from the sum-thymes-ewe-jest-cant-sea-miss-takes dept.
Typos suck. They are saboteurs, undermining your intent, causing your resume to land in the “pass” pile, or providing sustenance for an army of pedantic critics. If we are our own harshest critics, why do we miss those annoying little details? Now Nick Stockton writes that the reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart. “When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” says psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK. As with all high level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas). "The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads," writes Stockton. "When you’re proof reading, you are trying to trick your brain into pretending that it’s reading the thing for the first time." Stafford suggests that if you want to catch your own errors, you should try to make your work as unfamiliar as possible. Change the font or background color, or print it out and edit by hand. “Once you’ve learned something in a particular way, it’s hard to see the details without changing the visual form,” say Stafford.