How do you feel about typos (especially other people’s typos)?
Do you react angrily? Are you offended when you see one?
Or appalled that someone could let that happen?
Sometimes, it seems we just can’t get rid of typos. We proofread and proofread, but there they are, like dandelions popping up in your lawn.
I heard a story once about a publisher who swore they would print a book with no errors. There was a mistake in Chapter 6.
It’s not only book publishers that have this problem. Here’s an example from the Metropolitan Diary section of The NY Times (June 4, 2007)
I wasn’t too surprised when a nearby Columbus Avenue restaurant closed up shop. The fliers that they distributed in the neighborhood when they first opened had, after all, boasted of “Chicken to Die From!”
How to prevent typos
Typos were a lot harder to stop in the days when people used actual typewriters. They were harder to cover up too.
1) Start with spell-check. This helps, but isn’t perfect. It can’t tell, for example, when a word is spelled correctly, but not the word you really meant (“world” instead of “word”).
Even with spell check, typos can be really hard to find, especially if you’re proofreading your own work. And, they’re notorious for showing up in posts about spelling, grammar, and typos. They just sneak in.
2) Read it backwards. You see the individual words more clearly when you’re reading them out of order, because you have to focus on them harder.
3) Let it rest. Put the article or post aside for a few hours, or overnight. Read it again later.
4) Phone a friend. Have someone else look at it. This is especially important if you’re writing in your second language. A native speaker will see things you missed.
5) Read it out loud. This forces your brain to focus on what you’re doing, and the typos become more noticeable.
6) Hire a professional. Copy editors are worth their weight in gold. You may not want to pay for a blog post, but it’s worth it for a book or longer article.
If you spot one in someone else’s work, and your inner editor won’t let you keep it to yourself, tell the person nicely (pssst, rogue hyphen in paragraph three). Or, pencil the correction in the book. You’ll feel better.
Here are some more proofreading techniques and common English grammar mistakes.
All that said, I just read a book printed by a major publisher. There was a big typo in one of the chapter headings. It said, “DIMJLY LIT ROOM.”