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The proof is in the reading

For many years, I made my livelihood in newspapers.

At almost every paper I worked at, I ended up doing a lot of the proofreading besides my usual reporting.

I think a lot of this was because I have always had a fascination with the English language and words, and that is a definite gift for a proofreader.

I also have always been a voracious reader, which helped in proofreading in a couple of ways: First, it gave me a larger vocabulary, which meant I knew more of the words, both familiar and unfamiliar, I came across as a proofreader. Second, I could read quickly, but with very good comprehension, so I could proof stories quite quickly, but also (usually) notice if there was a word left out or doubled up.

I found spotting a double word more difficult than seeing where a word was missing. Maybe it was, again, because I had good comprehension of what I was reading. My mind tended to note missing words because there was, quite literally, something missing in the sentence. A double word, though, can slip by as your mind sort-of notices it, but figures you just read the same word twice.

The stories I found hardest to proof, and I have heard this from other reporters, were my own. I think a lot of it was because if you made a mistake when you originally wrote the story, it was difficult to pick it up when you proofed the story because your mind knew what the story was supposed to say.

One thing I found sometimes helped was making sure I pretended I was swimming after eating. I tried to take at least a half-hour after writing a story before going back and proofing it. This also gave me a chance to proof some other stories, which seemed to reduce the chances of misreading what I had originally miswritten.

I loved going through other papers looking for typos because, of course, with me proofreading the paper I worked for, there were never any mistakes. (HAH!!)

I found some of the most ‘entertaining’ typos were in the ads. I found this funny because the ads were the area of the paper seen by the most people. At most papers, they would be done up by an ad designer, who would prof as they went. It would then go back to the salesperson, who would check the ad against what the client had wanted. Then, it would go back to the client to get their OK.

So I’m not sure how the front page of a grocery-store flyer at a paper I worked on was pulled at the press when THEY noticed the biggest item on the front page was supposed to say ‘Fruit Drinks’. ‘Drinks’ was missing a letter, and it wasn’t the ‘D’.

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