Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Why Writers Need a Fresh Pair of Eyes

It is difficult and sometimes impossible to pick up our own errors in the documents we write. Even with the best will in the world and the most assiduous efforts we all miss our own mistakes that another person will spot immediately. There is a very good reason for this, as outlined on an interesting article I recently came across. Apparently, the human mind is set up to mentally replace errors with the correct version – which really isn't much help! Interestingly, one technique is for people to check their own work by reading it backwards, sentence by sentence. However, as the writer of the article says: “It is always better to bring in another set of eyes.” Why is this? Another set of eyes represents another person, another mind – and, most importantly, an objective stance.

The main problems, however, arise in the new wave of e-books and self-published books.  E-Books can emerge in a jumble due to the conversion from the original by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software which is not equipped to pick up all the characters. It takes at least one human, or at least many readings, to ensure that the result is 100 per cent error free, comprehensible and able to be enjoyed by the reader.

As for self-published books, these are very often checked only by the author before publication – say no more! Most self-publishers do not pass their documents to an editor or proof-reader for checking, and so typos are missed. That would be bad enough in itself − but add in an author’s difficulty with spelling and grammar and the result is very disappointing for readers who expect the usual high standards found in conventionally published books.

The bottom line is that it is ALWAYS a good idea to use a fresh pair of eyes for all work that is intended for publication!


  1. How true is this! Having proofed many OCR scans, some errors that are caused by the scan can actually change the meaning of a sentence!

  2. Wholeheartedly agree. A second pair of eyes is always a msut. (Well, that proves it!)

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