Why Do You Miss Your Typos? Blame Your Brain!


You don’t want to miss your typos when you write, whether it’s for the web, email or snail mail. Yet your eyes can just scan right past them.

You do your best to proofread and then you realize, after you clicked “Publish” or “Send,” that you still managed to miss your typos.

Even when you read over your work — more than once — something slips by. It can be maddening.

I learned quickly as a web editor that it’s much easier to catch someone else’s typos than my own. Everyone loves to complain when someone else makes a typo. Some view catching a typo as a sign of their own presumed superiority. (That only makes it more fun to catch them in an error, of course.)

Many of us rely on spell check tools, which have been around for quite a while. And spell check tools have evolved over time. I use Grammarly, which checks not only spelling errors but also some grammatical mistakes.

Notice that I wrote some mistakes. It doesn’t catch them all. Back in February, I wrote about Grammarly missing two errors I wrote in a post about, of all things, Grammarly!

It would have been nice, I said, if Grammarly had caught those blunders. If would have been nicer, I added, if I had.

One of my favorite magazines, Mental_Floss, wrote up one of the best explanations I’ve read about this phenomenon.

I’ll boil it down to this: the brain is more focused on the message you’re trying to convey. So it pays less attention to the how you say it part.

And when you scan through what you’ve just written, your eyes can conveniently auto-correct any errors they spot without your realizing it. After all, your brain knows what you meant to say!

For years, novel writers have suggested that when you’ve finished a day’s work, set it aside and then edit later, not immediately. That way, your eyes will get a fresher look at it. And they have a better chance of catching the errors you don’t want your readers to catch for you!

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.