The Quicker Typo Picker-Upper
Does your job involve writing? (Yes, emails and intake reports count.) Pune Dracker shares 5 tips for erring on the error-free side.
This post is dedicated to anyone who’s ever made a typo. We’re casting a wide net today, as inspired by one of the most joyful grammar-related books (not an oxymoron!) I’ve ever read, The Great Typo Hunt.
I’m a little jealous of the cross-country trip the authors took, armed with a Typo Correction Kit and a geek-worthy love of grammar, searching for and documenting errors in malls and museums, on roadsides and restaurants. They came across quite a few mens’ rooms (and mens rooms), a cemetary, some cheesebugers and a stationary store, to name a few.
We’ve all made some zingers. Even though it was more than 15 years ago, I can still see myself holding the proofs for the photo spread on dogs for our children’s publication. We got the provenance right for the tallest breed—but instead of the stately Irish wolfhound, we gave the crown to the scrappy lil’ terrier. It didn’t help that the accompanying image was disproportionately larger than any other on the page, so the mighty terrier wound up looking 3 times the size of the German shepherd.
Nowadays, of course, you can edit online content any time—even pdfs and Facebook statuses! But wouldn’t you rather spend that brainspace coming up with a great tagline for your next adoption promotion or a powerful script for your next video? Especially when an extra 2 minutes (even 30 seconds!) can be all it takes to get your copy professional-sounding and error-free.
5 top-secret typo-bashing tactics:
A Little Help from Your Friends (and Coworkers)
Doesn’t matter if you have a ton of experience writing and editing and approving copy… run everything by a second set of eyes. If you can’t find a coworker, enlist a friend—if possible, one not directly involved in the animal sheltering field. She probably won’t have insider knowledge of, say, intake procedures or your application for foster volunteers that a coworker would, and could be a better barometer of how clearly and effectively you’re communicating.
Spell Check=Your Frenemy
Spell checking programs can be invaluable in catching errors—just take care you’re truly comprehending the suggested edits and not just automatically hitting Ignore…or was that Change All? OOPS! Some programs may introduce outdated grammatical conventions—i.e. they will change “he” and “she” in reference to an individual animal to “it”—so again, look carefully if they flag your copy for bad grammar.
Get Up Offa That Thing!
The act of printing out a hard copy, standing up and physically moving to a different location to read your material can help you reset and offers a fresh perspective.
Say It Loud
Hone in on typos and awkward wording that trips you up not by reading but reciting your copy. Your ear may pick up on things your eye doesn’t.
Do Not Check Facebook, Pay Your Phone Bill, Participate in a Conference Call and Proof Copy at the Same Time
Sound a teeny bit familiar? You say to yourself, “Oh, it’s just one sentence, that’s nothing for a communications professional like me.” And then the email with the “latest news from the APSCA” goes out! (That didn’t really happen, but it sure is a good example!)
And if you do make a typo? Correct it if you can, determine what you’ll do differently next time to avoid a similar mistake, and heed these wise words from Big Bird.
Leave a comment if you’ve got any tips to share or typos to ’fess up to.
Pune Dracker has been writing and editing content about animals and animal welfare issues at the ASPCA for more than 20 years, and has never met a typo that couldn’t teach her something.