My mouse hovered over the button for a moment.
Then, I clicked – SEND!
Within minutes I heard muffled giggles and hushed voices from behind the cubicle walls around me.
Oh no, I thought as I quickly re-opened the email I’d just sent to my co-workers detailing the plans for our annual Christmas Party.
As I scanned back over my words I found the source of their amusement.
Listed as one of the party’s “items needed” was written, “1 bowel of punch”.
Bowel?! How could I have been so careless!
“Bowl! I meant BOWL!”, I shouted over the wall to my co-workers, but it was too late. I’d just become a victim of written communication’s notorious villain…. the Typo!
Has this ever happened to you?
Maybe it was that well-rehearsed presentation missing a word on the very first slide.
Maybe it was the term paper you put hours of work into only to have your professor note its missing spaces and punctuation with red ink.
Maybe it was the resume you submitted a second before noticing you’d misspelled your own name.
Typos happen to the best of us. But when they do, they can sabotage hours of hard work instantly or, worse yet, completely change our message. Producing content with typos is also a stupendous way to ruin the credibility of our brand.
So, how do we safe-guard against such destruction? Start by remembering the following three strategies to identify and subdue these enemies of the written word:
1. Take a Break: Whether you’re writing a blog, crafting an email or organizing a presentation, using your creative energy can be exhausting. As we tire, our ability to notice detail diminishes. Let your work sit for a while after you’ve finished it. Taking even as little as 10-minutes between writing and proofreading helps promote clear thinking and a fresh perspective!
2. Read Like a Robot: It’s helpful to read your work out loud when trying to catch mistakes. However, psychology extols the brain’s ability to use context to anticipate what we’ll see next, causing us to miss subtle errors or discrepancies. Live Science’s article titled, Breaking the Code: Why Yuor Barin Can Raed Tihs, explains this phenomenon by telling us, “…researchers think some sort of top-down feedback mechanism normalizes the visual input, allowing us to ignore the funny bits (think: typos!) and read the passage with ease.” In order to overcome our brain’s tendency to do this, we must do more than read aloud, we must trick our brains with the unexpected. One way to effectively hack our brain’s default setting is to read out loud in a robotic or monotone voice. As silly as it will sound (I recommend doing this in solitude unless you’re ready to experience the bewildered stares of nearby company) it removes the natural rhythms of speech our brain expects to hear, allowing it to regain focus on the details of what it’s seeing.
3. Find a Friend: It’s been said that, in life, “two is better than one”. The same is true about proofreading! Though it’s tempting to skip this important step, employing a second pair of eyes might be just what you need to insure an error-free product. Kimberly Largent of proofreadnow.com learned this the hard way after her decision to proof read her own work resulted in the submission of an essay titled, “Lent: A Focus on Prayer and Medication”. Oops! Avoid this mistake by creating a proofreading “buddy system” among your co-workers or by finding a trusted friend to review your work before it’s submitted.
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Kelly Kershaw is a freelance writer, occasional blogger, and heart-of-the-matter conversation enthusiast. She calls the buzzing suburbs of Philadelphia home, where she enjoys life alongside her wonderful husband Rob and son Jordan. To read more, follow her blog at kellykershaw.com.