Thursday, September 27, 2018

Lazy Fingers & Cognitive Assumptions

Every writer faces the task of proofreading at every stage of the writing process. We sometimes do this onerous task at the end of a writing session or we wait until the entire work in progress is commented to paper or even to the last minute before the novel is published.

Competent typists are usually accurate to within a very small percentage point. Two-finger typists, commonly called the “hunt and peck” variety can actually be better at accuracy but much slower. Whichever we are, we occasionally make assumptions about the manual aspects of producing a written work.

Last year, I happily published my seventeenth novel of twenty written works with my name on the cover. While considering a new cover and further research into that period of American history, I reviewed a small section of the novel and—shock horror—even after careful and intense proofreading of the “Advanced Reader’s Copy,” I discovered a typographical error.

Not much further along, I found another error—the “My brain thought this word but my fingers typed that one” kind. During proofreading, the brain often wins the argument, making the assumption that the word typed was the word thought.

With more than one such error, I began at the beginning of the novel, making note of the errors in pencil and marking the pages with strips of multi-colored plastic stickies (my stash of these useful writers’ tools are well-used).

The whole process of re-proofing an already published novel taught me yet another lesson: Proofread more than once and proofread backwards. If you’re self-publishing, asking a friend or paying a professional editor are options. Even so, there will be the occasional missing letter, word or punctuation mark.

In that instance, take the philosophical approach: No one is perfect.


  1. Leigh, we've all been through the horror of seeing a typo in an already published novel. Finding one makes me physically ill and mad at myself for being sloppy with the proofing, even if it has gone through a professional editor. Bottom line: we're all human, but an error will certainly make us try to be more careful. Don't let it get you down. Enjoy your newest creation.

  2. Hi Leigh--
    I think this happens to all of us at one time or another. No matter how many times we proofread, one typo somehow slips in. Even publisher's editors don't catch all of them.

  3. Oh, Leigh, I've been there. Nothing makes you feel more exposed than finding an error in a published work. You're right, though, to take the philosophical approach. Truly, no one is perfect- and nobody is as deluded than he who thinks he is.