Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I'll Say It Again: There is Value in Proof-reading!
I suppose I’m no different from any other working wife and mother; as a rule we tend to take on a full load of responsibilities… because, of course, we can’t say ‘no. Some women, I’ve found, are great at juggling several chores at one time. They are excellent multi-taskers.
I don’t fall into that category, I’m afraid.
Instead of coping with two or three jobs at a time, I tend to fit a like number of obligations into the same time-frame by another method. I hurry. And trust me when I tell you that the end result is not usually a desirable one.
The most obvious example of why it is not a good idea to hurry can be found in some of my recent writing. Sadly, I’ve been too busy with my current obligations to do any serious story-telling. The occasional column for the newspaper and entry into GAG is about all I can manage to write in the ‘entertainment’ category. Beyond that, I am writing letters to editors and letters to representatives and letters to scientists and politicians and activists. It’s a type of writing that is completely outside my comfort zone… but it’s necessary.
For my serious (and more long-winded) writing, I have a wonderful friend who steps in and proof-reads for me. But I can’t call upon Jack to double-check every letter and op-ed and email that I send. Can I? I’d like to, but then–not only would I not have a life—Jack wouldn’t, either.
So, I’ve been winging it. Pounding out essays and updates and notes, and often (because there is a whole pile of tasks awaiting my next free moment) I’ve been just hitting ‘send’ without giving them more than a cursory glance.
I was recently involved in a game of writers’ ‘Tag’, in which several authors participated in the writing of one story without conferring with each other as to where the tale would go or how the characters would develop. It was great fun, even though it added a bit of stress to an already hectic schedule. Anyway…I recently wrote my required chapter, gave it a cursory glance and posted it to the online forum. And then I left. Got busy. Went on to do something else.
By the time I returned to the site, it was too late. My bonehead moment had already been discovered. Discovered, and commented on! The mistake? This sentence: “He swiveled on his tool to face her.”
Hehehe… oh, brother. It was a perfectly innocent, easy-to-make error, right? I typed out the ‘s’ at the end of ‘his’, but neglected the one that directly followed, which would have made my hapless trucker swivel on his STOOL instead of his tool. That one missing ‘s’ completely skewed the whole mental image created by the sentence.
I’m really not sure which one I like better, but it inadvertently changed a serious scene into a humorous one, and that wasn’t my intention.
And just the other night, I authored another typographical classic. This time, my mistake occurred in a letter; a letter with a serious tone, intended to convey a strong opinion. A letter which was emailed to men. My memo ended with this entreaty: ‘I hope if I ever become a polarizing influence, you will lick my ass to the curb.’
Good God. Oh, good God…
It was an hour before I went back to proof-read. It was a useless exercise to begin with, because I knew the letters had already gone out, but I was just rechecking it to make sure I’d conveyed the intended tone.
I’m pretty sure I failed.
In my defense, I am almost positive that the ‘k’ and the ‘l’ are much closer together on my keyboard than they are on those of most other writers. They have to be. They simply have to be.
Thus far, I’ve survived the humiliation brought on by that particular Bomo. The fellows I sent the missive to are gentlemen… gentlemen who have learned to deal with a woman who, even when making an innocent mistake, tends to be a bit ‘earthy’. My Freudian slip barely warranted the roll of an eye.
The only comfort I can find is in the fact that I am not alone. A friend mailed me some timeless classics which were actually published in newspapers, and I’ll share a couple of them with you. While I feel bad for the authors, editors and publishers of these poorly proof-read articles, I have to admit: I feel much, much better now!