Monday, April 4, 2011

Can You Read This? (If so, you need an editor)

if yuo can raed tihs, you hvae a sgtrane mnid, too.
Can you raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

I don’t know about you, but after I’ve worked on a manuscript for weeks, months, even years, I become so close to the work that I cannot look at it objectively anymore. As you witnessed with the above example, your eye will see a misspelled word or a typo and your brain registers the word that it’s supposed to be.

A Seattle newspaper reported a story about a new ramp at the ferry terminal that was operated by a "system of wenches." (Those serving girls moonlighting after handing out grog at Ye Olde English Tavern?) Oops!

A Michigan county had to spend $40,000 reprinting ballots after the "L" was left out of the word "public." A big Oops!

There are many more reasons to hire an independent editor, but these are good ones.

Even editors need editing! It’s invaluable to have another pair of eyes look at your work. It’s surprising what they’ll pick up. And you certainly don’t want your manuscript tossed because of a typo on the first page!

Do you have your favorite public typo story?


A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

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  1. Some of the headline bloopers are laugh-out-loud funny. Here's one:
    "Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers"

  2. The scary thing is, I actually COULD read those first few paras. And understand them too! I wonder what that says about me? :O

    Now I know why "editor" is top of my book writing budget!

    Judy (South Africa)

  3. "If you need help, ask one of our uninformed assistants."

    I'm moving toward putting an original book, rather than a back list title, up as an e-book. I'm definitely in the market for a freelance editor--even though my published books come back relatively clean, there's always something an editor will be able to improve on.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  4. ha! Yes, I received this thing in a mass email once. Very interesting!

  5. Loved this post, as usual. I could read the misspelled portion clearly. The newspaper goofs were very funny too.

  6. It also helps if you read quickly. Don't pause and study the mixed-up words.

    When you're editing, it helps if you put time in-between read-throughs. At least a day. Longer if you can.

  7. My favorite blooper happened when I was a brand-new software engineer. I worked in the manufacturing department, next door to the business department. They were a smug group, and thought their work was so much more important than our little programs to track inventory. To advertise their services, they put together a brochure, in full, glossy color. They offered the latest technology, including data storage on 'floppy diks'.

    They'd printed boxes full of brochures before they noticed the missing 's'. We, of course, couldn't stop laughing.

  8. I must be one of the 55 per cent since I read that opening para with startling ease. Which worries me slightly as I'm a trained proofreader...

    My own favourite blooper is from an official letter sent to an industrial site my husband visited on a regular basis, where 'on-site borehole' had been mis-typed as 'on site brothel'. O.o

  9. Needless to say, an editor's life is seldom boring. I'm still laughing . . .

  10. I've read an article that explains when we read we see the first letter and the last letter and our brain fills in what should be in the middle - which explains how we can read that first bit of your post. Thanks for the funny headlines!

  11. Good ones! And with the state of publishing changing rapidly and more authors thinking of publishing their books independently, freelance editors become an indispensable part of the process, in order to maintain high standards for indie authors and publishers.

  12. At a writers conference I just attended (what a set up!) the hotel restaurant accommodated the greate-than-normal traffic by offering a self-serve buffet each night. They kindly printed up and distributed menus so people could decide whether or not to avail themselves of this option. Dessert: "Ice Cream, Fresh Baked Cookies and Decedent Cakes."

    And the second day, when the new menu came out? Yep--the cakes were still dead.

    Fun post, Heidi!

  13. LOL I could read the whole thing easily. Hmm-- need an editor:)

  14. I've seen this article a few times, but its message still rings true.

  15. KOMO news online makes many, many mistakes. I read KOMO news as much for the laughs as for the news.

  16. My grandfather often used to recount of how a janitor at the govt printing office where he worked (as an engineer) pointed out that a bunch of roadsafty phamplets for young school kids had spelt footpath as foothpath.
    Thousands had to be scrapped and reprinted without the extra 'h'.

    And not only could I read it easily, I bet I could do it upside-down.

  17. I agree with Terry on the importance of an outside editor, even when you think you have done a great job editing your own book. Anything I publish myself goes to an outside editor.

  18. I love all your blooper examples! It's good to have a little laugh on a Monday (especially a gray one here in the Pacific Northwest!)

  19. Look up "The The Impotence of Proofreading," by Taylor Mali on YouTube. I have never laughed so hard in my entire life.

    I just came across this tirade about how authors NEVER need editors. This guy has issues. Look for Gordon Jerome's comments on this blog post.

  20. Wow, that was fun! I had no trouble reading your mixed up words.

    That's amazing!

    Morgan Mandel

  21. I had no trouble reading the beginning of the post, yet I am an editor of a computer user group newsletter.

    I think it is because I have to decipher what is submitted, so that the readers won't have any trouble.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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