Here’s an old, interesting blog post from Language Log about the different types of typing errors and what they mean, but sadly no information on how to fix them. I have to say that knowing there is science devoted to this particular area of human errors makes me feel much better about the fact that I cannot type a typo-free sentence, and often cannot proofread well enough to find my mistakes. I must not be as alone as I feel.
Yesterday, Stefan Valdimarsson wrote to tell me about an interesting error in one of my recent posts. It was a typing error, but not one of the common slips of the finger that have been catalogued, counted and modeled over the decades, from D.D. Lessenberry’s 1928 “Analysis of Errors” (published by Corona Typewriters, and reprinted in Dvorak et al., Typewriting Behavior, 1936) to the “Glossary of Terms Including a Classification of Typing Errors” by D. Gentner et al., in W.E. Cooper’sCognitive Apects of Skilled Typewriting, 1983.
This wasn’t a keystroke substitution error, nor a transposition of two sequentially adjacent keystrokes, nor an interchange of keystrokes that are not serially adjacent, nor a migration of keystrokes to a position earlier or later than the canonical order, nor a keystroke omission, nor a keystroke insertion, nor an abstract doubling error (like “aad” for “add”) or alternation error (like “threr” for “there”). Such errors are a fascinating subject, as you can learn by reading David Rumelhart and Donald Norman’s seminal paper “Simulating a skilled typist: A study of skilled cognitive-motor performance“, Cognitive Science 6(1) 1-36, 1982.
But this wasn’t really a keystroke error at all.
Instead, it was a case where I started to type one word, and then, as my attention shifted downstream, my fingers continued with a different, and entirely inappropriate, alternative. I was transcribing some experimental instructions from a (.pdf image of) a paper on “Most Comfortable Loudness for Pure Tones, Noise, and Speech” (discussed in the post “Liberman on Sax on Liberman on Sax on hearing“, 5/19/2008)…