For better or worse, I’ve got a very sharp eye for the text errors known as typos—even the tiny ones that most readers will never notice.
This sharp eye is “better,” because it helps me be a good editor; I never deliver typo-strewn stories or manuscripts. But it is also “worse,” because it makes me a very persnickety reader; instead of losing myself in the “forest” of a good story, I get distracted by the equivalent of a tiny insignificant hole in one single leaf at the top of a distant “tree.”
Over the years, I’ve learned to identify some common reasons and patterns for typos, including:
Spell checker syndrome
These are words that actually exist but are not used in the correct context, so only a human eye (or a smart bot) will catch them. E.g., I went fort the chicken parm. (These days, Google will suggest a correction.)
Sometimes I catch myself writing “bear” when I mean “bare” or “write” when I mean “right.” Any neuroscientists out there who can explain what must be a hard-wired connection between our listening and writing brains?
Simple letter reversals
I type “teh” more often than “the.” This is such a common personal error that my text message app now suggests it as a “correction…”
Typos Make Us Human
Such tiny errors are the result of fingers choosing the wrong keys on a keyboard, a very human and very mechanical failing. So, now that we’re all worried about ChatGPT and other AI “authors” taking over, I’m going to adopt a different attitude altogether: Typos Are Human. The next time I spot the wrong word in someone else’s novel, I’m going to try to skip right over my knee-jerk “I can’t believe the editor didn’t catch that” and instead appreciate the actual imperfect writer who mistyped a word. Let’s celebrate our error-prone humanity, as well as the joy of getting so caught up in the forest of a unique story that we don’t even all those leaf-holes!
Frankly, I’m not sure this attempt to change my long-time habits will work, and it will of course bring about its own “better” and “worse;” I can already imagine a flurry of comments about the sad decline of my writing and editing standards. Otherwise, what do you think? Will typos become less of an annoyance and more an important detector of AI/BS going forward? Do they distract you too? Let me know in the comments below, or send me an email. Maybe together, we can forge a new path in this brave new writing world.