Apparently, there’s a really old edition (1635) of the King James Bible that says “Thou shall commit Adultery”. First off, did you read a “not” into that sentence? That’s such a huge typo and I can only imagine how the publishers felt after it went to print.
Similarly, “To be or to be”. That’s how one of the most famous sentences in the English language began in an edition of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Six professional proofreaders failed to catch the mistake. You know it should have been “To be or not to be”
Many times, and as part of their resume, people generally highlight that they have excellent attention to detail. At least I did. But in reality, many of us are really prone to typos. I really disliked proofreading but I realised I had to consciously work on it when someone joked that I might be dyslexic since I often missed out words in my written work.
This happens to a lot of people (especially smart people) because when proofreading, they essentially see what they think they ought to have written and not what they actually wrote. That’s why it’s easier for your audience to spot your own typo.
Typos are really annoying because even though you’ve spent so much time on your content and substance of your piece, once people notice a typo, it sort of undermines your effort and the work in general.
I still dislike proofreading – but I’m definitely improving, and here are some of the tips that have helped:
1. Avoid multi-tasking: Focusing on one document at a time helps you avoid mistakes. Reduce general distractions as well.
2. Print it out: Essentially, these days we seem to type or write on electronic devices. But reading on paper still proves to be a better way to spot typos.
3. Take a break: It’s advisable to take a bit of time away from the document i.e. 20 mins, before returning to proofread it. For really important documents, you probably want to sleep on it and review a day later.
4. Fresh pair of eyes: If possible, have someone else look through. Or 2 people. Or 3.
5. Read it backwards: If you’ve read through a document a couple of times, you’re likely to miss certain things. Trust me, reading it backwards works.
6. Read it aloud: Ok, if you think reading it backwards is weird, then try reading it aloud. Readout all the punctuation and spaces too!
7. Change the font or layout: This totally works. First off, zoom your document to a larger view, and if possible change the layout. It looks like a fresh document and you’re able to spot typos better. Many times after I’ve published my blog post on my laptop, I read it on my phone and it’s one of the best ways I spot typos.
8. Use Microsoft Word and its features – MS Word (or similar software) provides for some inbuilt spell check and other helpful features. Ensure you’re familiar with this, and that the spell check is in line with what you want – i.e. set to British or American English as appropriate. Nevertheless, do not totally rely on spell check because a word may be correctly spelt but not be the ward you desired. (See what happened there?).
I used to over hit the space bar and so have unnecessary double spaces. I actually laughed when I realised I could use the search box to search for extra double space. Basically Ctrl + F and then hit the space tab twice. All double spaces in the document become highlighted and you can delete the extras.
Do you often make typos? What’s the worst typo you’ve ever made? What’s your sure way of avoiding typos?
pS: If there are any typos in this document, well well. I said I hated proofreading didn’t I? The advice is still valid though, I promise.