Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Telling Write From Wrong (Part 6)

The War On Error

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Today I'm going to answer a query from Canadian blogger Vic Grace, who wants some pointers on proof-reading, because she says she only spots errors in her blog posts the day after she publishes them!

What is the best way to proof-read my own writing?

Here's a simple fact of life. The hardesst thing for any writer is to proof-read his or her own writing. Simple as that. Why? Because the eye sees what the brain tells it to see. In other words, if you meant to type the word beautiful and instead typed ``beautiluf'', chances are you might not pick the error when reading through the document.

The strange thing is, if you saw the same word mis-spelled the same way in a book or in a newspaper, you'd spot it immetiadely. It's because the human brain is hard-wired to smik over some things. Because you intended to write ``beautiful'', your eye will see it as being spelt correcctly in your own maunscript.

There is a simple rule in jourlanism. Any piece of writing - even by the seniomrost writer on staff - is edited by someone else berofe it gets assigned to a live page. Same primciple - other people will pick your mistakes far quicker than you. Again, the reason is that their brain spots the error because they didn't construct the sentence, so they're not skimming over the words.

So when you're writing, use the spell-check function, no matter how good a speller you are. The longer a piece of writing is, or the quicker you'ev typed it, the higher the chacnes that there will invaraibly be an error.

Most blog platforms have a spell-check funtcion, so feel free to use them. Or if that doesn't suit you, just write in MSWord, and when you're finihsed, just spell-check it and then copy and paste the finished document into your blog post.

And now you can leave me a comment telling me how many deliterabe errors you spottted in this psot. In other worsd, I've just given all of you a rigorous proof-reading exersice!

ANSWERS REVEALED: There are 20 words mis-spelled in this post. In order, they are: hardesst, beautiluf, immetiadely, smik, correcctly, maunscript, jourlanism, seniomrost, berofe, primciple, you'ev, chacnes, invaraibly, funtcion, finihsed, deliterabe, spottted, psot, worsd, exersice.

'Fess up, how many did you find?

For earlier posts in this series, go to A Monopoly On Query letters, So You’ve Hit A Brick Wall?, Don't Drive Yourself Too Hard, Gotta Go With The Flow and Let Me Help You With That Book You're Writing.

47 comments:

Vic Grace said...

I counted 20. Thanks David I guess I don't use spell check enough. I appreciate your posting this for me.

Colleen said...

I love the picture. Hey and thanks for the nudge, they are appreciated in between posts. I only posted a brief one today...it's all I've got.

Pope Terry said...

I hate proof reading, I would suggest getting someone else to do it if its a long piece but if its just a blog entry or something short, leave it a day before you post it, then proof read and then post it, your not really reading something if you've just read it, if your anything like me your skimming over the surface remembering all the words and smiling at how funny you think you are.

Pope Terry said...

I really should of proof read that last comment. "if you just wrote it" not "read"

RUTH said...

A brilliant exercise David.:o)

Cathrine said...

:-) colo and fnu post :-)
thakn yuo


Cathrine

mrsnesbitt said...

David great post!
I am having problems with the chronological organisation over on my autobiography.
http://flossyflupipe.blogspot.com/
It is all out of synch and I would appreciate some pointers.

Thanks
Dx

david mcmahon said...

Hi Vic,

Straight to the front of the class!

My pleasure, Vic - just holler, any time

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Colleen,

Glad you liked the post, even gladder/ more glad that you've updated your site!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Ah, Your Eminence,

So who proof-reads the sermons you deliver at the Bendigo Vatican?

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi again, Pope Terry,

One of your flock just dropped in and explained the error to me!

he said it was because of the white smoke from the papal chimney

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Cathrine,

That is a brilliant comment!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Denise,

No problem, leave it with me. That's what I'm here for ...

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Ruth,

I'm so glad you liked it!

Keep smiling

David

Squiggles Mom said...

I like the pic :)). I'll do something with your email request soon but not yet since things are happening at the moment.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Squiggles mom,

Glad you liked the picture. No worries about the email - no hurry at all.

Keep smiling

David

Anne said...

Is there any job more tedious than proof reading something, whether yours or someone else's? The more I stare at something, the more everything looks wrong. Then you start getting into stylesheet issues, and when the style books come out, woe is me! I like Pope Terry's advice. Sometimes the passage of time will let you see things you would have missed. For really important stuff, I pay a proof reader. Don't eat lunch with a proof reader, though. They spend the whole time finding errors on the menu. I don't know how they make it through a day. Really. If not seeing errors is an affliction, seeing them all is worse.

lime said...

i'm a good speller but absolutely the worst typist. i'm sure my comments have already proved that.

Eve said...

I enjoy editing...as long as I don't have to edit the same piece 20 times in a row. Right now, I am so sick of my synopsis. *groan*

Thankfully, I am done my grant application and am sending it in. *cheers*

Grundir the Implacable said...

I have my minions proofread for me.

Kimberly said...

My dad had that saying as a bumper sticker when I was a kid. Love it.

I've always found it beneficial to take a step back from my writing and attempt to read it from a stranger's point of view. A difficult but worthwhile exercise.

Fabulous insights here. Thanks muchly!

Akelamalu said...

I got them all. At first I thought 'he's not proof read this post' then I realised you were doing it on purpose. Your'e rihgt it is realy dificlut to proof raed you'r own riting! ;)

The Queen said...

David,

Great job on the series here. I came upon it by way of my husband's blog (Bart @ Crazywhack Shiznit for your Brizzle). I'm taking a creative writing class to earn my last few credits for my AA degree, and your advice will surely come in handy.

Take care!
Jessie

Hin Man said...

I love reading your post. It is a perfect post. Twenty typos, I don't see that. How do you do that in tricking my brain for spelling -- I am the worst for spelling in my own blogs. Thank you so much for the post!!! I have to go back and read all of the previous parts.

Mushy said...

I started to count...got to 13 and noticed you had listed them...so, I stopped counting.

Good post.

Catmoves said...

Believe it David. Waaay back in the hot metal days, besides being a gun operator, I also helped on the proof rreading desk. Mistrakes are easy to spot.
And, in my day, newspapers were written to a tenth graders level. I understand now they are written for eighth grade level.

Luke said...

I was floored at how many typos you had (especially in a post about proof-reading) since you are generally quite good on that account, but then I got to the list and realized what you had done.

I generally use Firefox or Safari as my browser, which both come with built-in spell checkers. I've found that to be a great help, though I still make occasional mistakes.

Melissa said...

I guess I'm one of the anal ones, because I actually enjoy proof reading material. Of course, I usually miss my own typos! Thanks for posting this!

rk said...

daivd
slimpy grate psot. i lvoe ot prooof raed.
i repaet: yuo aer a mstaer wrodsimth
cheeese
rk

david mcmahon said...

Hi Anne,

Okay, I'll take your advice and never have lunch with a proof reader. A journo I used to ork with was banned from a restaurant because he used to go and rant about how they didn;t understand apostrophes!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Lime,

As you've probably noticed, I often hit the colon key instead of the apostrophe key!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Eve,

Good luck with the application - do let us know how things work out.

I'm sure it's all good, but good luck anyway.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Grundir,

That sounds perfectly logical, but can you tell me what to do as I have no minions!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Kimberly,

You're so right. I reckon I'd find it very hard to do, though, especially when the story is fresh in your mind!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Akelamalu,

Bravo, I thought I'd concealed some really well!

Just shows everyone was onto my gimmick!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

G'day Jessie,

Welcome, welcome to my blog. I did check out your site to, O Queen of Maryland .....

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Hin Man,

So glad you enjoyed the post. Once I've got this novel out of the way I'll have a bit more time to visit all my favourite blogs on a more regular basis.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Mushy,

Thank you, sir. Glad you enjoyed it.

I want to hear more about your potential screenplay ....

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Catmoves,

You absolute legend. I have the healthiest respect for hot metal operators.

They were great guys.

I want a post on your blog about those days .....

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Luke,

Thank you - I;m glad it caught your attention!

Always happy to see you here ....

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Melissa,

Welcome. Always nice to have a comment from someone new.

I don't mind proof reading. It sharpens the brain!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi RK,

Thank you, I thought your repyl was terricif!!!!!

So glad you enjoyed the post.

Keep smiling

David

Mansi Desai said...

Hahhaha...nice one david...in fact, new research has shown that human mind can now identify a word if it has more than half of the alphabets written correctly...that's the power of vision and mind...that's how I'm sure all of us read and understood your post even with its errors!! a new cipher is on the cards:)

Vic Grace said...

I have made a few tweaks and whatnot to hopefully improve my proof reading. Now instead of just writing straight into blogger I am using my word processor with spell check, plus I downloaded a dictionary and thesaurus. I have a grammar checker but I don't think it is very good. I think the idea of planning a post a day ahead and then coming back to read it is a good one. Now I realize I am not going to be able to get highspeed internet I am looking at a lot of options so I can prepare and read offline more.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

I do the same thing. As soon as I post something I read through it and always find mistakes. What's bad are the things I don't see because I can't spell, and some times nether can the computer. Then there's basic stuff like knowing the difference between something like "sense" and "since". Just illiterate as hell.

Skanky Jane said...

Oim glad you are linking to the series. I don't get to see them everyday and this make it easier to keep track. I'm following through with promo stuff but had a bit of a s'prise last week which caused a hickup or two.

SJxx

Kirti said...

I also find embarrassing errors in my posts later...I didn't know there was a spell check function on here! Thanks...