How to navigate proofreaders’ land mines

What is small, innocent-looking, and causes you to wake up at 3 a.m. screaming? Answer: Their it is! I mean, they’re it is! I mean, there it is! Out, damned typo! Will these proofs ne’er be clean?

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The copy’s been proofread, and your article (newsletter, email, whatever) has been published—in print or online.

You’re perusing it, admiring your handiwork. Then you see it. Ack! A rudimentary, easily fixed error is there in the text. It’s standard-size type, but to your eyes it’s in 54-point Bodoni Bold.

And somehow, it’s underlined. Blinking, too. Maybe even chuckling softly. Or so it seems.

In any case, you screwed up. You. Missed. It. Self-evisceration is the only option.

The horror… the horror…

The culprit, other than you—careless, worthless, moronic, overworked, under-appreciated, perfectionist, yeah-but-what-good-did-it-do-me? you—was probably one of the proofreader’s land mines.

These are the words that elude spell-checking programs and, on occasion, even the most experienced eye. Following is an incomplete collection of these verbal tripwires (and, please, share your own nemeses in the comments section; we’re in this together, after all):

It’s, its

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