Have you heard the joke about the blonde woman who used White Out on her television screen because the local TV station had so many errors in its onscreen subheads? I could be that person – and maybe you could too?
Level 1 is those who don’t care. In a way I envy people in this category. Many students just didn’t learn phonetics or the rules of punctuation and their readers can just figure out they meant ‘it is’ even though they wrote ‘its’ – right?
Level 2 is those who care some of the time. Most of time they get it right and they are content with the few times they misspell someone’s name or use the wrong word in a sentence. No big deal, they get it right most of the time.
Level 3 is those of us who go nuts when the media, teachers, elected officials and yes, ourselves make errors. I am not certain if the error or the don’t care attitude are what matter most – but if our parents, leaders and the media don’t understand their huge impact as role models then our culture is in trouble.
So here are just a couple of tips for all of us to step-it-up and along the way bring more clarity to what we meant to say!
Proofreading is an art, and a science. The art is in the writing, the science is in the review that catches the typos and grammatical errors. Proofreading tools are meant to trick the brain into looking at the micro details and putting aside the meaning of the phrasing.
Here are a few proofreading tips for all of us:
#1 – The devil is in the details. Headlines, dates and proper nouns like names and titles are where the worst errors occur. Do a quick review of your copy and double check the day/date correlation, the correct spelling of a name or title and try reading that headline out loud.
#2 – Now move on to the bulk of your copy – and read it backward. This is another trick to focus just on the word and not on the message. When you see a word standing alone, it is far easier to realize if it is spelled correctly.
#3 – What are your common mistakes? You have probably said to a coworker – “I always get that word wrong”. Type those on a cheat sheet and tape it to your computer screen frame. The very act of identifying your common mistakes may just be key to fixing them too.
Here is a quick list of what experts say are the most common mistakes we make:
- Wikipedia says one of the most common misspelled words is misspelled.
- Their/they’re/there – These 3 words are all pronounced the same put are spelled differently and have different meanings.
- Basically is often misspelled as basicly
- To, too and two
- Jealous is misspelled phonetically as jellus
- Words with multiple vowels are often incorrect like secretary – often seen as secratary or secretery
- Words with an ‘s’ often end up with a ‘z’ like surprise often used as surprize
- According to grammarians, the biggest offense is with contractions like its, it’s and will, won’t.
With gratitude for spell check and the brilliance of smart phone and computer programs that assist us in making these errors less often … and those of you who would love to correct this blog too … I’ll leave you with a favorite phrase:
“In my sentences I go where no man has gone before… I am a boon to the English language.”
George W. Bush