The Dragon, the Mouse, and Typos

The dreaded typo. It’s hard enough to catch all of the pesky little errors when I actually physically type a document. It’s always good for a writer to have someone else read their work in the proofreading stage. A new set of eyes will see a lot more than eyes accustomed to the words and their message. The process of proofreading is all the more important when I use dictation software. I haven’t figured out why yet, but I find it exponentially more difficult to catch all of the “typos” when I dictate than when I type. I’m not even sure what to call them. Dictationos?  Perhaps they’re harder to notice because when I type, I correct the errors as I go. If I do that when I’m dictating, my thought process is too interrupted.

I’ve experienced some horrifying moments in the past couple of weeks. A couple times, I’ve been ready to send an email, the mouse hovering over the send button, when I realize the crucial error. Email dictationos usually involve proper names. I cringe when I admit that I have almost sent uncorrected emails to professors with names that Dragon has a particularly difficult time understanding. The latest last-minute proofreads have saved me from sending messages addressed to Dr. Pretty and Dr. Mowgli. Yikes! Imagine the follow-up conversations. I shudder when I think about it.

My need to proofread is heightened when I dictate. It’s no longer a matter of catching a misspelled word or a “their” that should have been a “there.” It’s a matter of changing words that Dragon misunderstands, far more egregious (and humorous) typos than simple spelling mistakes. I was talking to a writer the other day who said he tried dictation software but didn’t like it because it so frequently resulted in nonsensical sentences. I think he gave up too soon. Dictating in short phrases can cause this problem and so can speaking unclearly or around other loud sounds. It’s true though that Dragon does produce multiple misunderstood words each time I sit down and create a document, even in the perfect dictating environment. That’s why I usually proofread once after I complete each paragraph and again once or twice when I’m finished composing. This prevents me from returning to my document only to find that I no longer understand my original intent.

While dictation software creates more work in the proofreading stage, it doesn’t do so at a high enough cost that I want to walk away. I’d rather turn into a super proofreader, one who reads each document carefully multiple times in order to ensure that only the highest quality leaves my desktop.

Question of the week: I’m looking for stories! What was your most embarrassing typo? What strategies do you have for full-proof proofreading?


One thought on “The Dragon, the Mouse, and Typos

  1. I wonder if dictationos are more likely homophones than non-words. Since Dragon does spelling correction automatically (I think), you’re not likely to have any incorrectly-spelled words. Instead, you end up having poor word choice and grammar, which are harder for a computer to catch (ever try using Word’s grammar check?*).

    Some homophones you’re trained to catch (e.g. their/there/they’re, its/it’s, your/you’re), but there are a whole lot of others that you never had to worry about before, especially near-homophones (e.g. “fool” vs. “full” in your last sentence), so they’re probably harder for you to notice. If I’m right, you might get better at catching homophones as you use Dragon more.

    In the meantime, good luck with proofreading and know that computer scientists are working to make dictation software and grammar checking better!

    My solution for “full”-proof proofreading is to have others do the non-trivial stuff :).

    * Actually, I wonder if Word’s grammar check (if it still exists) would help you catch dictationos. Sure, there will be some false positive and false negatives, but it might be good to run after you’ve done your own check to catch a few of your false negatives.


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