I hate typos.
I mean it. I really, really f#*king hate typos.
There’s a special pain that you feel when you’ve written something you like, perhaps something good, and then later (after publication of course), you find an obvious typo, usually in the first few paragraphs.
Typos are like weeds that pop up, marring an otherwise gorgeous flower bed or a luscious green lawn. Like weeds, you rid typos as best as you can. You review your work over and over, each time, carefully inspecting sentences and paragraphs with the hope that your review will be the last.
Yet, even then, one is not safe because typos are worse than weeds. Typos can be invisible. They can hide from the spell-check feature, for instance, if the typo still creates a valid word such as the word “bowl” when you only meant to write “bow.” Typos also can hide from your eyes. If your mind is expecting to see “bow,” it may not catch the “l” loitering at the end of the word.
Or worse, you accidentally wrote “you’re” instead of “your” leading the reader to think that you are a moron who doesn’t know the difference between “you’re” and “your.”
The last example is how typos are absolutely worse than weeds. Weeds are outside agents. They are invaders. You can attempt to prevent their appearance or to rip them out when you see them, but otherwise they are outside of your control.
Typos, though, typos are little pieces of you. They are the errors that you left as you worked. They are your double blunders: first, during writing and, then, during review. They are the mistakes that wouldn’t exist if you had been a little bit more careful or just better.
So, you review and review until you can’t review any more and then you review one last time.
Still, somehow, typos survive.
Every time that I encounter a typo in something I wrote, I remember an incident during my first year as an attorney. For three months in 1999, from early March to June 3rd, I was part of a team (six associate attorneys and three partners) assigned to a high-profile arbitration worth billions of dollars in damages.
During that time, we worked on a massive brief, approximately 135 pages long. In the last 40 hours, none of us slept as we finalized the brief, a process which included two final proof reads. Four associates reviewed paper copies of the brief, circled typos, and wrote corrections on the pages. One associate would enter the corrections into the computer file. My job was to compare the pages with the corrections to the file to ensure that the changes had been made correctly. We completed both reviews and filed the brief on time, to our great delight.
The next week, while reviewing the filed brief, the senior associate found a glaring typo in the first sentence in the first footnote on the first page. The sentence appeared twice, one after the other. Somehow, in some way, six intelligent (albeit exhausted) attorneys had missed it. Surprisingly, the partners weren’t enraged and reminded us that we had caught a large amount of typos and had done the best we could.
Inevitably, you can only do so much. Humans are flawed and therefore, our creations will have flaws as well. Typos will continue to appear like patches of crabgrass in your front yard.
As the medieval Spanish writer and bishop Alfonso de Cartagena eloquently said, “Unto those Three Things which the Ancients held impossible, there should be added this Fourth, to find a Book Printed without erratas.”
I simply have to learn to accept typos.
I still hate the f%*kers, though.
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