Typos on a Internet!

Incorrect spelling and grammar are pet peeves of mine. Not that I’m immune myself of course, but at least with my own writings I can correct it when I’m wrong!

With printed material this doesn’t crop up so much. Books, magazines, and newspapers tend to be well checked by Professional Editors. But in the shift to Internet-based content, the Editor seems to have been left out of the transition. A lot of content is self-published such as blogs and one-man eZines, so overlooked errors are understandable, if not excusible. But I often notice obvious typographical errors in formal articles published on commercial sites, which I presume must have *some* sort of editorial step. Or do they just say, “Hey, passes spell check: Publish!!” and call it good?

I wonder if there might be something psychological involved. Like, if one puts something to paper do they do more proof reading than if it’s going to be posted online? Does the simple aspect of being electronic make people think, “Eh, it’s electronic, it can be edited later if there’s problems,” and skip proof reading? Or the deluge of poorly written emails and forum posts we’ve subjected ourselves to over the past couple decades has made us as a society more tolerant of typos? Heck, some days just seeing ‘lose’ and ‘loose’ used properly is enough to make me content. Do we just not care so much anymore?

Or maybe online society moves so fast we just don’t have time. Certainly it’s not that it’s *harder* to proofread than before – email, content management systems, version control, and mechanical grammar and spell checkers are huge advances that make it waaaay easier. Even the lowly backspace key would be a technological marvel and time saver to a 19th century novelist. Perhaps all these things lull us into a false sense of security? “Yes, I could email this blog post to my friend to review before I publish it, and she could probably the edits back to me in 15 minutes, but meh, passes spell check: Publish!!” When getting something published involved days traversing horses, postal trucks, printing machines and paper boys maybe it incentivized you to spend that extra hour word smithing your paragraphs?

Perhaps proof reading is so tedious and boring no one really wants to do it. In a world where everyone can be a writer and a publisher, no one has to bother being an editor. :-) You hit that preview button but your eyes just glaze; who wants to read their own content? But personally, I enjoy copyediting, but as you probably have gathered by now, I’m weird that way. I totally don’t mind proofing other people’s writings (and if I hold my nose I can proofread my own); if anything I hold myself back out of fear of offending someone by pointing out their bad writing! I love Wikipedia in that when I’m reading an article if I spot an error I can click edit and fix it; the fact I have to do this pretty infrequently convinces me there are many others in this world who share my grammar peeves. I wish the whole Internet was a wiki, so I could fix everything I read! Or imagine if WordPress had a “Request a Proof Reading” button there next to Publish?

I’ve even entertained the thought of writing a greasemonkey plugin that you could install in your web browser that lets you locally edit web pages that you view. But what to do with your edits? Maybe send them to some centrally managed database of web corrections. Call it the Internet Correctional Institute. :-) Then you’d have another greasemonkey script that’d pull down other people’s edits to automagically correct new pages as you visit them. (Of course, some troll would abuse the system and make it autocorrect everything into pirate speak and porn. And this is why we can’t have nice things.)

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