Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If You Can Read This, You Need An Editor

This post originally appeared April 4, 2011


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 won the national WILLA Award. 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. Very interesting. I find myself not even looking at most of the words, really; skimming each line is usually enough. Then I read poetry! I have to slow down and see each word. That may be why I appreciate poetry so much.

  2. Heidi, I definitely have strange mind (so what else is new?) because I can read the first two paragraphs very quickly. This is a great post, and I'm still chuckling over a cited blooper or two.

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  4. This post really underscores the need for an editor, even if you are an editor. I would never trust my own eye on my manuscript and gladly pay someone else to bring fresh eyes to it.

  5. My husband delights in finding gems in the newspaper. One was a report, from USSR days, datelined "Frankfurt, East Germany". As my brother had been in the US Army, in Berlin, when the Wall went up, I was incredulous that the editor, as well as the reporter, missed this.

  6. Now you're talking my language ... as a dyslexic, it looks perfectly normal to me. As to misspellings/typos, I'm absolutely convinced my tombstone will read RIQ.

  7. I occasionally work as a copyeditor/proofreader, so I've seen it all. But some of my favorites were from my college newspaper, which was often written and edited late into the night after we'd all had a full day of class. There were times that jokey placeholders went to press, photos were switched, etc. The worst was the time that one of our editors who was writing a very serious piece on abortion rights wrote that "the Catholic Church condones abortion" (he meant to write "condems," obviously). This was a Catholic university. The phone calls started coming in very early the next morning. Yikes.

  8. I laughed so hard because I could read the beginning that I almost peed my pants. As a journalist, I saw lots of pubic sales during my 37-year-career. Even editors need editors. Great column

  9. I dnid't hvae any pobrelm radenig it. Every body needs an editor, even editors. You don't see boo-boos in your own work, especially if you've read it a dozen times. Fun post.


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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