Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos
Thread poster: Nguyen Dieu

Nguyen Dieu  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:15
Member (2008)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Aug 27, 2014

This article explains why we find it hard to catch our own typos from psychologist view: http://www.wired.com/2014/08/wuwt-typos/


Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:15
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Because Aug 27, 2014

you know the text you've translated, so you never read the words to the end, you skip by beginnings and miss typos in the middle and in the end of the words...


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:15
Chinese to English
Fallacy? Aug 27, 2014

I don't find it that hard to catch my own typos, not with all the helpful tools we have.

I know the feeling, but I wonder if this is a real phenomenon. We realise we have made typos because we read our own material many times. Therefore we spot the typos that we failed to proofread out. We generally read other people's stuff only once, so we just don't spot their typos in the first place.

I'd have to see some real data on this before I start to believe it. I'm also not keen on Wired's claim that our nervous system evolved to help us throw spears. Believing in evolution should mean not making up random imaginary evolutionary scenarios.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Never mind the psychology, it's true Aug 27, 2014

While I usually see things like teh, I really have to work hard -- and use 'find' for things the spelling check does not pick up.

cold for could
form/from interchanged
and instead of an

hat for what (or occasionally that)

-- and lots more.

I know what I mean. I couldn't throw a spear to save my life, but those are real words, just in the wrong places, and when I am tired, I don't always catch them!

I use that trick of printing out to proofread- it helps.

And oh, exasperation, I have just discovered that in my Out of Office mail for the last month I've been hoping people will emjoy the summer.... icon_redface.gif

I DID send it to myself when I set it up!

[Edited at 2014-08-27 16:00 GMT]


Nguyen Dieu  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:15
Member (2008)
English to Vietnamese
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Solution Aug 27, 2014

Printing out is also a good solution. I often come back to review, check after finishing my translation several hours later or ideally the next day. The problem is we have to manage with deadline.


Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
Member (2012)
Italian to English
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Some useful articles and tips Aug 27, 2014

Here's one: http://goodcontentcompany.com/beginners-guide-proofreading. I like the one about reading aloud. I agree with Phil, I zoom the text to 130-140% and I spot the typos much quicker as they stand out whereas if text zoom is 90-100%, it is far more difficult to spot them. Another useful article I chanced on yesterday: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/editing-and-proofreading/. Some are the same but some are not and make sense if you have the time. And other; some the same, some different tips which the Spellchecker won't catch: http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/1712440/writing-consistently-across-media-ten-proofreading-tips. Hope you find them useful.

[Edited at 2014-08-27 16:31 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Local time: 23:15
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
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I don't find too hard to catch my own typos Aug 27, 2014

I always proofread my translations at least 3 times and reading aloud a printed version has been my last step for some time...


Stephania Matousek  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Very interesting article, thank you for sharing, Nguyen Dieu! Aug 27, 2014

The tips given are very useful, I never thought about changing the format of the text to help me catch typos! I usually proofread my translation the following day, after a good night of sleep (I have flexible deadlines), and this helps me to catch most of my mistakes from the day before.

By explaining the functioning of the brain while reading a text, this article reminded me something I read about how we would be able to easily process a text with jumbled letters, like in this sentence:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.

This hypothesis is quite controversial, here is an interesting article about it: http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/people/matt.davis/cmabridge/.


Rudolf Frans Maulany  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
English to Indonesian
+ ...
fatigue and lack of sleep Aug 28, 2014

Thanks for sharing your experience. In addition to deadlines I think fatigue and lack of sleep is also a factor why it's so hard to catch our own typos. To overcome this I usually proofread the text 3 times or more.


Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:15
Japanese to English
+ ...
... Aug 28, 2014

In my experience, the more time you put in between the translation and the proofreading, the more errors you will catch (especially logic ones or awkward phrasing). The minimum for me seems to be to sleep on it, but if I can wait two days or so before looking at the text again I can catch way more errors.

This article talks about only typos, but with modern spell-checking and grammar checking software plus a separate QA suite (I use Verifika, but there are several), I don't really find myself leaving too many of those in my translations if I've had sufficient time to review the texts. A bigger problem seems to be logic errors, like when you leave out a comma and it subtly changes the whole meaning of the sentence, or when you inadvertently regurgitate things you hear used incorrectly all the time, like "The company first opened in 1950" (most companies only open once, so using first is tautologous). These are things that no software can help you find; the best you could do is get a second pair of eyes with good writing skills to take a look at it for you, but that is not a luxury that many of us can afford.


Olly Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
second pair of eyes Aug 28, 2014

... get a second pair of eyes with good writing skills to take a look at it for you, but that is not a luxury that many of us can afford.

Theoretically, that's one of the things that agencies are there for... I personally feel much more comfortable knowing that someone will be reviewing my work, even if only very fleetingly, before it goes to the end client.



Mailand  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
Italian to German
+ ...
Reading back to front Aug 28, 2014

That is a trick a professional told me about: reading from beginning to end you often skip typos because your brain almost automatically substitutes what is missing (I didn't read the article, but I guess it's similar to others I read about this topic). Reading one word a time beginning at the end, you don't read a sentence so it is not as likely that you will skip the missing/wrong characters.


LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:15
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes-it actually is much harder, especially right after you have written something. Aug 28, 2014

I guess you get used to the text and see it in a perfect form, even if there are typos there. There has been a lot of research on that.

This is why it is usually recommended to proofread your own text at least 24 after you have finished writing, but better 72, plus final reading by a third party is highly recommended. You don't really need all the letters in a word to read and understand the word, especially within the context.

It is absolutely real--based on a lot of research.

[Edited at 2014-08-28 10:43 GMT]


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