And they happen to everyone.
Case in point: a recent Columbus Dispatch headline read “Elway throws seven touchdown passes.”
The problem? John Elway retired in 1999.
The headline obviously meant to read, “Manning throws seven touchdown passes,” to coincide with the Denver Broncos’ season-opening win over the Baltimore Ravens. I have no doubt the person responsible for the gaffe knew full well the difference between Manning and Elway, so how could this have happened?
Because typos happen.
No matter how hard you try, no matter how smart you are or how much you know, no matter how many articles, releases or emails you’ve written, every once in a while a typo is going to fall through the cracks and trip you up.
They just do.
So what can you do about it? How can you be expected to be perfect all of the time? You really can’t. But there are a few things you can do to prevent typos from becoming a regular occurrence.
- Don’t rely solely on spell-check. While spell-check is useful for most erroneous misspellings, they won’t necessarily recognize things like “to or too,” or notice if a correctly–spelled word you meant to delete has inadvertently been left in.
- Don’t proofread immediately after writing (if possible). When you write something, you know what you are trying say. The problem is that when you go back to proof it, your mind may simply ignore any typos, glossing over obvious mistakes.
- Print it out. You are likely to catch more errors if you read it on paper as opposed to a computer screen.
- Read it out loud. Hearing is believing. Your eyes may play tricks on you, but your ears are not as vulnerable to such trickery.
- Have someone else read it. A new set of eyes and a neutral perspective can root out typos you may have skimmed over several times. If you can get the same person to read it out loud to you, even better.
Even if you complete all five of the tips above, don’t be surprised if one of those pesky little typos still finds its way into your copy. We’re only human, after all, and typos have happened to each and every one of us. It doesn’t suddenly make you a terrible journalist or a junior writer. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are inattentive or lazy. Yes, people may scoff or belittle you for the mistake, but let he or she who is without typo cast the first stone.
That’s what I thought.
You see, typos happen. They happen in online and print publications, on press releases, media alerts, emails, billboards, programs, menus and invitations…they probably happen to Manning and Elway, too.
Why do typos happen? They just do.
All we can do is try our best to prevent them from happening.