The title of this post was really hard for us to write, and even harder for us not to edit. It makes an important point, though— typos do happen, whether by a slip of the fingers on the keyboard, or by the seemingly sentient maliciousness of Microsoft Word Autocorrect. Luckily for you, we’ve been editing plant biology manuscripts for many years, and we’ve come up with a list of some common typos, plus some tips to avoid falling prey to them.
Here are some of our favorite typos– see if you can spot them on first glance:
“The chlorophyll contents of the leaves deceased.”
“We genotyped 256 SNP makers.”
“The genome-wild analysis….” and, conversely, “The glutathione levels were normal in wide type.”
“The fluorescent signal was imagined…”
“scanning election micrograph”
“The variables showed addictive effects…”
“… after verbalization in the dark for 4 days…”
“…transgenic lies…” (hat tip to @NaturePlants for this gem!)
Note that these examples include real words spelled correctly; the problem is that they are not all the right words. These insidious little mistakes won’t be caught by many spell-checking algorithms.
Mistakes make your manuscript look like you didn’t take care with it and you want to project an image of polished careful professionalism in your manuscript– down to the last degree sign. So, how do you catch typos of all sorts and produce a nicely polished paper?
1. Use autocorrect and spellcheck, but use them with caution. Spellcheck in Word can save you from many simple typos and spare you from having to Google for the correct spelling of words– because if you can spell cantaloupe correctly the first time, our hats are off to you (have you considered working as an editor?). The spellcheck algorithm in Google Docs works well– in fact, it caught several of the typos listed above. We’ve also seen recommendations for Grammarly (https://www.grammarly.com/)– let us know if you’ve tried it.
2. Approach your manuscript with fresh eyes. Step away from the paper for a while, walk the dog, do some yoga, and then come back to the paper. Ask a friend to read your manuscript. Read the manuscript backwards. And perhaps our favorite, don’t be afraid to get help from a professional editor. We are here for you!
3. Also get a fresh perspective. For example, vertical text is hard to read and typos love to lurk in the vertical text in figures— for example, we’ve seen “Realtive expression” in so many y-axis labels that it almost looks right to us (almost, but not quite). Turn your head sideways to look at vertical text– and make that text as concise as possible. Choose something simple like “Relative transcript levels” over “Gene expression of the target locus relative to ACTIN” and save the explanation for the figure legend.
4. Search for multiple occurrences. If you wrote “wide type”, or “maker” once, you might have made the same typo again– especially in figure labels and legends, where typos can propagate by cut-and-paste mechanisms (much like transposable elements). The “Find/Replace” tool is your friend.
5. Double-check gene/protein names and abbreviations. Most spellcheck algorithms skip words with uppercase letters and it is hard to catch AGRT1 vs. AGTR1 by eye. Again, Find/Replace is the way to go.
Do you have any favorite typos or tips on catching typos? Tweet them to us @PlantEditors or send them to us here. We love to hear from you!