There is a lot of dispiriting stuff on the Internet, so allow me to promote something that is bound to make you feel better about yourself and the stuff that you write. Hear it is. I mean, “here it is,” darn it.
It’s Nick Stockton’s explanation in Wired of why we are too smart to catch our own typos. That’s right, we’re just too great for our own good.
As Stockton explains much more elegantly than I, the reason we don’t catch our own typos is because we’re engaged in high-level thinking and we consider spelling the actual words and so forth to be mere details in a larger endeavor. We don’t sweat the easy stuff because we’re focused on meaning.
“The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads,” Stockton writes. And he quotes an academic so you know it’s true.
So what do you do about it?
Well, in my experience, the only thing that really works is to show your work to someone else. And brace yourself for the snarky comments that come from your editor. The more eyes touch a proof, the more likely you will catch embarrassing typos.
Two or three other ideas:
- When I proof work, I feel better about it when I print it out. I always read stories on the computer for line editing, then I print them for proofing.
- I run a pen along with each word as I read. It slows me down and makes me feel better about catching mistakes.
- This story suggests changing the font or color of the words on the screen, the idea being that you want to “defamiliarize” yourself with your own work. Which is an interesting idea.
Good lock out there.