As I type this post, I picture all of us sitting in a circle talking about our frustrations with eliminating pesky typos. No matter how proficient a person is with English grammar and punctuation, typos are bound to pop up. Ironically, even within this post about typos I bet there is a typo or two. I’m amazed at how easily my eyes miss typos in my own writing, even after proofreading something carefully several times. While I’m admittedly not an expert in sniffing out every mistake, I can share a few tips that have helped me improve my accuracy. Whether you type emails, correspondence, business documents, or novels, these four tips can help.
Read what you’ve written in slow motion, enunciating each word either nonverbally, inside your head, or out loud.
I’ve noticed when I edit something I’ve written, if I force myself to change the cadence of how I intended the message to sound, I can spot far more mistakes. As I read to myself, I internally say each word in monotone and this helps my brain switch from seeing what I expect to see to what is actually there. This technique is especially helpful when you’ve been working on a project and have read and reread your words several times.
Look for words you’ve spelled as two words rather than one.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spelled words like trashcan as two words instead of one. This has happened so frequently, I am now in the habit of typing words first as one and then separating them if spell check calls me on it. Because of my spelling weakness, the dictionary is my best friend. I prefer using dictionary.com for speed and simplicity because, in addition to the online dictionary, the site also includes a thesaurus, encyclopedia, translator, and web link. When I’m writing, dictionary.com is pretty much open the entire time.
Let whatever you have written sit for at least 30 minutes before editing.
Again, this has been another invaluable technique for me. If I’m writing anything of importance: email, letter, manuscript etc., I find letting the work in progress sit for 30 minutes to an hour before I proof my work helps me spot typos much better. A brief separation from your work, allows your brain to shut off the auto reader so that you are able to see mistakes more clearly.
Print out the document and proofread hardcopy in addition to proofing your work on the computer screen.
Changing formats offers another opportunity for your brain to switch from autopilot to manual mode. In autopilot, your brain will see words as you intended to write them. In manual mode, your brain sees what you have actually written. The key is to flip the switch so your eyes see your mistakes more clearly.
I hope these tips are useful. Typos are going to happen, even with our best efforts, but at least we can apply techniques to help cut down on them. I’m always open to fresh ideas and new approaches to doing things. If you have a technique that has worked for you, please share it so we can learn from one another.