mourn its decline.

      It’s often helpful to have the computer speak the text to you. I usually remember this about 5 seconds after I hit Send.

  3. It’s really difficult, but the pro proofreaders “look” at the words, but don’t read. How do they do this? They read it backwards. It really works! But who’s going to do that? LOL. I stopped worrying about typos in my works many years ago with the popularity of the Web. Most everything is forgivable on the web. :-)

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