Everyone knows that humor sells. But I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s absolutely nothing funny about a typo. Not in a headline, not in your marketing messages, not in your letters or emails, not in your proposals, not anywhere!
I’ve talked to a lot of people about typos. It seems that no one can tell me exactly where typos come from. They seem to create themselves. But I’ve pretty much concluded that attempting to determine their origin is not nearly as important or productive as finding them – and destroying them dead in their tracks before they do damage.
So I diligently watch the screen while I’m typing. But I don’t seem to catch them all that way. Perhaps that’s because I’m thinking about what I’ll say next. In fact, it’s only when I go back later to read something that I’ve already done (like the proposal I recently presented to a prospect) that those pesky typos pop out at me.
For whatever reason, the toughest typos for me to spot are the little two and three letter words – to, an, on, in, is, it, our, out, and so on. And I surely know the difference between our and out, but my fingers don’t.
Someone once told me about a typo devil that sneaks into computers late at night and messes with our writing. I don’t know if I agree with that. And I guess if a typo devil was at work trying to make me look bad, I’d also hope a typo angel would be sitting on my shoulder helping me improve my document and contributing to the clarity of my message.
In the past I’ve tried all kinds of things to catch typos. I’d read copy aloud – usually in a private spot so that people wouldn’t think I was reading to an invisible friend. But the problem with reading copy aloud is that I find myself saying the word that I thought I wrote, not the word that’s actually on the page.
Once, someone else suggested that I read the document backwards. I tried that – reading from ending to beginning. Fortunately, it wasn’t a long piece. I was able to spot a few misspelled words in which letters were transposed. But I was never able to catch any wrong words, words out of place, or missing words.
I’ve also noticed throughout the years that the toughest typos to catch are the ones that are the most obvious. I’m thinking of course of headlines. Perhaps it’s because we assume that the headline is correct so the typo devil would never attempt to be so bold as to attack a headline. Or because we justify that there are so few words, there’s no room for a typo. (Trust me. There’s plenty of room.)
I’ve used professional proofreaders in the past. I’ve found this absolutely necessary when the project is long, like a book or a lengthy report. Typically, with a book, I use two proofreaders. The first one reviews my final draft or manuscript. The second proofreader reviews the galleys – the proof that comes from the book designer/typesetter. If we don’t catch them at this point, we don’t catch them. But my readers do.
By the way, if you come across a typo or two in this blog post, understand the typo devil intentionally included it to test your skill as a proofreader. If you find any, call me. I have a brilliant career waiting for you!