Writing and Publishing

Why You Should Avoid Being Relective

I was reading one of those college textbooks that send you to the dictionary every other paragraph. Progress was tedious. Most of the words I needed help with weren’t in the dictionaries I consulted, so I’d google the word, hoping to figure it out through context. Sometimes I’d stumble upon a cogent explanation, but often I would need to refer to multiple uses in order to theorize a plausible understanding.

So it began when I encountered the word “reflective.” Unable to locate it in printed or online dictionaries, Google presented me with 29,000 matches to consider. Drilling down, I entered “define reflective,” which narrowed the results to 1,520 occurrences.

Many of the sites were scientific and highly detailed. After ten minutes of effort, I was no closer to an answer. Eventually, a working theory emerged. It seemed that many of the entries addressed light and reflection. I wondered if reflective could correspond to reflective, such as its opposite or perhaps a countervailing phenomenon.

Eventually, I realized most of the occurrences made sense if I substituted reflective for reflective. That seemed to follow for my book as well. I emailed my professor, asking if it might be a typo. His concise reply was, “I sure hope so!”

So much for proofreading, not only did my textbook spell reflective wrong but so did 29,000 websites.

You shouldn’t believe everything you read—and you should carefully proofread everything you write.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

6 replies on “Why You Should Avoid Being Relective”

For a writer, spell check should have picked that up. The only excuse for using technical jargon involves writing for a highly exclusive audience, all of whom are familiar with the terms used.

For me, spelling errors are uncommon. Leaving a word out is typical. Also, when I change a sentence, I often leave extra words in the sentence. So thank you for the admonishment.

Very interesting post!

Since our brain can read even half written words, it is easy to bypass such typographical errors. I am not bad in spelling but I am very good at getting the meaning of half words.

When I proofread, I make a point to see and “read” but I sometimes get off the track.

Any specific suggestions?

What do you think? Please leave a comment!