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.
Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!