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18 August 2017 - Policy & Communications Manager Blog

Publish date: 18/08/2017

Word prediction and auto-correct can lead to embarrassing mistakes as the blog learnt last week. Indeed, whilst it can be plainly obvious what was intended, a system designed to aid the author can, on occasion, place them in difficult circumstances. Examples of such calamities abound on the net, with my personal favourite being an excited fireman who proudly announced he had just collected his new 'unicorn'.

From a legal perspective, with the speed of technological advancement and systems for producing work, the typographical error is no longer the only risk, although it appears lawyers may be more susceptible to these. Psychologist, Tom Stafford from the University of Sheffield explains that when writing, the author is concentrating on conveying meaning which is, he states, a high-level task. When the brain undertakes a high-level task, it simplifies letters and words to be able to concentrate on complex sentences to convey meaning. Broadly speaking, the more complex the structure, the greater the risk of errors. Worse still, when attempting to proof read your own work, your brain will take in sensory information to obtain the meaning making errors very hard to notice. So how to overcome this? Well the trick apparently is to 'de-familiarise' yourself with your own words. If you have the time, it is advised to go back to your work after a long break. If this is not practical, Stafford advises to change the look of your work by changing the font type and size, the colours in the background and anything else which substantially alters the appearance.

The next time you produce a 'daft contract' take heart; you are not a computer, but human after all.

Best wishes

Helen McGrath

Policy & Communications Manager