Just this weekend I posted a blog with a misspelled word in the heading–“dos” instead of “does”. Well, my Spanish isn’t good enough to pawn it off as the number two, which didn’t make sense anyway, so there I was with the only line showing on the link broadcasting my error. A delightful friend immediately sent me a comment on Facebook, “Is this an editor’s test? lol” Why didn’t I just go with it and say, “Yes!”? I caught it and fixed it right after I hit “Publish” on WordPress, but since I have automatic share for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, it was out there for all to see. In my haste to remedy this, I sent the whole post to trash. It was a rather lengthy poem with visually descriptive words, now lost and gone forever, except for the heading postings everywhere which now link to nothing.
As much as every writer and editor would love to have an all-knowing editing key or a magic wand to clean up any discrepancies and errors/typos in a manuscript, business letter, a blog posting, even an email, it just doesn’t exist. The human element of eyes, ears, and touch remains the only way to be sure you’ve said what you meant to say in a manner that will relate to your target audience.
There’s no way a computer can think and analyze like a human brain. We speak and write metaphorically, tongue-in-cheek, sarcastically with puns and wit and comparisons that a machine governed by a finite set of rules and commands cannot comprehend. The hard drive doesn’t care how many times you use the same, monotonous word in a sentence, in a paragraph, on a page, in a chapter. Nor does your spell-check, grammar-check, or latest software package notice inconsistencies in who, what, when, where, and how.
Wouldn’t it be hilarious if you sent an RSVP with all the information garbled by the automatic words the smart phones or tablets choose for you? For example, misspelling both names: Who was giving the event and for whom; What the event was–hmm..wouldn’t that make for a colorful dress code, jeans and shorts to black-tie and gown, perhaps festive and mourning attire; When the event was occurring–time and date; and Where? Of course a misspelled street name and an incorrect address number and zip code. How to get there? Try GPS or mapquest on that one!
You can’t trust your own eyes to show you what you’ve written. They see what they expect to see.
You can’t hear your mistakes in your mind as you read silently to yourself. Your inner ear hears what it expects to hear.
You can’t touch your words on the screen with a pencil, a pen, an eraser. If you print it out your eyes, ears, and engrained memory of what you’ve written will still have you reading right over a misplaced, forgotten, or left out word.
All is not hopeless. You just need a proofreader or editor who hasn’t seen your words before. Also, editors train their senses to see, to hear, and to touch inconsistencies, discrepancies, and content that is awkward or structurally unsound. They just can’t proofread for themselves. I don’t see technology changing these basic human traits.
So please let me know if I’ve messed up again. I’m always grateful for a chance to make things right.