If you are not upset and embarrassed by your typos and bad spelling, others will be.
There is a cost associated with typos and bad spelling
Spelling someone’s name wrong can cost you real business as people will think that you don’t care enough about them.
The anxiety that builds from a typo can be massive, especially when it is a glaring error that you have created, or been accountable for. Strangely enough, it’s often the title or main headings that have the error, which can make it all the more embarrassing.
Typographic errors make us look as though we are not paying attention. It suggests we whizzed through the document, slapped it together without much thought and sent it on without checking.
Even if we know that we thoroughly and thoughtfully went through the document it is clear how we will be received. The more we care about how the recipient sees us, the worse the feeling when we realise there is a mistake.
Do you need a proofreader?
It may seem minor but the anxiety that accompanies proofreading activities can be consuming. Yet when we think about real life problems, health and well-being of loved ones, tragedies, and other pressures it seems ridiculous to be upset by a typo or spelling mistake.
T Proofreading isn’t a very stimulating task. It’s about reading and re-reading the same piece of work over and over until you can be absolutely sure that there are no errors. It takes a lot of time and is boring.
There is little satisfaction or completion when something is proofread, just an easing of anxiety. Usually, it’s done under the cloud of a looming deadline after a gruelling effort to bring the project to fruition. Not ideal circumstances to critique your own work.
The tiredness, preoccupation with the deadline and the tuning out that occurs from reading the same thing multiple times is the combination of factors that leads to blindness, which causes us to skim past errors that seem blatant and obvious to others.
“When our spelling is perfect, it’s invisible. But when it’s flawed, it prompts strong negative associations”. Marilyn Vos Savant
Perfection has a cost
Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. If you have ever been involved with a mistake that has been sent to a wide group of people then you may suffer from perfection anxiety. The knowledge that it is easy to miss something that can cause such a high degree of embarrassment and discredit to you is the root of this anxiety.
As with most forms of anxiety, it also causes a decreased performance once the tension hits a certain level. The break in tension once you click ‘send’ is also the exact moment that you discover a previously unrealised error.
How do you avoid it
While it isn’t feasible to have someone else check every email that you send, for larger projects such as catalogues, marketing materials or contracts, it is much more effective to have fresh eyes scan over the document.
By getting someone else involved in the proofreading process you are removing the issues caused by lack of concentration. The other person is less likely to have the same level of tension and anxiety around the document.
Assume everything is wrong When we are confident that something is free of mistakes we tend to skim through too quickly. It causes our eyes to accept the text on the page and we fail to scrutinise at the level required.
By assuming that everything is wrong we begin to look more critically and find errors that would otherwise have been missed. A great way to get proofreading done with fun is to offer small prizes to anyone who finds an error.
Proofread in different ways There are different levels of proofreading that can be done. It is a trap to try and assess a document in all these ways at once. It’s much more effective to scan for one element at a time.
Spelling may be the first, correct headings may be the next, format and layout another layer, making sure the content is in the correct place is another. It can also be useful to review a document in reverse order or to split them amongst a few people in different sessions.
The trick is to make sure your brain isn’t fooled into taking shortcuts. Beware of the limitations of spell checkers, but always make sure you use them.
Although Microsoft Word is becoming more sophisticated and is now highlighting words that are grammatically incorrect, there are certain things that still get missed. A common error is typing ‘form’ instead of ‘from’, or putting a commer (I mean coma) in the wrong place. The default spell-checks setting also skips words that are written in capitals. This is a common place for mistakes to happen.
Create a no-blame culture
When there is a group project that has come under the spotlight due to an embarrassing typo there is a tendency to blame someone. The person who first typed it, the proof-reader or the manager who authorised it.
There is typically a rush of finger pointing when something goes wrong but this is entirely counterproductive. The best approach is to look at what you could have done better, how you could have improved the situation and what will be done differently in the future to ensure the problem won’t happen again.
Of course, on top of all that, there are is a different spelling for a different culture and different words have different meanings.
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I find it interesting when mistakes leap out once I am aware of them. But before a mistake is detected eyes may have miss missed it. In fact, in some quarters people wouldn’t even know it was a typo or bad spelling.
The shock of discovering I have made a huge error is one of the worst feelings, especially when it means embarrassment for a customer, the business or a costly reprint.
I write many thousands of words every year. I find that in my haste to get my thoughts down on paper and in order, I leave a trail of mistakes. When I try to slow down so I don’t make so many mistakes, my production falls off dramatically. This is the reason I engage editors. Even then mistakes will always slip through, but the percentage is relatively small.