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Life in Typos August 12, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Wordy Business.
Tags: , , , , ,

As someone who spends the majority of her day in front of a computer screen, the typo is a strong and resilient enemy. Whilst my spelling ability is actually spot on, I still have to religiously and repeatedly proofread everything I write. To admit something to you, I generally don’t proofread my blog that much, as posts are usually written and posted before I have blinked! I will change this, honest!


(Image from here)

So, if my spelling and literary skill is actually quite advanced, why do I make so many typos? What is it that I do that totally confuses my typing fingers into common errors, amusing mistakes and more?

I feel like a brief folly into psychology is perhaps appropriate. Forgive the inaccuracies and speculative nature of this, but I’m not doing my degree any longer and so am allowed to make things up off the top of my head!

The psychological aspect of the typo is likely to be this: Association. As many of the words I write aren’t written wrong due to the proximity of the incorrect keys, it cannot be just finger error. Instead, I often type their instead of there or vica versa – clearly my brain types aurally and just puts down whatever the word sounds like regardless of typing. This doesn’t happen in handwriting, where there is more time for communication between brain and hand!

We have all experienced the surreal feeling of accidentally typing that which we are thinking, reading, saying or listening to. Things other than that which we are meant to be writing can hijack our consciousness and be channelled out in a stream of incomprehensible type. In the same way, if distracted, we can simply repeat ourselves, as if our brains get locked in some challenging pattern of brainwaves.

Of course, on top of the interesting ppsychological errors, which work rather like Freudian slips, we also have the much more mundane. The little routines that your fingertips get into, tapping out certain letters in the wrong order nearly 80% of the time. It is a case of practise makes perfect. Your fingers follow the path of least resistance for easy typing – and if you don’t notice, this is reinforced and reinforced. For this reason I battle with a constant influx of thansk (thanks!), maanger (manager!) and more. Oh, and my eternal ability to write UNiversity, IMage and lots of captials! Little tiny mistakes that ruin the style of a piece.

Thankfully, my proofreading skills have improved immeasurably in the past year. All my freelance has made me an accomplished proofer – in both English and American English. When I bother (and when I am not being lazy with my own blog), I rarely leave errors there. But I do question how much time would be saved if Typos didn’t happen at all!


1. Toni - August 12, 2009

I don’t proofread my own work – I have to pass it on to my husband. I have a problem where I don’t read what is actually there, but what I think should be there. I can proofread other people’s writing very well, but I’m blind to my own. And I don’t proofread (or get my husband to do so) my personal blog because… that’s too much like work 😉

I eternally have a problem with some of particular words, especially “different” (differetn) and “logistical” (logistiacl). I trust MS Word and its autocorrect function to catch me on these for work, and in email and blog comments, people just have to… suffer it!

Love the psychology stuff though, and am inclined to say it’s bang on 🙂

2. Toni - August 12, 2009

I made a typo in my comment. Which is painfully apposite, dontcha think?

“I eternally have a problem with some particular words”. Screw the extraneous “of”.

3. mysterycreature1 - August 12, 2009

Hi Toni – btw… I never seem to be able to access your blog atm 😦 I miss it!

hehe, I think it is great that you made an error in that one – helps substantiate my point!

4. ElementalGrace - August 12, 2009

If I’m proofing something, I have to print it out and do it all on paper.

There was a study yonks ago that showed that due to the fact light on a screen shone at you, compared with paper which reflects light, it is actually significantly more difficult to proofread on screen.

Interesting ponderances though.

5. Amber - August 12, 2009

I’m exactly the same with typos, and I’m actually a trained proofreader. *embarrassed*. Like Toni, though, I just can’t proofread my own work – I can read it over and over again and still see what I THINK is there.

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