The Quicker Typo Picker-Upper
This post is dedicated to anyone who’s ever made a typo. Yup, we’re casting a wide net at Shelters’ Edge today, thanks to Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson, authors of the new book The Great Typo Hunt. I’ve been reading about the 2008 trip these friends took across the United States, armed with a Typo Correction Kit and a geek-worthy appreciation for grammar, searching for errors in malls and museums, on roadsides and restaurants. They came across quite a few mens’ rooms (and mens rooms), a cemetary, some cheesebugers and a stationary store, to name just a few.
Oh, and these guys are pretty funny, too:
I can’t help but recall some of the great typos I’ve seen—or didn’t see—throughout my career at the ASPCA. There was the time we ran a photo essay on dogs in our children’s magazine. Oh, we got the provenance right for the tallest breed—but instead of the stately Irish wolfhound, we gave the crown to the scrappy ol’ terrier. It didn’t help that the associate art director made that image disproportionately larger than any other on the page, so the terrier wound up looking three times the size of a German shepherd.
And then there was the time we left the “L” out of the Public Information Coordinator’s title on our magazine’s masthead. Thankfully, she was a good sport about it, but I can’t help but suspect foul play. The masthead rarely changed, and it hadn’t been incorrect in any previous issue…
But you know what I like best about typos? Each one is a total team effort. You can’t really pin an error on one person if everyone, including all the editors, the executive director and the art director, too, had multiple chances to catch it.
Nowadays, of course, you can always make changes at any time to copy—even pdfs—online. And in a perfect world, you’d have plenty of time for what Deck’s and Herson’s Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) calls a “careful look over anything you’ve written for public consumption.” In such a scenario, the League explains, “Besides overt mistakes, you may find phrasing that you would word better, or come up with other ways to enhance the clarity of your meaning.”
But when your world isn’t so perfect—i.e., when someone needs that final copy, oh, yesterday—try these typo-bashing tactics:
A Little Help from Your Friends (and Coworkers)
Doesn’t matter if you have more experience writing and editing and approving copy than anyone else on staff…it’s always smart to run everything by a second set of eyes. If you can’t find a willing coworker, enlist a friend. A friend can be especially invaluable in reading copy that’s about, say, a new service or program you’re launching—he or she won’t have insider knowledge of the program that a coworker would, and thus could be a better barometer of how clearly and effectively you’re communicating.
Spell Check=Your Frenemy
A spell checking program can be invaluable in catching spelling and grammatical errors—but take care you’re paying attention and actually comprehending the suggested edits and not just hitting Ignore…or was that Change All? OOPS!
Get Up Offa That Thing!
The act of printing out a hard copy, standing up and physically moving to a different location to read your material can help you reset and offers a fresh perspective. It’s almost like having a second person read your copy (but not quite, so do try to run it by someone else if you can).
Say It Loud
Hone in on typos and awkward wording that trips you up not by reading but reciting your copy. Your ear may pick up on things your eye doesn’t.
Do Not IM, Pay Your Phone Bill, Participate in a Conference Call and Proof Copy at the Same Time
Don’t act shocked, you know you’ve done it. You say to yourself, “Oh, it’s just one sentence, that’s nothing for a communications professional like me.” And then the email with the “latest news from the APSCA” goes out…
And if you do make a typo? Correct it if you can ASAP, think about what you’ll do differently next time to avoid a similar mistake, and heed these wise words from Big Bird:
Leave a comment if you’ve got any tips to share or typos to ’fess up to. And check out The Great Typo Hunt blog for TEAL’s latest and greatest adventures.