Brain Trickery: Why Typos Happen and How to Avoid Them!

Discussion in 'Community Forum Software' started by News Bot, Jan 19, 2012.

  1. News Bot

    News Bot Regular Member

    Apr 28, 2011
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    Cyber Space
    Typos - one of the banes of my digital existence. Yes... they really, really bother me. Despite my focused efforts to avoid them, there is a very real possibility that I will click "Post" in a few minutes and publish this blog with some nasty little typos slipping through my dragnet. And, that may happen despite my proofreading and making a very focused effort to get rid of those little glitches in the word-and-sentence-Matrix.

    If you want to know how much they really bother me, suggested symbolism might be dumping a cup of vinegar into a cup of milk. I've been known to have the psychological equivalent of that reaction when submitting tweets with misspellings, left out words, or forgotten links, etc. I'll either redact with a quick follow up tweet, tagging it with #typo, OR [when I'm quick enough on the draw] I'll delete and re-tweet it with the corrections.

    Now, there is much to be said about the mechanics of typos. I'm not an expert so I'm going to avoid the physics of fingers hitting the keyboard and leave that part up to geeks in the hardware labs. I do sometimes think my fingers have a brain of their own that are arrogant enough to believe they can read *my* mind and do a reasonable but imperfect job of it!

    I'm going to propose a couple of assumptions:

    1. You care whether or not you make a typo. You would correct one if you noticed it.
    2. You know the correct spelling of the words you use. Sometimes we don't. Think big words, typing in another language, or one of those wow moments when you realize you've been misspelling a word incorrectly for years.

    Unfortunately, I see alarmingly low rates of literacy and disdain for language - the most valuable tool available to mankind. However, I'm talking to YOU right now. Those people will not be reading this post.

    I want to focus my attention on why typos happen. I do not believe they happen at the moment they are typed! They actually happen at the moment you hit "Enter" or "Post" and transmit your ideas, big or small.

    If you know how to spell the words you've used, typos happen because of a failed proofreading process. And that is often a direct result of brain trickery. Our brain may be less OCD in some parts of it than we may think. It'll accept the typos if it gets the idea. It's not a stickler for spelling at all.

    Take a look at the attached image. Most of you reading this post will be able to read it, despite it being written in non-existent English words. You've seen these little brain teasers online, and may have even been a little impressed or surprised the first time you tried it. They are related to the reason many of us make typos.

    As we write or proofread, our smarty pants brains are way more interested in our ideas than whether or not we've spelled things correctly! If our brain knows what you meant to say as it visually processes each word, it wouldn't bother to alert us about the mistake (sometimes). This experience may be more prolific for some of us, myself included.

    I can often proof something I've written 3-4 times and still wind up finding (what should be) obvious typos 72 hours later if I happen to read it again. Those days later when I read my own work, I'm reading it more as another reader and not the author. I begin to notice the mistakes that my brain was not interested in when I was first brainstorming and formulating my ideas.

    And that I propose, for people of average intelligence and above, is the root of those typos that make it through the dragnet.

    Other than multiple proofreads of each thing I write, the only other method I have found that helps reduce my rate of typos is to read in robotic voice. I have to read each sentence and work very carefully, and not in a natural reading cadence. When I go into that mode of reading, I am then able to see the typos that my brain might otherwise accept without red flagging them for me. Since I don't have an actual proofreader for most of my work these days, robotic voice becomes one of my top tools to help avoid spoiling the ideas I share with disruptive little typos. Try it.

    tl;dr I don't like typos. The brain tricks you into missing them during proofreading. Use robotic voice.
    Shout out to Ace Shattock (@AceSNZ) who used to have an absolute hawk eye for my fumbling during our time working together on the vBSEO Team. He used to wipe out typos like he was playing Atari Galaga on cheat mode! Total annihilation.

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