Imagine you’re about to email an important client when, just before the cursor touches the send button, you see it – you wrote area manger instead of area manager!
Your eyes widen. Your heart beats fast and you begin to sweat – “palms sweaty, mom’s spaghetti.” You’re glad luck was on your side and you caught the error before you sent the email, but how did this happen in the first place?
What if I told you your brain was the culprit?
That’s right, the smartest organ in our bodies is the one making some dumb mistakes. In the words of comedian Emo Philips, “I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.”
Our beautiful brains are wired to take shortcuts. They gloss over simple errors and correct them in our heads to make the reading process easier. Unfortunately, we can’t telepathically edit text … yet.
So, rather than fight science (I tried; it’s got quite the right hook), my silly little brain has instead learned some tricks for avoiding simple mistakes and turning luck into a skill.
1. Search for common errors
In the editing world, we come across a lot of the same errors every day. The aforementioned manger instead of manager, insure instead of ensure … you know the drill. And, if you don’t, refer back to this blog or any of the others we’ve done on the subject.
2. Avoid find/replace all
Maybe you’re searching for those common errors and, taking your own shortcuts, use that handy-dandy Find/Replace All button. STOP! This tool is helpful, but you need to go one by one to make sure you don’t end up changing “presidents” to “pclients” or creating odd phrasing like, “School of Middlebury College School.”
3. Read everything out loud
Yes, we’ve said this before. Many times. But we’re saying it again. When you read something out loud, it prevents your brain from taking those shortcuts and, therefore, lets you catch silly grammar mistakes, too-long sentences and even sentences that just randomly end without (see what I did there?)
4. Take a break
When you’re writing, you’re thinking about what comes next in the sentence, so it’s easy to make a mistake. But after a short break, you can shift gears in your head to go from writing mode to reading mode.
5. Ask someone else to read your writing
There’s nothing like an objective third party, and a fresh pair of eyes, to help ensure your writing is as good as it can be. Might I suggest a crack team of incredibly talented editors? I know a few, if you need names.
From Lucky Ducky to Smart Cookie
While we have our brains to blame for some simple (or, if you’re me, devastating) mistakes, luckily the solution is just as simple. So, instead, test your luck where it matters – lottery tickets and Las Vegas!
Don’t be sad. We’ll be back on the first Monday next month with a new blog post. If you can’t wait that long – whether because you have a topic you’d love us to cover, a question or you simply want to throw your two cents into the pot – we love talkin’ shop, so drop us a line.