In six experiments, subjects detected phonemes or letters in text presented auditorily or visually. Experiments 1 and 2 provided support for the hypothesis that a mismatch between the phoneme and letter representations of a target leads to detection errors. In addition, visual word unitization processes were implicated. Experiments 3 and 4 provided support for the hypothesis that the Gestalt goodness of pattern affected detection errors when subjects searched for letters. Experiments 5 and 6 demonstrated that the effects of unitization on the detection of letters in common words were decreased by altering the familiar configuration of the test words. The combined results of all six experiments lead to the conclusion that both visual and phonetic processes influence letter detection, that these processes communicate through a type of cross-checking, and that there are at least two levels of visual (and perhaps of phonetic) processing involved in the letter detection task.