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Typos and other minor glitches

On proofreading and reporting errors to

Paul Ingraham • 5m read is a one-man shop producing and continuously updating well over a million words of content, all tangled up with a great deal of web technology. Typos and other little errors are absolutely going to happen, no matter how hard I work to minimize them.

I am extremely grateful to any reader who takes the time to point them out. A good batch of typo reports is just as valuable as a cash donation, and in fact I will pay a free-book bounty for it if you ask.

Typos don’t mean you’re stupid, but they sure make you look stupid.

my father (an English teacher and a journalist)

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.

Mark Twain

The typo bounty

Give me enough typo reports, and I will give you a free book. For existing customers, the rough requirement is 10 errors. For non-customers, I’d prefer a batch of 20. I am not too particular about the quality — more or less any kind of error will do, and that includes non-typo errors like a layout glitch or a broken link. Really anything that makes the page look sloppy in any way.

But if you submit 20 ambiguous “errors” that are really just differences of opinion about how to use hyphens, you are not getting a book. Or probably even an answer. 😉

How to report

The best reporting method for frank errors (typos and unambiguous errors of punctuation, etc): what’s best for me is also nice and simple for you. Please just cut and paste the error as it appears on the site, with a few words of bracketing context, emailed to me. You rarely need to highlight/explain the error, but feel free to do so for extra credit. This kind of reporting is usually good enough:

The important thing is that I can find the error easily, which is always easiest when I have a plain text of the actual error: I can copy it and find it automagically. In other words, please don’t actually fix the error in your report. Sometimes I get a batch of error reports from a keen reader where the error in each example has been helpfully corrected, and ironically this actually make it much harder to find the error in the original text.

For pity’s sake, man, haven’t you ever heard of “spell check”?

That does seems like a good idea! But “it’s complicated.” Web publishing is not word processing — my text is littered with arcane symbols and terms, CSS and HTML and PHP and Javascript, all the stuff that formats the page and makes it “smart.” It’s a big hassle trying to check and correct only the text I want to check.

Also, strangely, spell-checking software seems to be going through a bit of a dark age right now; there are surprisingly few good tools. There used to be a remarkable spell-checking app for macOS, but the developer actually died a few years ago… and there’s just nothing else that can handle the cluttered context of web publishing.

My website is sooooo big…

…when I find the kind of typo that eludes spellcheck, I always do a full site search for it, and I almost always turn up several more examples of the same error. For example: “a least” instead of “at least.” There were five other occurrences of this error scattered around the site. Or double words: checking just now, there were almost two dozen instances of “the the” that piled up in a year or two since the last check.

When you have way over a million words, and you’re always changing some of them, this kind of thing is going to happen quite a bit. 😜

Typos and hypocrisy

Whenever I make criticasms of sloppy writing — I don’t bother with this much these days, but it still comes up occasionally — I do open myself up to a charge of hypocrazy, because there are certainly scattered errrs on my website , probbly even on this veru page.

But it’s a matter of dagree. I only critisize someone’s communiation skills when their writeing problem are signicifant and revelant: when the errors are thick and nasty and thick and nasty, when they arre combimed with style problems like SHOUTING IN CAPS!!!, or abusing “quotion marks”; or just horrible spellung and grammer and sentense structure, and and whn they betray ignoranse of the subjet matter,, like a chiropracor who writes the “veterbra” three times in the same short email and declares “I’m a proffesional”.

(I’m not making that last bit up. I actually got that message.)

Not everyone’s a writer, but writing with many glaring errors is much worse than just lacking a knack — and it exposes a lack of mental rigour and maturity. There is such a thing as a minimum literacy required for one’s ideas to be taken srsly.

PainSci Member Login » Submit your email to unlock member content. If you can’t remember/access your registration email, please contact me. ~ Paul Ingraham, PainSci Publisher