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19 comments

Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

Posted September 04, 2015 7:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

If yvo'ue raed something aoubt how the brian wrkos you may konw why you can raed tihs snetecne whiuott mcuh tbruloe.

I remember the first time I saw something like the mess you see above, and how amazed I was that I could read it so easily. What intrigued me more though was the concept that our brains can make the necessary assumptions to read words in bulk rather than through individual letter order. As long as all the letters are there and the first and last letters are in the right spot, our brains usually have no trouble piecing things together. This is because the brain is allowing itself to take shortcuts in order to complete the more complex goal in reading --> extracting meaning.

The brain actually does a lot of simplifying to help manage all that it does. Consider the fact that even when you are doing a brainless activity that requires no real thinking (e.g. fishing) your brain is busy processing everything you receive from your five senses, and simultaneously managing both passive and active motor functions in your body. When we add thinking to the mix, the brain looks for ways to simplify and generalize easy/component tasks in order to free up brain power. Taking the example above, the mind takes shortcuts on how we read individual words in order to focus on the harder task of pulling meaning out of a sentence or paragraph (aka "reading comprehension").

There is another shortcut our brains take when we read, and it actually inhibits our ability to proofread. When we read, our brains are pulling sensory information from our eyes (the words) and combining that with our prior knowledge to extract meaning and understanding. When we read our own work, we already know the meaning we want to convey, and we expect it to be there. This expectation makes it easy for us to miss things that would be obvious to others, because our brains are filling in the gaps for us. It's typically also this reason why we make typos in the first place. There have been many times where (in a draft) I've completely left out entire words or sentences about certain points, and not seen them during my review. In my head I read them, but I had not written them on the page.

Studies on "change blindness" show another way that our brains make compromises in order to focus. In this experiment at Harvard University, test subjects are asked by a man behind a desk to fill out a consent form for an experiment. When they complete the form, the man behind the desk ducks down to file it, and a completely different person stands up to tell them to go into the next room. About 75% of the people in the test don't notice this change, presumably because the brain is making assumptions for the things that it is not focusing on. Pretty amazing and yet pretty scary - it makes me wonder what kinds of changes I've missed this way in the past.

Even as we continue to push the envelope on human understanding and knowledge, it's important to remember that our minds are limited and that we will sometimes miss things and make obvious mistakes. Most of the time, though we would rather go it alone, there is no substitute for having someone else review and check our work.

References

Wired.com

io9.com

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#1

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/04/2015 12:58 PM

Is this a key to slight-of-hand?

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#4
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/05/2015 3:32 AM

Please forgive me as I would not normally correct another's spelling, maybe it was just a simple typo, but seeing as this thread is about that subject.

I would guess that a person who is "slight of hand" has a small hand.

Perhaps you were referring to the art of Legerdemain which is commonly called "sleight of hand".

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#14
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/08/2015 9:39 AM

I am ever so grateful for the correction to the term for prestidigitation you have provided.

Is this your watch?

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#16
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/08/2015 4:34 PM

GA. I'm glad to see it encouraged you to look it up.

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#2

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/04/2015 11:10 PM

I don't need anywun to catch my typoz.

They can if they want to.

I thought this was Global 360/CR4, an Engineering website.

Not Global 360/ The English Grammar and Punctuation website.

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#3
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/05/2015 2:48 AM

Ok for fourarms like this to let fings slide, but, as engineers, clear and concise communications are part of the JD including writing.

I was formerly educateded about this inability to efficiently proof read one's own written ramblings. The unavoidable need to be your own proof reader in the real world was also discussed. A proof reader on hand is a rarity. The formal writing syllabus recommended that in this situation, one should proof readd their own writing the next day.

I am sure that many of us have read our works the next day and cringed at our own sins.

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#6
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/05/2015 9:33 AM

Communications is the key in engineering. There are times a post have plenty of typos but the essence of the subject matter gets conveyed. That is important.

Other times, the typos are so bad it is illegible, some reasons due to sloppiness, one that is understandable is the poster first language is not English.

I do not mind being corrected, would I do mind is the auto correct feature is incorrect.

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#5

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/05/2015 3:54 AM

Remarkably suffering from mild dyslexia helps when proof reading my own work. I know that I regularly transpose letters in words so while I looking for that and spot lots of genuine typos. If I could find them all I would write prefectly. Alas..................

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#7
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/05/2015 9:34 AM

I have the same problem, sometimes I even double type type words.

I did that on purpose...... This time. ;-)

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#8

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/05/2015 11:34 AM

I happen to be a pretty good proofreader, I suspect because I am also a slow reader and my brain does not skip/assume things like many others do. My wife is a poor proofreader; I gave up on letting her go over a newsletter I was doing at the time, because it didn't work.

Yes, do read your stuff the next day or even several days later. With that newsletter I mentioned, each of several times I would re-read it I would find something else to correct or change. I have also heard suggested that you read right to left. That would catch spelling, but probably not sentence structure, meaning and logic. The spell check in most word processors is great, but it does not do well on proper names, acronyms, etc. Moral: in addition to using the spell check, you have to READ your stuff. Several times!

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#9

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/05/2015 3:17 PM

A tip from an editor:

Read the text forward for content,read it backward for errors and spelling.

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#10

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/05/2015 3:20 PM

I've been there done that.

I woke up one morning with a strange woman in my bed.

Not the one I left the bar with.

The one I left with was a solid 8.

The one in my bed was maybe a 3 at best.

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#11

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/07/2015 1:47 PM

The Scientific & Engineering Grammar Police Patrol (S&EGPP)?

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#12

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/07/2015 5:33 PM

One that got away:

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#13
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/08/2015 7:20 AM

or they need bigger cars,...... bit I think an 'I' would have fit.

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#15
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/08/2015 9:55 AM

Or the 'door art' was added before assembly.

Check the care next to it, does it say [POLIICE]?

For those who don't get it right away:

Door Style A: POL / ICE

Door Style B: POLI / CE

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#17
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/11/2015 11:01 AM

It could be just that this cop was in a terrible accident and lost an eye.

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#18
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Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

09/11/2015 3:12 PM

Good one!

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#19

Re: Why We Need Others To Catch Our Typos

07/18/2016 3:58 PM

"If yvo'ue raed something aoubt how the brian wrkos you may konw why you can raed tihs snetecne whiuott mcuh tbruloe."

One thing that seems odd, is that when I read this silently, the 'inner voice' I hear sounds distorted, as if being played back on a stretched-out cassette tape. I guess it's just one more of the weird things of the human brain.

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