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Pogue's Basics: Catch every error when proofreading


As anyone who writes or publishes can tell you, attaining a perfect proofread—ferreting out every typo, missing word, and so on—is staggeringly difficult. You can read over something six times, swear it’s perfect—and then show it to someone else who spots a typo instantly. Somehow, your brain gets lulled into blindness.

(When I write computer books, each book is read by four pairs of eyes: Mine, a technical editor’s, a copy editor’s, and a proofreader’s—and readers still find typos after publication. Grrrr!!)

If you don’t have the luxury of four beta readers—or even if you do—here’s a miraculous trick that will make “blind spot” typos pop out: Change the font.

That’s right. A different typeface in your word processor gives the text a different layout, with different line wraps, making it look fresh. The writing no longer looks like yours, making it easier to spot errors.

For the same reason, choosing an unfamiliar font is a great idea when you’re trying to edit or shorten your paper. You’re less attached to your writing, less used to its look, and more able to see something new as you read it.

Repurposed from June 2015

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