Worth Considering: Write it right: When typos count

Worth Considering from Matt HuggDid you knwo that the hunam brain can olok at a sentnece adn desipte the typos, read the txet?

English is a tough language to spell. With its roots in German and French, in addition to words that sound the same but are spelled differently (to, too and two – to name a few), it’s no wonder that one of Teddy Roosevelt’s pet projects was the adoption of a universal simple spelling system for the language. Besides, standardized spelling wasn’t a reality until the last 150 years, and even then, it varies between dialects (consider American’s “behavior” vs. the British “behaviour”).

So if it’s so easy to read with typos, and it’s difficult to spell anyway (so much so that influential people saw the need to simplify the standards which at that time were only a few decades old) then why is there such an obsession with typos?

For many people, writing correctly is a sign of education. For others it means that you cared enough to review your work. Some people are simply offended – almost like the typo was an attack on their senses. Any way you look at it, typos count against you.

What does a typo – or heaven forbid two or three – mean to your direct mail campaign, a case statement or web site or brochure? Deadly. For example, my wife gets a perverse joy out of finding typos in web sites. She says “hey, I can do better than that,” and probably won’t respond to the appeal. Typo free copy is a baseline standard. But if you read your work several times, your mind plays another trick on you: it fills in words that aren’t there and “corrects” letters so that you don’t see the typos.

How can you not fall into the “typo trap?”

1) Read aloud. I find that reading aloud is a great way to “purge” my work of typos and other demons – like awkward word usage.

2) Let it sit. I found that if I walk away from a project, I come back to it with “fresh eyes.” This was confirmed to me a while ago when I read about an author who said he did the same. When he wrote longhand on a tablet, he could come back to his work in a few hours. When he typed on a word processor, he needed to let his writing rest at least a day.

3) Electronic spell check. This is a good baseline, but depending on the sentence, a computer program won’t flag the difference between “to,” “too,” and “two.” Turning on a grammar check can help with this, but not completely solve the problem. Always use the spell checker, but don’t depend on it.

4) Get someone else to read it. This is a great way to get rid of your typos. Another set of eyes won’t fall into the traps that you will.

Of course, I’m biased. Whether you use me to create your work, or do it in-house, remember that typos are just part of the game. Probably the best piece of advice I can give is do your best and don’t lose sleep over them – that’s my job!

One thought on “Worth Considering: Write it right: When typos count

  1. With the world of texting comes finding shortcuts for real words, and spelling goes out the window, and typos appear exponentially! I love this article, and love that your wife takes perverse pleasure in finding typos on websites! Me too! One of the worst: “walla.” I’ve seen it too often…people use “walla” thinking that’s the spelling for voila–with an accent. I recently saw an entire article that kept referring to their result as “viola,” which presumably is the musical exclamation for “walla.” It makes my head hurt. God weeps.

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