Crucified for being human (Relax, it’s just a typo!)

4/24/17

We all make mistakes. We’re all human. I can personally admit that I’m my own worst editor. No matter how many times I comb over my work, I can always find mistakes. But does that mean I should be burned at the stake? Well, according to some – yes.

Who hasn’t written something and overlooked a typo? Or who accepted their spellchecker’s suggestion without question only to discover later that it was playing a cruel trick on you?

I depended on you spellchecker! I trusted you, and you failed me!

But that happens…a lot.

Yes, I do know the difference between their, there, and they’re. I also know the difference between your and you’re. I once had someone leave a long hate-filled comment on one of my works. This person was a troll in the worst sense of the word (made obvious by the racist and homophobic slurs they were using). Naturally, I don’t pay much attention to such people. They’re only desperately seeking attention, or to receive gratification by getting under people’s skin, but the thing that stood out to me was the fact that they pointed out that I had used the wrong “You’re/Your.” I often ask my readers to find such mistakes and point them out for me so that I can fix them, but it bothered me because I knew what the difference was and I know I used your and you’re a lot in that story, so where was this offending word? The troll, of course, never bothered to direct me to exactly where this mistake had been made. I had to dig through ten chapters. TEN! Of accurately used yours and you’res before I found the one. The only one – that I had accidentally missed. I spent the rest of the day laughing about how this troll though they had thrown me under a bus because I had missed one tiny word out of a thirty-two chapter story. It was a monument to how desperate some people are to find any little thing they can to complain about. In all honesty, I was glad someone pointed it out to me so that I could fix it.

Because humans are…well, human. If I’m reading someone’s work online, or from a popular blog, and I spot one or two little typos or spelling mistakes, believe it or not. I forgive them. This may come as a shock, but most regular people don’t have a professional copyeditor at their disposal. Now, if the mistakes are, say, in a news article from a news source. Then I get angry to see mistakes because news outlets should have copyeditors. (I’m looking at you YAHOO!) Professional sources of written media should have at least one other person willing to look over the work and proofread it before it’s dispensed to the public. That’s called professionalism. But, when non-professional writers have no one else to proofread their work for them – mistakes happen. Should you shame them, flame them, or be rude to them? No. That would make you a jerk. Please don’t.

Human errors in writing often happen, as mentioned above, one of the biggest reasons for human error is because we are depending on non-humans (Spellchecker, Grammarly, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, these are wonderful resources, and they do help more often than not, but they’re not perfect, and they probably never will be. There’s just no substitute for real human judgment, and context is something an algorithm can’t always account for.

Another common reason for human error is most people read rather quickly, paying attention to the message, rather than zeroing in on any minute mistakes. Some people are great at focusing on both; others would have to re-read everything twice just to pick up on such mistakes, and let’s face it; most people just will not take the time. I’ve had friends proofread my works before, then proceed to get so wrapped up in the story that even they overlooked glaring mistakes that I found myself later. It’s very easy for things to escape notice even when we’re looking directly at them. It happens. Whether we’re looking for our own mistakes, or for mistakes made by others, things will be missed.

I’ve read many professionally published books only to find mistakes. Tiny mistakes, sometimes only one or two, but these mistakes are in books that actually had professional copyeditors comb through them, often several, and still the mistakes made it onto the published page.

Does one typo mean you don’t know what you’re doing? Does one oversight mean your work is discredited? What are some common mistakes that you’ve made in your own writing? Have you ever been too hard on someone else for making a typo or spelling error?

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