Professor's Proof Marks Make a Difference
Never Ignore Proofreading
In so many books, magazines, and student papers, proofreading is ignored these days. You see the results on billboards and fliers distributed on the campus. You see the results in daily newspapers. For years, before his untimely death, Theodore Bernstein, managing editor of The New York Times, periodically published "Winners and Sinners" to point out the errors of his colleagues in proofreading. Jay Leno, host and famous comedian on The Tonight Show, has created an industry out of the errors made in newspapers and advertisements.
Proofreading requires attention to detail. It can avoid minus ones on your papers. People, I believe, are never taught to proofread. They are just expected to proofread every paper or business document they prepare. Certain techniques will help the proofreading process.
Read the Copy Out Loud
A good way to improve your proofreading habits is to read your copy out loud. Hear how the words sound and how they will sound to your reader. Look for obviously misplaced letters and words that don't look right. Do not assume you have prepared perfect copy.
Today we have all become lazy with computer aids, such as spell and grammar checkers. These devices should catch all our errors. The spell checker will not catch all your proofreading mistakes. You need to physically see the copy of proofreading from the computer screen. We see what we want to see when proofreading copy from the computer screen.
Have you heard the expression, "I am my own worst proofreader." Often, someone else can spot the mistake you have missed. Choose someone, though, who knows about the English language. Choose someone you trust, who will "tell it like it is." Realize this person may still make mistakes. Prepare to correct errors when you come to class. You and your friend may not have caught every mistake.
You could also try exchanging papers with the person you trust. Each of you will gain from this proofreading experience. It is easier for others to find our errors. They do not possess the attitude that "I could not possibly make a mistake." You are on a collision to disaster if you believe you do not make mistakes proofreading.
The best laid plans of the Senate for the Impeachment Trial of President Clinton went astray. You may remember seeing on TV the Senators all filing up to sign the Oath Book. Each senator was given a souvenir of another pen for the occasion. On that pen the words, "Untied States Congress," were written. The pen company with a red face has agreed to make amends for its error. I didn't know the United States Congress was "untied."
Nothing becomes more disconcerting than e-mail that is incorrectly proofread. I see e-mail errors daily from students, because they don't take the time to proofread their copy before sending to cyberspace. Once you send that message, you can't get it back from cyberspace. You have to send a correction, and that is so embarrassing.
A student asked me for help recently and suggested "she needed a bite of help." Perhaps we need to bite into the help, but that was not her intent. We laugh on Jay Leno, David Letterman, and at ourselves about the stupid proofreading errors. They are not funny to a person who is trying to understand our e-mail message. Proofreading errors only get in the way of an otherwise clear message. No one is immune from proofreading errors on e-mail. Famous administrators and lowly employees are just as guilty. We all need to take the time to say: Is that correct? Did I spell that word correctly? Did I leave out spacing between words? Did my sentence make sense? Did I capitalize that word?
Let's try some exercises where information is omitted in sentences or skewed in some way to create nonsense. These sentences are often from exact student documents, and I am indebted to current and former students who gave me these ideas.
- According to Figure 1, Attachment C, 45 percent business students support the Shopping Center Plan at the North Campus.
- I appreciate you giving me this opportunity to examine this problem in depth for my analytical report.
- Data collectors didn't only lost their workhours but also the comnpany suffered a production drought.
- In another question, which was formulated to abtain maximum information, I asked the employees if they had any ideas on how the restaurant could reduce employee theft.
- The citizens of West Hollywood and Ventura subjected proposals approved by their respectful cities.
- Where crashes were as much a menace in North Africa as the was Luftwaffe, and the frequency of his close calls frightened Patton. . .
Patton: A Genius for War, by Carlo D'Este, p. 447
Proofreading Affects Science and DNA
Did you know that the term, proofreading, is even used in scientific thinking? In that context the term means how the different helixes are reconstructed when the DNA molecules are joined again and again. I watched in fascination as Dr. Carl Sagan, former Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, explained the proofreading process in the Voice in the Cosmic Fugue, part of the Cosmos series shown on television a few years ago. Our body is able to mix and match the different helixes as we form a human body through this proofreading. Think about our document, whether a report, memo, or letter, can be joined in a quality product by careful proofreading.
You are reading a portion of a resume before sending to a prospective employer. You quickly scan the headings and notice nothing wrong. You have experienced a form of closure in Gestalt Psychology. You do not see the error there, because you have filled in the spaces. Try this exercise:
Soccer coach for Mason Parks and Recreation, two years
Chess mentor for Highland Park High School Chess Team
VITA tax consultant for low-income families, two years
Reading for the Blind Program, North Hills Library, one year
Do you see any need for corrections? Check your answer on another portion of the Web. Also, please see the resume portion of the Web on employment communications to view how active verbs would help the resume itself. Did you find the two spelling errors? You are looking at an actual resume heading that caused consternation with a prospective employer.
The following passage appeared in a police-oriented brochure dealing with gym robberies. See if you can find the spelling and capitalization problems in the passage:
We are experiencing an increase in Burglary from Vehicles around health club, especially Van Nuys and Hayvenhurst (Mike's Gym and Lucille's Health Club). Numerous purses and wallets have been taken by suspects braking into the vehicles. If you belong to a Gym and prefer to leave your valuables in the car, at least put them in the trunk where they are not in plane site.
Did you find the need for corrections? Please check another portion of the Web to find if your answers are correct. Proofreading takes constant attention.
Even though most good business communication textbooks include a section on standard proofreading marks, it does not hurt to look at the following abbreviations for how papers are scored:
- under.--That means underline some caption or expression.
- tone--Chances are, the writer used a harsh tone, such as "inform" in some sentence.
- redun.--Means redundant or too many words to say the same idea. E.g. in the field of accounting. Just say "accounting."
- tense--Probably, the tense or the word (present or past, for examples)was not used consistently through the paragraph.
- Talk.--You did not create a talking caption. You probably left out the verb or subject.
- proof.--Simply means proofreading. Somehow, the letters of the word did not mesh.
- sp.--spelling. The spelling of a word was not correct, such as complimentary for complementary.
- mm.--Misplaced Modifier. You might have written a clause or phrase that didn't modify what it was supposed to talk about.
- deriv.--Some variation of the word was not properly used. Let's say you were writing, "In continuation the expression," when you meant to say "In continuing." Continuing is a variation of continuation.
- com.--A comma was omitted.
- l.c.--That means lower case. A slash through a letter or word means the same mark.
- Imp.--Impersonal you. You might write: "You are reminded to be careful in a job interview . . . " The reader was not part of the job interview.
- reflex.--That means reflexive. It could also mean filler where There Is, Are, Will Be expressions are used.
- subjunc.--That means subjunctive mood. E.g. you might say "if I was" when you meant to say "if I were."
- no.--Number. For numbers under 10, write out in words; for numbers over 10 write out in Arabic numbers.
- hyp.--Hyphen. You probably forgot to place a hyphen in a one-thought modifier: e.g. part-time job.
- semi--You omitted a semicolon. Semicolons help to cement sentences. Whenever you have two thoughts without a conjunction, you may need a semicolon.
- frag.--Fragmented sentence. The sentence does not have a subject or verb.
- agree.--Agreement of subject and verb. E.g. you would not say, we needs a version. Instead, you would realize "we" as a personal pronoun requires a plural verb, need.
- ant.--Antecedent. Think about this expression: "the person believed that they." The sentence is incorrect because person is singular, and they is plural.
- tri.--Trite expression. Suppose someone writes: "it has come to my attention." That is a hackneyed expression that is called gobbledygook.
- apos.--Means apostrophe. You probably omitted an apostrophe.
- ss-ds-ts--refers to spacing. SS is single space. DS is double space. TS is triple space.
- super.--Means a superfluous word, such as an adverb or adjective. Let's take the following expression: "truly amazing." I would probably bracket "truly" as unnecessary to the sentence.
- usage--Somehow you used an improper way of expressing the word. Did you mean that use of the word? For example, you said to attain an education when you meant to say "obtain."
- Intro quote--Quotes should usually be introduced. Prepare the reader for what is being quoted. Tell a little about the quote before giving the quote.
Last updated Wednesday, September 20, 2006
(c)copyright, G. Jay Christensen, All Rights Reserved
Please check the home pages, especially the grammar and punctuation, English as a second language, spelling, and readability, for additional help with the subject of proofreading.