Typos are the bane of all writers. They can mess with your meaning, disrupt the flow of your sentences and leave readers confused.
One small typo can derail your entire work, stealing your credibility and, with it, the ability your work has to make a lasting impact.
I’m not so sure anymore.
I’m a copywriter for work and a writer outside of work, and while I cringe when someone finds a typo in my work, I’ve also come to realize that typos are inevitable. A typo is going to happen once, twice, more than 100+ times over the course of a writing career.
Because of that, I’ve come to accept that it’s not typos that should make me cringe. It’s handling them poorly that should.
Learn from your typos
Humans make mistakes — that’s why spellcheck was created. Heck, even spellcheck makes mistakes. So instead of beating yourself up when you make typos, or worse, getting defensive, practice humility. Apologize to those on the receiving end of your work, and graciously thank those who’ve caught your typos before your work was presented as complete.
If you find yourself making the same typos over and over again (I tend to omit articles when my fingers are racing to follow my brain), make it a point to look for those patterns when you proof.
Revel in your typos
But here’s the thing, even proofing isn’t a fail-safe. At least not when you’re proofing your own work. That’s because your brain generalizes your work, operating on instinct and focusing on the bigger picture rather than the smaller details. It automatically fills in the blanks because it doesn’t like gaps or inconsistencies. It, like most writers, prefers order.
Don’t be embarrassed when you fail to catch your own typos. Your brain is actively working against you because it’s smart and wants to digest something meaningful.
While typos shouldn’t be something you strive to make, they shouldn’t make you want to curl up in a ball and die either. If the rest of your work — the theme, voice, sentence structure, flow, etc. — is good, the small typos don’t always matter. Maybe the big ones do, but maybe they can lead to something better; countless companies have made typos in ad campaigns and on social media but used the mistakes to their advantage.
Of course the ideal situation is to have no typos at all. But remember that they’re okay, and are supposed to be, in your drafts. Your drafts are your time to flesh out all the things that don’t work. Save proofing for typos as the last editing task.
Ask a friend or family member to read your work and look for typos when you feel it’s complete. Ask a designated proofreader. Ask your editor. Ask your co-workers.
As a last resort, do it yourself. Enlarge the text. Make it a crazy front. Print it out. Read it aloud. Do whatever you can to make your work appear new and unfamiliar to that tricky brain of yours.
And remember, if you miss an article or two, it’s okay. Life moves on; the world keeps spinning. I’ve read countless novels that had a typo or two in them. Guess what? I still kept reading them, and most of them I quite enjoyed.
It’s not always about the typos. Sometimes, it’s about what you learn from them and how you handle them when they do appear in your final work.