Saturday, October 19, 2019

Seeing What We Expect

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

A few days ago, I was reminded of something I learned about proofreading. Serious publications do not have authors proofread their own work because they see what they expect. People have a tendency to "fill in the blanks" when information is missing so they can make sense of a situation, and this applies to proofreading. If you must do your own, try not to do it on the same day. Fast readers are more prone to making mistakes.

People see what they expect, especially when proofreading. One misplaced letter had humorous results that the computer caught but human minds missed.
Credit: RGBStock / gabriel
The human mind can fool itself, but not computers. Those things are extremely literal, and just one piece of misplaced code can have unpleasant results, as I have seen when tampering with the HTML on these here sites of mine. 

Since my paying job is data entry, I can listen to the audio of videos and use text-to-speech so I can listen to articles, books, and so on. Someone fouled up in an article, and one letter made the difference. I have little doubt that I would have caught the error that escaped the author and the site's proofreader(s), but the computer caught it.

The article mentioned an owner's manual. However, it was spelled with just one wrong letter: manuel. So I heard a name that is common among Spanish, Portuguese, German, and other folks. Owner's Manuel. Frankly (mind if I call you Frank?) he's on my bad side. Owner's Manuel is never around when I need him, so I have to get the owner's manual or go online to learn how to make something happen.

By the way, I often discuss context, and this is another simple example. The context is part of the reason author and proofreaders see what they expect and not catch the one letter that didn't belong. If the word had been capitalized, that is likely to have caught someone's attention so the incorrect word could be corrected. Also, the word by itself is unhelpful. Manual. Are we talking about your vehicle's transmission or the book you consult? Maybe Manuel knows.