Editing Rule Of Thumb: If You Find Two Errors On A Page There Will Be More

by Randy Murray on December 17, 2012

Last week I received an email from Corey Nagle and he told me that he had found a typo on the current day’s post. I thanked him and fixed it, then received a SECOND email from him noting another error. I thanked him again and told him about the Two Errors rule of thumb, which I quickly invoked.

And I found two more errors.

I also took the opportunity to tighten up a sentence or two. This is after I’d gone through my original rewrite, sent it off for editing, and read and approved the edited copy before publishing.

Here’s my rule of thumb: if you find two errors on a page, there are probably more.

I first learned about this pattern when I taught an expository writing course as a grad student and graded a LOT of papers. It’s not a law. You won’t invariably find more errors. It’s just a sign that there are probably more problems with the page of copy and it’s a big red flag waving at you as an editor to pay closer attention.

Yes, I was embarrassed by letting the errors slip through initially, but I am always thankful for those who point them out to me. It’s an opportunity to fix things, learn something, and to improve my writing.

Be proud of your work, but never pass up on the opportunity to do better. And when you find two errors on a page, stop, and start your editing again.



The Editing Rule Of Thumb: If You Find Two Errors On A Page There Will Be More by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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