3 January 2008

Fear no typo

Is it just me or do you immediately cringe and think you did something wrong when your boss mentions there is a typo in a document?

I noticed that the other day when someone mentioned to me there was a typo in a document I was working on. Their definition of typo, however, was not the same as mine. The typo they were referring to was they had used the wrong word in a sentence and wanted it changed, not that I had spelt it wrong. Whew!

What is a typo?
Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines typo as, “a small mistake in a text made when it was typed or printed”.[1] It is usually an “unintentional error”.

I find I make the most mistakes when I go back and change something and then forget to take another word out or after making a change neglect to re-read the sentence to make sure it still makes sense.

Play it again Sam
The best way to avoid these types of errors is to proofread. I wish I had a quick fix, but you can’t beat proofreading, especially when you have gone back and made changes, you really need to read that sentence or paragraph again. A fresh set of eyes can be helpful as well. Another assistant might be able to quickly read it over for you if you have looked at it just too many times.

I have also found turning on the ‘Check Grammar While you Type’ useful as it will highlight sentences that do not read right or have incorrect punctuation and will flag it for you. (Tools, Options, Spelling & Grammar and click Check Grammar as you Type).

Another useful tool is Autocorrect. In the Options for Autocorrect make sure you click ‘Replace Text as you Type’ and it will automatically correct commonly misspelled words.

You also have the option to turn your ‘Check Grammar With Spelling’ on as an added measure, but I don’t find that as useful and it really slows the process down when doing a Spell Check. I do however use Spell Check on emails and all documents that I type.

We all make mistakes
Be as careful as you can be, but if you make a mistake, go back and make the change and go on to your next task. Don’t dwell on your error, but epending on the error, you may need to tell someone about it.  Be honest -- we all make mistakes!

To avoid common mistakes, I have a quick mental checklist I go through while proofing my documents.
  • Is the date correct? Especially as we change to new year, is it dated the correct year;
  • Do the addressee and salutation match? It is easy when you are using an old document to have the correct addressee, but in the salutation the wrong name;
  • Do I have the correct signature line and initials?
  • Is there a c.c. or b.c.c that I have to remember to send? If you have a blind copy, make sure b.c.c. is not typed on the original letter.
  • Check to see if it is to go by fax, courier, regular mail, registered mail or email, and then make sure you send it that way?
  • Are there any enclosures?  Make sure you attach them.
  • Is a Draft or Copy watermark on the final document and does it need to be removed before printing.
  • In email before I press Send, I check to make sure I am sending to the right person and if I say I have an attachment I make sure it is actually there and open it to verify again that it is the correct attachment.
Some mistakes are more costly than others, but when we make a mistake, and we undoubtedly will, we can learn from it and we normally won`t make it again.

As for me, I think I will always cringe just a little when I hear those words “there’s a typo”, but proofreading and going through my mental checklist will help me make fewer mistakes and less often.

[1] From Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

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