Sunday, October 24, 2010

Proofreading difficulty

A student passed this on with the heading "Why proofreading is so hard":

Why is proofreading your own work so hard? This passage about a Cambridge University study helps explain it:

The huamn mnid is so pufowerl it can dcodee tihs txet eevn tguohh eervy sglnie wrod is slepled iocenrtclry. The one cavaet is taht the frist and lsat lertets are pervresed in erevy wrod. Cidrgbame Uitesirnvy cetoudncd a sduty and fnuod taht the biarn deos not raed eevry snlige lteetr, but wodrs as a wohle.

8 comments:

Livia said...

I think that email came out before any such study existed. But it did inspire some studies afterwards. (I could be wrong on this though, don't quote me :-P)

Jordan said...

It's not just the first and last letter that we need: we need the context of the sentence. I tried to skip into the middle of a sentence in this example and could NOT figure out what the word was.

I love playing wordscramble games, but I wouldn't be able to look at "bmatip" or "hinlady" in isolation and get the right word as quickly as I can decipher this message.

Plus, lots and lots of words have the same first and last letters, and similar or identical middle letters. From/form, sacred/scared, etc.

I think the underlying point is the real one here: we already know what we meant to say, what we thought we said and what we wanted to say.

Jordan said...

(Bitmap and handily, two words I have actually gotten in a wordscramble game this week.)

Deb Salisbury said...

Sheesh. I had to decode every single word. I have a weak brain! I agree I wouldn't have gotten most of them without context.

And I couldn't figure out "cetoudncd" - a translation, please?

Leona said...

@Deb conducted :)

Also, it took me a full sentence to get the point LOL

I'm the type of person this was written for. I go so fast sometimes and "automatically" fix it that I'm surprised later when I do a line item edit. I still miss stuff though.

Deb Salisbury said...

Ah ha! Thank you, Leona!

Edittorrent said...

I love that poem where they have the homonyms-- why we shouldn't rely on spell check.

Alicia

Jessica Lei said...

Theresa, I have a question that I'd love to hear your opinion on. I'm writing a fantasy story where my characters aren't speaking English, but (obviously) I'm writing it in English. It's come up that I might want to mix around some words or phrasing to represent that difference.

When you see a book you're editing that's in 'another language,' do you want the characters to sound like a normal person speaking English? Does it strengthen the book if these people categorically think and speak in a slightly different manner than normal? Can a writer rely on imaginative consent for this?

Okay, so more than one question wrapped in one...but I've been thinking about this for awhile and I can't seem to come up with an answer! I thought your opinion might be beneficial :)