Pet Scribbles: Typo Tips for Creative Bloggers

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Typo Tips for Creative Bloggers

Image by spike55151, via Flickr Creative Commons
I am a Typo Hunter.

Yes it's true! I hunt down typos and vanquish them to a space somewhere in a cloud. No, not "the" cloud - that's different.

There are a few steps that I take before publishing my blog posts. I also use these steps when listing a new item in my Etsy shop, updating my website text, and even when proofing my outgoing emails too.

Of course, as quite often happens, yesterday morning during breakfast I noticed yet another typo on TV, in the headline text on a cable news channel: Refuisng instead of Refusing. This morning, on the same TV channel, the word "gaffe" was spelled "gaffee" - yep, they made a gaffe, didn't they? (And is it just me? Or do you also notice how, more and more often, there are typos in those news tickers at the bottom of your TV screen?)

I mentioned to my husband that I was going to share my tips for typo reduction.

Husband:  Like what? Like Don't misspell because it will irritate me.?? 
Me:  Funny. And no. 
Husband:  Here's my list for avoiding typos: Two words: Use Spell check. 
Me:  Well, um, Spell check isn't always correct as you know. If it doesn't recognize a word, it will underline it as wrong. 
Husband:  Two more words: Pay attention. There. Done.

Although my husband has very good - and succinct - advice, I still think I have a few easy-to-do tips that will help you cut down on the dreaded typos. And for my fellow creative bloggers, what better way to tackle typos than to use sight, sound, and yes: your creative skills too!

But first, I want to talk about the much-loved and much-hated auto correct and spell check. The best part is that they can catch and correct your typos such as when you should be using "an" instead of "a"; the bad part is that, as mentioned above, they can take correct words and tell you those words are wrong. And in the case of auto correct, and no doubt almost all of us have experienced this: when auto correct fails miserably it can result in some funny or bizarre writing. No worries, however, as the following tips come in handy to successfully combat auto correct incorrectness too.

Before publishing blog posts, hitting the "send" key on emails or texts, pushing the "publish" key for an Etsy listing, or updating your website, try these 4 steps:

1.  Read out loud.

Yes, this takes time, but reading your words out loud not only helps you with typos, but also with the flow of your written words. We tend to notice our written voice more when we take the time to read our words out loud. Fix your typos. Notice anywhere that you falter or hesitate while reading out loud because you might need to switch some words around or slightly alter your sentence. When we type our thoughts, quite often our minds are faster than our fingers which results in leaving out a word, or merely having a sentence that is awkward. Fix those sentences. You want your writing to reflect who you are, and any phrases that are not easily rolling off your tongue when reading aloud probably need to be tweaked in some way.

Oh, and I'm not suggesting that you read your private thoughts out loud during your morning commute on the subway, or while standing in line at the grocery checkout area. Because that would be weird.

2.  Print out and look for repeated words.

This is more for longer pieces of writing, not a simple two-line text message. Most of us tend to use the same words over and over, yet don't realize it until we can literally "see" how often those words show up in a single paragraph. Print out your document to read - just use the back of a saved piece of scrap paper that you are going to recycle anyway. Go sit down somewhere, away from your computer monitor, and read your writing silently to yourself. Really read it, don't just gloss over the words because you already know what you've written. What you may notice is that certain words keep popping up. Circle those words.

Let's take the paragraph above as an example:

Print out and look for repeated words. This is more for longer pieces of writing, not a simple two-line text message. Most of us tend to use the same words over and over, yet don't realize it until we can literally "see" how often those words show up in a single paragraph. Print out your document to read - just use the back of a saved piece of scrap paper that you are going to recycle anyway. Go sit down somewhere, away from your computer monitor, and read your writing silently to yourself. Really read it, don't just gloss over the words because you already know what you've written. What you may notice is that certain words keep popping up. Circle those words.

(Cue the Missing Persons song from the 1980s: "What are words for? When no one listens anymore...")

I use "words" six times in that paragraph. Are there any other words (yikes!) that I can use instead that readily come to mind?

3.  Use a Thesaurus if stumped.

I have a much-used paperback Thesaurus that I refer to, and also use the online Thesaurus.com. You don't need to change every instance of a repeated word, but changing a few is a good idea to keep your writing fresh.

Here's the paragraph after I consulted my Thesaurus:

Print out and look for repeated words. This is more for longer pieces of writing, not a simple two-line text message. Most of us tend to use the same expressions over and over, yet don't realize it until we can literally "see" how often they show up in a single paragraph. Print out your document to read - just use the back of a saved piece of scrap paper that you are going to recycle anyway. Go sit down somewhere, away from your computer monitor, and read your writing silently to yourself. Really read it, don't just gloss over the words because you already know what you've written. What you may notice is that certain terms or phrases keep popping up. Circle those.

See what I did? I changed two instances of the repeated word, and eliminated two others. This makes the writing just a bit more interesting because the reader's brain doesn't get stuck on the repeated words or phrases, which can impact how much your reader appreciates what you have to say. This is true whether you are writing a DIY tutorial with lots of pictures and minimal text, or writing a long, not-quite-a-chapter-in-a-novel-sized blog post.

4.  Leave it for awhile, then go back and read it.

Go do something else, take a break from your writing. Whether it is five minutes or an hour, when you return to read your writing again, it will be with fresh eyes and mind. First read your words silently from your computer screen. Next, read them out loud from your computer screen. Think you caught everything?

If you're writing a blog post, hit your "preview" button in your blog's dashboard and view exactly what your post will look like. First, read it through - again I find doing this out loud most helpful - from beginning to end. Notice any words jumping out at you? Any oddly spaced sentences? Any extra spaces between sentences? Next, look at the entire post (still in the preview mode) to check for proper spacing between your text and images. Check that your images are all the same or a similar size, and make sure any links work.

I think you're ready to push the "publish" key.

Conclusion? Robots aren't as fun as we are.

Yes, these steps add time to our already-over-scheduled agendas for ourselves, our blogs, our online shops. But spending this extra bit of effort will improve your writing, and make it just that much more enjoyable for your readers and customers too.

And finally, what happens when I do all of these steps diligently yet still end up having a typo or two sneak by me? I can't beat myself up about it, nor should you. Remember that we are human, and that's what makes us fun and interesting to each other, unless of course you have a thing for robots.

Do you have any additional tips? I'd love to know, so please share them here in the comments.

~Laura


PS - Kudos to the reader who found a typo IN my post above, and boo's to me for missing it! Yep, I might know how to spell, but apparently numbers are a big challenge for me. LOL Now it is corrected, but I'm still laughing at the irony!


PPS - You do realize that the picture at the top of this post shows a horrible example of a typo, right? Somehow - and this is an actual sign found in a dry cleaners - the word "alterations" came out all wrong, yet someone decided to hang it up anyway. Amazing . . .


Weekend Bloggy Reading

8 comments:

  1. Love this! I'd add that it helps to learn what your common mis-steps are, and to keep a cheat sheet handy to remind you of proper usage. I did this with its and it's for a while to make sure I had them straight. Also, know which words are easy for any of us to get wrong. Like lose and loose. Another one I've seen a lot lately is people saying they enjoy being a member of a group by saying they like to be "apart" of the group... Which is the complete opposite of "a part" of the group. Spell check really doesn't catch everything!

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    1. Thanks Carolina! I like your idea of a cheat sheet, especially for the typo trigger examples you listed. :)

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  2. excellent! I am getting worse and worse at spelling. I often rely heavily on those red underlined words. And sometimes notice misspellings weeks after I listed or posted something. Just a little time, and that would have been solved before I posted. I LOVE the Thesaurus!! But it all comes down to proof reading your work.

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    1. Well Rebecca, you'll love the "PS" I just added to the end of my blog post above... :)

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  3. Laura, I have found that I *have* to print things out in order to proof correctly--no more reading on the computer. I also compose my longer blog pieces in a word processing program, usually Word, instead of in the blog editor because I find it easier to search and replace and then print out instead of trying to take care of it all there.

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    1. Another good suggestion: use a word processing program instead of your blog's dashboard. Thanks for the great tip Bernadette!

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  4. Thanks, Laura, for these wonderful ideas for making our writing better and more error-free. I saw your post over at Serenity Now blog party.

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    1. Glad you found me at Amanda's blog party, which I love to attend! Here's to less errors and the ability to laugh at the ones we will make anyway, no matter how hard we try not to! :)

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