I am the worst at proofreading. Every time I write something, I will catch a new error every single time I go through the text. When I read other people's texts, I don't see the errors all the time. I used to chalk my lack of proofreading skills up to laziness, procrastination, or multitasking between reading and tweeting or emailing.
Ok. The above reasons might also be the reason for my lax proofreading. There is, however, more to why I find proofreading difficult than just laziness. According to a recent article on Wired, our proofreading blunders aren't out stupidity; they're actually a sign our brains are working. When we write, we are not just putting letters on a page (a simple task) we're conveying meaning (a complex task). To save brain power, we'll generalize the simple tasks in order to focus on complex tasks. Since we know what we're trying to say, our brain will fill in the gaps because it expects that meaning to be there.
“We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases,” said Tom Stafford at the University of Stafford…
“We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases,” said Tom Stafford at the University of Stafford to Wired. “Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”
It's not just that our brains expect an expertly written article with perfect grammar; there is something about written English that we can still understand a word even if grossly misspelled. In 2003, a meme floated around the internet illustrating how we read:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
The meme illustrates that generally, we don't read one. letter. at. a. time. We read “words as a whole.” Letters could be jumbled up in the middle, but if the first and last letters are in place, we can still extract the correct of the word. In reality, the “research at Cambridge” never really took place, but the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit which is “closely linked to Cambridge University” took the time to address this meme, and noted that even though this does not always work, because longer words are more difficult to unscramble, and short words do not change. The English language does have an ample amount of medium sized words and few silent letters. Thus, making it easy to re-interpret misspelled words unconsciously.
So basically, if your post isn't perfect and you SWORE you proofread it three times over, it's totally your brain's fault.
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