Return to proofread (idea)
|errors. The term originated in the world of publishing, in which a
proof is a draft copy, often one that looks exactly the way
your work will look when it's in print. Reading the proofs (proofreading)
thus offers writers one last chance to correct their work before the
printer runs off half a million copies and ships them all over the world.
Eventually, the term came to refer to the inspection and correction of any
piece of writing, not just those prepared for publication by a
Now, everyone makes errors. When you're sitting in front of the computer at four in the morning, pounding away as fast as you can in an attempt to get that perfect phrase down before it evaporates from your mind forever, you're probably not paying excessive attention to grammar or spelling. There's no real need to be anal while you're writing, provided that you check for mistakes when you're done. You can take several steps to help discover the errors you've made:
"Pah!" you might say. "Nobody cares about grammar and spelling anyway. As long as people understand what I'm saying, that's what really important."
Parable the First:
My father is a founding partner of a law firm in New York. Lots of young lawyers apply for jobs there, and he reads every single application the firm receives. He begins evaluating candidates by dividing their applications into two piles. Pile 1 contains the files of people whose application contains more than one spelling or grammatical error. Pile 2 contains the rest.1
Pile 1 goes in the garbage immediately after the form rejection
letters go out.
Sound callous? Not really. Think about it: if the person isn't conscientious enough to proofread when his own ass is on the line, what's he going to do when he has to write something for someone else, such as a brief for a client? Besides, even if my father didn't personally care about grammar and spelling, he'd still have to act the way he does, because the judges who read briefs care about it quite a bit.
So careful proofreading may help you get a job somewhere someday.
Parable the Second:
A student applying to my school started his application essay with the following sentence:inspiring. 'Cept this ain't Stanford. His interview went something like this:
Interviewer (staring off into space):
you're applying to...Stanford."
Obviously, if there are errors in this writeup--or any of my writeups--I'd like to know about them. Please /msg me and I'll fix them after punching myself a few times.
1Incidentally, my father judges the state of our educational system by comparing the size of Pile 1 to Pile 2. When the size of Pile 1 exceeds that of Pile 2, he knows that the educational system fifteen years previous did not emphasize grammar or spelling. When Pile 2 > Pile 1, he knows that the reverse was true. Thus, back in the 70's, he received applications from people who were educated in the 50's and 60's; during these years, Pile 2 was much higher than Pile 1. In the 80's, he started receiving applications from people who went to school in the 60's and 70's; in these years (which he calls the Dark Ages), Pile 2 dwindled to a handful of files, while Pile 1 overflowed his desk (even though these guys had the advantage of spell checkers!) The size of Pile 2 increased slowly throughout the 90's, and now approaches or exceeds the size of Pile 1. So there's been some progress, though perhaps not enough.