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Typographical Error

Typographical Error (Photo credit: futuraprime)

Why is it that the paper looks perfect until you print it out, and the blog post looks flawless until you publish it, but once you’ve gone beyond some point of no return the typos emerge?

Most of the time, I like to pretend that I’m not a stupid person.  And when I post something online, I like to think that at least somebody will benefit from reading it, so I put some thought into creating it and making it look good.  I look over all the comments I make plenty of times, to the point that, if I’m posting on an active thread, my remarks often sound a little off, because I’m actually responding to the person several comments up from me.  Yet somehow about half my comments, and all my blog posts, still contain typos.  Which makes me wonder, how bad would my writing be if I didn’t even bother trying to fix it?  I’ll try not to think about that.

I know why I make typos though.  First of all, it has to do with the fact that I think in sounds, not letters and punctuation marks.  I’ve known the differences between “there”, “their”, and “they’re”, “to”, “two”, and “too” for a long time, but when typing them out I tend to get them wrong about as often as I get them right, because while I’m writing my brain is just thinking about how things sound, not the meaning of each individual word.  It’s like when you drive to work on a Saturday because your mind knows how to get you there and you aren’t thinking enough about how to get where you actually wanted to go.

Also, just because the thought makes sense in my head doesn’t mean all the words end up coming out on paper.  This happens when people speak too, but more often in writing because writing isn’t as automatic as speaking, and few people write as much as they speak.  And in the digital age, some typos come about because of editing.  You decide to change the structure of a sentence, but then only change it partially, so the sentence gets messed up in a way that would never happen if you were speaking out loud, which looks particularly bad.

And then when you proofread something, there’s a tendency to gloss over some of the words that you assume to be there, because reading word by word is boring and slow.  So is actually looking for all the letters in the word to make sure you wrote “sometimes” instead of “sometime” or “maybe” instead of just “may.”  Our brains have learned to read efficiently, so much of the time they don’t bother to processes every letter in every word, because they don’t really need to.  In fact, people have actually done studies that show we can usually recognize a word if all the letters in it are there and the first and last letter are in place, no matter what order the other letters are in.  I rlaely htae topys but tehy’re ptrety hrad to nciote.  They’re pretty hard to notice because sometimes we can read just fine with them there, until we slow down and realize, “Wait a minute.  That was wrong.”

So, advice of the day: Next time you write something, proofread it before you post it, or in some other way share it with the world. And if it’s important (like the finished draft of a novel you’re hoping to get published), then print it out and proofread it, and have someone else proofread it as well.  Because once you write something down, it doesn’t just go away.  It’s there until you delete it, and sometimes even afterward.  I’ve already written way too many typos to believe I’m every going to write anything perfectly, but I think writing well enough that typos aren’t the main thing for people to notice is still a worthy goal.

Note: I did proofread this post, naturally, but due to the fact that very few people actually read any given post on this blog, I didn’t think it was worth the dead-tree space to actually print the thing out just to avoid embarrassment of maybe five people seeing the typos still in here.  I fully expect to see them myself later though, after the post has been up for a while and everybody who’s going to look at it already has.  So before I run through and fix everything, quick, can you spot the typos?