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?

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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