I am always surprised when I see a book proof. No matter how many times I or someone else has gone over the book so that it is error free, I always find errors when I look at the proof. And I’m not just talking about formatting errors (those shouldn’t happen either since I send press-ready files).

I just finished going over a proof for Looking Back II and I’m wondering what I was doing when I did a final check on certain sections because I certainly wasn’t reading the manuscript. Some of the errors are piddly and don’t bother me too much like straight quotes versus smart quotes, but other sentences are missing words. Some words are misspelled so that even spell check should have caught them and I know I ran spell check on the manuscript. Yet, there’s the errors.

So what is the cause? Gremlins?

No it’s just that the brain acts like the auto-fill feature on your computer. The more you read something, the quicker you tend to read it because your reads a few words that it recognizes and fills in a phrase in your mind.

Here’s an extreme example I found:

“Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

While this is great for the brain, it’s not so hot when you’re proofreading or editing. In essence, your brain is profiling words and sometimes the profiles aren’t accurate.

Read more about some of the studies that have been conducted here.