Getting rid of errors – How to correct your texts quickly and effectively
Most people react negatively to texts that contain mistakes. A text that contains errors throws a bad light on the quality of the services and products the company offers. You must therefore do everything possible to avoid errors. The following are a few tips to help prevent “error blindness”. We are also including typical spelling mistakes, comma tips and a few helpful spelling tools.
- Part 1: Spotting careless mistakes and typing errors
- Part 2: Typical spelling and comma errors
- Part 3: Helpful correction tools and general tips
Part 1: Spotting careless mistakes and typing errors
Why we miss errors even when they are obvious
Prices for our goods are inidcated the end of of page two.
Three mistakes have crept into this sentence:
- an “at” is missing after “inidcated”
- a duplicated “of” after “end”
However, the writer did not see these errors while proofreading the text. At the same time, this sentence is neither complex nor does it make use of difficult words. Yet these simple errors are often found in a very large number of Internet texts, despite the fact that the writer has proofread them. Why does it happen?
We do not read letter by letter
Human beings read letters one at a time when they start to learn how to read – later the human mind processes all the letters of the word at once. Example sentence:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is that the frist and last ltteer be at the rghit pclae.
We can generally read the words even if the vowels are missing:
Th mn rn awy vry qicky.
Our brain is therefore quite sloppy when it comes to the written word. Our minds do not really care where a specific letter is placed. Which is why we are blind to transposed letters as in “inidcated”.
Sentences correctly stored in the brain
However, while proofreading this sentence the writer probably read the missing “at” and overlooked the additional “of”. While he was writing the sentence his brain created it correctly and stored the correct image. While proofreading the writer calls up the correct visual image of the sentence. In doing so the writer does not see the errors because he is reading the text stored in his memory and not the real text.
How to avoid error blindness
Our mind does a lot to keep mistakes in our self-written texts. What can we do to catch them anyway?
1. Use a different brain
Wherever possible ask someone else to proofread your text. This person does not necessarily have to be a professional proofreader. Simply ask someone from your team to counter-check – they will probably catch most of these typical careless mistakes and typing errors. Their brain has not stored the visual text in their memory.
However, if you do not have this option, try to free yourself of the visual text image to proofread your text more objectively.
2. Take your time
Forgetting things is usually bad, but sometimes it can be helpful. By banishing the correct visual text image from your memory you can proofread your own text as though it was written by a stranger. Errors become visible more easily.
Memory is at the mercy of time – simply put your text away for a while. The longer you set a text aside the more you will forget it.
But the amount of time needed is up to you. If you have written a text with a strong emotional connection you will need longer to forget it. However, sleeping on it for a night is often enough.
3. Make it unfamiliar
There is often not enough time to set a text aside over night. In this case we suggest that you set the text aside and work on other topics. Maybe even write something entirely different. This should fade out the text memory in your brain and you will able to read the text in a “new” light.
4. Other programs or formats
The good thing about the text copy in our brain is that it also stores the appearance of the text. By changing the layout your brain has a harder time comparing what you are truly reading with your memory. This can be achieved in various ways:
- Format the text in a different font
- Open the text with a different word processor. (Abi Word or Libre Office are free of charge.)
- Export the text as a PDF file and read it in your reader or browser.
5. Read it out loud
Read the text out loud. Your brain enters the text on a different channel; the text copy in your brain is harder to use. By reading out loud you will also stumble over peculiar wording. If sentences sound strange you can immediately change them.
6. Print it out
The most effective way is to print out the text. We see errors on paper more quickly than on a screen. Printed texts look different than on a screen; they also have their own haptic and even a smell. Sensory stimuli that give new and different input to our brain overlap the text copy of the brain. You can also read the printed text out loud. This further improves the proofreading.
Print the document with line numbers. Set them on the “Page Layout” tab in Word. This makes the errors you have highlighted on the printed copy easier to find and correct on the screen.
Part 2: Typical spelling and comma errors
He is a renound expert in his feild, charismatic with a weekness for satellites and a tremendos simpathy for Lybia and accordeons.
One sentence, 22 words and 8 spelling errors. Have you found them?
If you caught all the errors then go straight to part three of the article or check out the comma mistakes. If not, then you are certainly in good company! These and many other words are commonly misspelled. Why? They are often pronounced identically.
I clearly hear two “e”s when I say “weakness”.
And “renowned” ought to have a “ou” because of how it is pronounced.
Quite right. But many words in English (and in other languages) do not follow the rules of intuition. When using these words you simply have to know how to spell them, or put your trust in a good spell check tool
Two websites that will help catch typical misspelled words
1. The Oxford University Press has created a list of the 200 most common misspellings. This quick-reference guide is quite revealing.
Top 200 misspellings – the most common mistakes
2.The Macmillan Dictionary is also a good source when searching for the correct spelling of a word. The words are listed alphabetically, which makes it easy to find the word you are searching for.
List of the most frequently misspelled words
This list is based on the words that visitors to the Macmillan Dictionary look up but cannot find because they have spelled them incorrectly.
Compound and hyphenated words – “looking-glass” or “looking glass”
The dictionary will tell you whether to treat a compound word as a hyphenated compound, one word, or two words.
If the compound is not in the dictionary, treat it as two words.
Stephen Wilbers offers another excellent website with a great overview of compound and hyphenated words. It is easy to understand and gives many examples.
Compound and hyphenated words
Do I need a comma here?
Commas are complicated. They are generally correct when listing items. But what about principal and dependent clauses? What was the rule for infinitives? And what about the conjunctions?
Those of us who do not dabble in grammar on a daily basis might have a hard time distinguishing between principal and dependent clauses. Comma rules demand a certain amount of grammatical knowledge. This is why many people add commas whenever it feels right. The sentences usually appear too long and they add a comma somewhere in between.
However, there are a few simple grammar rules that everyone can apply.
1. Watch out for elements in a series
Always use a comma between all the items in a series, including the last two.
He baked the cake, the pie, and ate them for dinner.
Use a comma to set off introductory elements.
Running to get the bus, he realized how late he was.
Use a comma to connect two independent clauses.
He reached the theater on time, but he forgot to buy a ticket.
2. And, but, for, etc.
are your best friends. Use a comma! Use commas to set off phrases that express contrast.
The dogs were fun, but very messy.
Robert said he enjoyed the hotel, not the company.
The word “which” also signals the use of a comma.
His home, which is large, is on Main Street.
The boy needed books, which were expensive.
The Elbe River, which flows through Hamburg, is still polluted.
4. Use a comma to set off parenthetical elements
In a sentence where there is a noun that is explained with extra information that is not important for the rest of the sentence, you have to put this information in commas.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is very young.
You can also put the extra information in dashes.
But if you avoid such insertions your texts can be read and pronounced more easily.
5. Other comma uses
Use a comma to set off quoted elements
“We are operating blindly,” its report said.
Use commas with titles.
Dear Mrs. Collins, Thank you for…
6. Helpful websites
This website provides information and explains comma rules.
Commas in Oxford Dictionaries.
Stephen Wilbers presents a list of comma rules on his website.
One of the most frequent sources of errors in texts is run-on sentences. Articles are forgotten, personal pronouns are overseen and commas are used without caution. Run-on sentences also make it harder for the reader to understand the content. Meanwhile, websites with run-on sentences rank more poorly with Google than similar sites with better-written texts.
But how can you pack your content into shorter sentences?
Start by restructuring the sentences. The clauses are generally separated by commas and conjunctions such as “and”, “but”, or “yet”.
Salad is my favorite food, it is the food I eat most and I always order salad when I go out for dinner, which is every night, unless my husband has cooked dinner for us and we eat at home.
- Salad is my favorite food
- it is the food I eat most
- and I always order salad when I go out for dinner
- which is every night
- unless my husband has cooked dinner for us
- and we eat at home
Extract the information
Once you have the clauses, you can easily see the actual information in the sentence. Informationen:
- Salad is my favorite food.
- It is the food I eat most.
- And I always order salad when I go out for dinner, which is every night, unless my husband has cooked dinner for us and we eat at home.
- Salad is my favorite food.
- It is the food I eat most.
- I always order salad when I go out for dinner, which is every night.
- However, when my husband has cooked dinner for us, we eat at home.
We avoid mistakes by making four short sentences out of one long one. These sentences are easier to read at a faster speed.
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
This quote is attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Jonathan Swift, Blaise Pascal, Heinrich von Kleist and others. It doesn’t really matter from where the quote originated. A short and well-structured text or sentence takes time. Remember to allow enough time for corrections.
Part 3: Helpful correction tools and general tips
The following are the three most common correction tools and how they compare.
1. Word spell check
The Word spell check feature is an integral part of Word. It is based on an extensive dictionary, and catches errors by comparing the words with those in the dictionary. It can sometimes find grammatical mistakes, for instance a missing “s” in a plural.
2. Language Tool
The English version of Language Tool recognizes around 2000 errors
Language Tool identifies:
- Compound and hyphenated words
- Possible typing mistakes
- Colloquial language
- Fasle friends
- Date checker
The “false friends” option is not provided by many other spell check tools. For instance when writing an English text with the following sentence:
My chef told me I’m not allowed to take vacation days.
Language Tool will then ask whether you mean “chief” or “boss” rather than “chef”.
This tool is free of charge and is undergoing continual development.
You can get it as a plugin for the following software:
The Language Tool desktop application is also available
Merriam Webster offers a grammar check powered by Grammarly. Grammarly’s browser extension helps you write mistake-free in Gmail, Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, Linkedin, and anywhere else you write on the Web.
This app can check the following:
- Compound and hyphenated words
- Possible typing mistakes
- other advanced features available in paid version
Comparing grammar and spell checker tools
The tools were asked to check and correct three sentences.
- He wasn’t aware oft he fact that run on sentences are prone to mistakes espacially when they are quickly written.
- When sentences are too long it is hard to avoid errors that often remain unnoiticed.
- Everyonehas a hard time recognizing this item.
Word, Language Tool and Grammarly – they all found the same mistakes
The only mistake that was not found by all three programs was
- the missing hyphen in “run-on”.
A software has to understand the meaning of a sentence in order to correct a mistake like that. But some time will pass until this is possible.
Check out what features you need for your work and whether you want to invest in paid software.
1. Do not only rely on the software
Even if you are using good correction tools do not rely blindly on it. No software in the world will be able to recognize whether you mean:
That is a compliment.
That is a complement.
Correction tools cannot recognize some mistakes and spelling errors because they cannot understand the context of the text.
2. Use a readable format
Make a text more easily readable by formatting it with a 1.5 line spacing or more. The font size also ought to be large enough. The font must also ensure good legibility for proofreading. You can format the text as you wish when corrections have been made.
3. Work when you are rested
Concentration improves when you are rested, have taken a walk or after a night’s sleep, you will therefore find more mistakes in the text than if you squeeze the proofreading into a busy schedule.
4. Schedule enough time
When writing a text, always schedule enough proofreading time. It can take as long as half the amount of time needed to write the text.
5. Be aware of your own mistakes
Watch out for your “favorite” mistakes. If you always mix up “it’s” and “its” pay special attention to them.
6. Look it up
There are thousands of spell check sites on the Internet. Basically every spelling problem can be easily and quickly solved there.
7. Reading backwards
Schoolchildren know that reading backwards reveals misspelled words very quickly. Simply read the sentence backwards one word at the time.
Our pool of proofreaders
We hope that this blog post has given you some helpful proofreading tips and suggestions. And you might even happen to find a spelling mistake in this blog, which we added on purpose to test your skills! However, if we have made a practical mistake, please do not hesitate to inform us.
Please get in touch with us if you do not have time to correct your own texts. We have a large pool of expert proofreaders to correct your texts quickly and efficiently.