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In Praise of Proofing, Plus a Postscript

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by Florrie Binford Kichler


In Praise of Proofing, Plus a


A recent <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Sports Illustrated

issue featuring the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament brackets listed Arizona as
playing “Perdue.” Great branding for chicken, but I’m sure the many fine
engineers, astronauts, and basketball champions who have graduated from Purdue
University wondered if their school had sold naming rights.


proudly feature some-day shipping.”
as long as you’re not in a hurry . . .


Maid Meats . . . said it would voluntarily recall 94,400 pounds of frozen
ground beef panties that may be contaminated”
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> (Reuters News Service).—Maybe Quaker Maid could
cut a deal with Victoria’s Secret?


With the advent of the computer,
proofreading has gone the way of the buggy whip, the $2 bill (remember those?),
and handwritten thank-you notes.


After all, who needs proofreaders
when we have . . . spellcheck!


Proofreaders are costly, require
benefits, and get terribly annoying pointing out every little typo that surely
nobody would ever have noticed. Whereas the spellchecking tool in word
processors will find all those spelling errors with a mere press of a
key—no withholding and no health care required.


Well, most of the time.


Consider the following excerpts
from my company’s latest book:


style=’font-size:11.0pt’>“Will their be war in America?’” Alec asked.




style=’font-size:11.0pt’>“We’re going to have trouble!” Alec shouted,
although he knew that Poleon

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> could not here him.


I could go on with “too” and
“two,” but you get the point.


Spellchecking in word processors
will deal with the obvious typos, but homonyms and words that have been left
out are beyond the reach of technology, at least for now. In our latest
manuscript, we found more than 30 errors that escaped the notice of automatic spellchecking—but
not of our human proofreader.


The Damage Typos Do


I’m no Luddite. My days are spent
in the company of two desktop computers, a laptop, three printers, and a
PDA/cell phone on which I receive text messages from my college-age daughter
that say “how r u 2day,” or “pls snd mny.” Which raises the question: In this
age of texting, print-on-demand technology, and electronic books, do a few
typos matter? Getting the message out to the marketplace on a timely basis is
much more important. Everybody makes spelling mistakes, and most people won’t
notice them anyway.


Typos do matter.


Typos matter because, at best,
their presence implies carelessness, while at worst they destroy the confidence
of your readers. If you’ve ever faced a third-grader who wants to know why the
word pleasant
appears as “pleasent” in one of the titles bearing your company’s imprint, then
you know what I’m talking about.


Typos matter because the most
compelling story ever told will lose 50 percent of its impact and 100 percent
of its meaning if the text is marred with errors. “It was the best of times, it
was the wurst of times.” The opening line of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Tale of Two Cities
, or a commentary on
the sausage industry?


Typos matter because content
filled with misspellings implies a lack of professionalism. As publishers, we
are the standard-bearers of the language—and in a world where an entire
generation is used to communicating with three-letter words minus vowels on a
tiny screen, that is not an easy task. The reading public looks to us for
accuracy not just in function but in form. If either one is less than the very
best we can produce, then we have failed them—and ourselves.


Hail to the proofreader—the
final defense in a world where “patties” become “panties” with one keystroke and
invoke laughter instead of rightful concern. I am fortunate to have Judith
Appelbaum as editor of the Independent and Judith Stein as copy editor watching my
back and correcting my mistakes in this column.


Real people editing, proofing, and
producing a publication that achieves a standard of excellence that is
undeniable. Can you do any less for your readers?




Publishing University and BookExpo
are upon us. If you have been debating whether to attend the University, now is
the time to make the commitment to your future as a publisher. You will find no
better publishing education anywhere. The expense you incur will be much less
than the money you will save by learning how to do things right—the first


Visit <span
right now and sign
up. I look forward to seeing you there—and joining you in celebrating
independent publishing.


My virtual door is always open.
Please share your comments, thoughts, and ideas by emailing me at <span




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