Image thanks to Looking Glass Optical.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many times I read something, I don’t see the spelling and typo mistakes I have made. I have a particular problem with mixing up the letters in the middle of the word. These are especially difficult to spot as the human brain can read words easily as long as the first and last letter are correct. Try it, it’s amazing. 

I am quite well read but my spelling has always been atrocious. I struggle with the simplest of words at times yet it is the speed that I try to type at which lets me down the most. My mind knows what it wants to say but my fingers are less obliging.

When I am writing something, including this blog, I rely heavily upon spellchecker but there are occasions when even this lets me down. OK, I let myself down. I don’t need to blame the tools. Some words it gets wrong and so perhaps it too can read words with the letters mixed up. 

I beat myself up. I promise to try harder and slow things down a bit yet, after a short reprieve the problem comes back with a vengeance. 

It turns out that it is not my fault. Apparently it is the way I am wired and, in fact, it is the way we are all wired. I used to think that my eyes took in the letters on the page and my brain worked out that they were as they should be. The flow of information was from the eyes to the brain yet this is not so. The majority of information flow goes from your brain to your eyes.

Your brain is telling your eyes what it expects to see. There is a mental picture of what is in front of you inside your brain which is projected to your eyes and the traffic that comes back is when your eyes perceive a difference. It is difficult to see your own spelling mistakes as your brain is already expecting to see them as they are. In essence they are not wrong as they are as expected.

This makes evolutionary sense. Imagine if you had to process everything that you see at all times. Your brain wouldn’t have the capacity to cope and so has evolved to monitor change, which is a much more efficient use of resources. Indeed, we use the same technique in monitors, where only pixels that have changed are refreshed, while all of the others stay the same. As usual, nature was there first.

This is why proofreading works as the reader has no picture in their mind of what your words are going to say. Everything, other than perhaps the white space, is fresh to them and the information travels from their eyes to their brain.

I wonder how many mistakes I have made in this post? None as far as I can see.

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