I don’t want to blow anyone’s mind or anything, but I suck at proofreading. I know, I know, I’m a professional editor. I should rock at everything edit-y, right? But I have this incredible blind spot when it comes to typos. I just don’t see them, particularly in my own work. It can be kind of embarrassing, actually. Sometimes I can spot them later – like when I look over my email correspondence to find out why that new client never got back to me and I realize that, oops, I typed “I look forwad to hearing form you.” Yeah. Doesn’t inspire confidence.
This is why I subcontract for proofreading, if a client requires it. This is also why proofing isn’t on my menu of services. Instead, what I specialize in is developmental editing. I can look at a writer’s work and understand where they want to go, and how to help get them there, and then I can break that knowledge down for the client in a way they can hear. It’s about accessing their true intent, articulating it, and sharpening meaning.
So, when I came across this article about typos (written by Nick Stockton, posted in Wired magazine) I felt so gratified, so validated, so understood. I miss typos because I’m so high level and shit. Phew. Now I know.
The reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart, explains psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK. “When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” he said.