Agriculture Communication


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Integrated Typo Management

A comprehensive approach to controlling compositional pests.

Tom Jirik, Former Information Specialist,
NDSU Agriculture Communication 
March 2002

Like weeds or insects, typos (typographus mistakus) can infest your work and reduce the yield of your communication efforts. These yield-robbing pests attack your prose in several ways.

  1. They can make it difficult to read.

  2. They can distract your reader.

  3. They raise questions about the accuracy of the rest of your work.

  4. They detract from your reputation as a professional.

What's the best way to eradicate these literary pests? Use the same strategy as for weeds and insects. Stay on guard and scout your text. Regular applications of copy editing may be necessary.

Here are some tips to keep typos under control in your writing:

Know problem areas.
Just as some fields are more prone to pest problems, some writers and situations are more prone to typos. If you have problems with certain words or phrases, keep them in mind as you write and edit. Typos tend to be thicker in hastily written text. Proofread carefully and take extra control measures.

Employ the latest technology.
Use your word processor's spell and grammar check feature. They're like a sticky trap for typos. These features can be a first alert for problems, but don't rely on them exclusively. Sometimes it's OK to break the rules. Those computer tools don't always catch everything. Remember: Make hey wile the son shines!

Scout carefully. Wade into that crop of words and read your text as if you were reading it to your kids or presenting it to a group. Reading aloud is best. This slow deliberate reading will reveal some of the most cleverly camouflaged typos.

Scout your text at a different time of day.
Let your text sit for a few minutes or (better yet) a few hours and reread it. You'll be surprised how many typos become active and more easily seen later in the day.

Hire a consultant.
Ask someone else to read your copy. They'll spot those pests right off. Don't be embarrassed. Return the favor. Would you rather have one person see your infestation? Or all your neighbors?

Don't limit yourself to looking for one pest.
When you proofread or copy edit look for other literary pest problems as well. Keep in mind your target audience. Will your copy be clear and easily understood? Do any of your words or phrases have unintended meanings? Is it cluttered by too many acronyms or too much jargon? Is your copy organized in a way that makes it easy to understand?

With this integrated approach to typo control, your text is likely to yield a bumper crop of comprehension and understanding.

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