Some typos are more harder to detect than others.
I’m currently reading the 1989 Mandarin Paperbacks edition of C. J. Cherryh’s novel Downbelow Station, which is rife with the sort of typos that a spellchecker won’t catch, because the erroneous word is also a valid English word.
(Okay, “rife” is an exaggeration; I really only mean one every five or ten pages. But that still seems like a lot.)
But the ones in this book are even worse than the usual run of such typos, because in this case many of them are plausible substitute words.
A couple of examples:
- One of them objected
- Probably was meant to say None of them objected. (This one isn’t an exact quote, ’cause I neglected to write it down when I encountered it and can’t find it now.)
- “We cope”
- Almost certainly was meant to say We copy.
- as she had always been with this father
- Was meant to say with his father.
In all of those cases, not only a spellchecker but a grammar-checker would fail to catch the typo. It’s the kind of typo that you can only recognize by first understanding the meaning of the phrase as written; second noticing that the meaning seems out of sync with what’s going on, or unlikely to be said by that character; and third recognizing that a small change to one of the words would make much more sense.
(And the issue is exacerbated in this book by the author’s occasional penchant for unusual and slightly cryptic syntax, so some phrases that initially look like errors probably aren’t.)
This kind of thing is why I feel that we’re going to continue to need human copyeditors, at least until the advent of strong AI. For that second example, I can imagine a nonsentient machine-learning system reaching the point of recognizing that “We cope” is a less likely phrase than “We copy” in dialogue over a radio between spaceships in a military-focused science fiction novel; I can vaguely imagine something similar working for the third one; but I don’t see any way for a nonsentient system to recognize that “One” should “None” in that first example.
Hmm—while I’m here, let’s make a game of it: Come up with a phrase or sentence or paragraph that includes a plausible typo—an incorrect word that’s only (let’s say) a one-letter alteration of the right word, but that remains grammatically correct in its context.