Several months ago, a Net friend of mine published a book and asked some of us to tell him about any typos and similar small mistakes we might notice there when reading it. In the end, I supplied him with rather a long list.
Which is not to say there were more than there usually are in a book like his – some four or five hundred pages. The point is that apparently I spotted, without focusing on it, more of them than all the other guys altogether. Obviously, this is one of the few things in which I am really good.
Why? As usual, a combination of several reasons I guess. Firstly, I’ve been a bookworm since childhood – in fact I more readily understand written than spoken word even in my first language. In my other languages, which I learned mostly from books, this is even more pronounced (sorry for the pun).
Secondly, English is not my first language. This is not a paradox – the better accustomed you are to a language, the easier it is to overlook a typo. I think that if the book was in my first language and contained the same number of typos, I would spot a smaller proportion of them.
Thirdly, I have some training. Very often in my life this or that friend approached me, asking me to check some official letter or something (occasionally even an SMS to a girlfriend) for typos for him. Given that a few of my friends were dyslexic/disgraphic, I surely had a lot to correct.
And fourthly, I’m a nitpicker. I try too hard to be precise. When somebody says or writes* verbal while obviously meaning oral, as far as I’m concerned it’s a distinct mistake. Not that I don’t make lots of these myself – but unlike most others, I keep correcting myself as soon as I realize I’ve made them.
So you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m the kind of person who re-reads his own e-mails twice before sending them – which, after all, is more typo-searching exercise.
* Come to think of it, this illustrates my point. Says or writes. I suppose that most people would only have used one of the two verbs in that sentence. I mean clause.