I just read an interesting article about why we can’t spot our own typos What’s up with that: Why it’s so hard to catch your own typos . The article is to the point; yet, I’d like to tackle the issue from a photographic perspective. Good photographers have an ability to see not just look, that’s why they know what to include in the frame: they know how to compose. There is an immense difference between looking and seeing. If we check the dictionary, we find the following definitions:
look / lʊk / verb [ I ] (SEE)
A1 to direct your eyes in order to see:
see / siː / verb ( present participle seeing , past tense saw , past participle seen ) (USE EYES)
A1 [ I or T ] to be conscious of what is around you by using your eyes:
To be conscious requires focus!
When we direct our eyes to see, we have a field of view:
- Right now, you are probably sitting before your desk or laying on a sofa, a wall or generally a background is facing you.
- You focus on your laptop, the background is blurred (we call it a shallow depth of field; in other words, the subject is sharp and the rest is out of focus), you are conscious of the blurry background because your memory reconstructs it; the difference between cameras and your eyes is that the latter are attached to a highly sophisticated computer (your brain); our vision is affected by mental images from our recollections.
- You focus on your laptop then your brain shifts focus to the screen; the screen bezel helps mark the focus territory to separate it from the surroundings. Now, it blurs the task bar if you are using Windows; your brain focuses on the paragraph then on the current line then on words that you are reading right NOW (See how “now” stood out?)
- Move away from your laptop then do it again: focus on background and shift focus gradually to this article!
It must have happened to you that you looked for your keys someday and they were sitting on your desk the whole day yet you couldn’t spot them then someone came and told you “Here they are, just in front of you”. Well, our brain reconstructs images from the past (most of the time, it does a good job); what it does is update the mental image if something new is added following a stimulus from a new element or a drastic change in the setting. If we focus on every single detail around us, we might go crazy. Sometimes even within chaos, you can manage to focus because your brain does a good job at blurring unnecessary details; others might have a very hard time focusing when there is too much clutter around them.
Here is a trick a teacher taught us at university: read from bottom to top (this is on paper actually) to check if words are spelled correctly. When you try to check for typos right after you wrote the article, it’s quasi-impossible to spot them. Your memory is still fresh; you might even blur the text and your mind will auto-complete the text.
Now, how to solve this issue? The trick I use consists of the following:
- Write the article and forget about it for a day (if it is not urgent) or take an hour off and do something else but don’t look at your computer. Even better, change the setting or read your article on a different medium!
- Change the font type and size (from serif to sans serif); this way you trick my mind to believe that it is a new text, so you force yourself to read it well.
- You can also put the article in a draft window on WordPress and pretend you want to edit it.
By the way, I have just tried it on myself once more (And still not sure I did a good job!)
Let me know in your comments!