In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi famously asked, "Who's the more foolish -- the fool, or the fool who follows him?" Today we ask a variation of that question: Who's the more foolish -- those who create the typo, or those who fail to notice it for months on end?
Here's the story, courtesy of Yahoo! News: "Six months ago, Gorman McCracken Volkswagen-Mazda bought some property in Longview, Texas that was previously owned a movie theater. The land that the car dealership took over included a rather large billboard, so they decided to put up an advertisement about their warranties. As KLTV 7 News reports, that sign was up for months before the business realized it had a typo.
The sign was supposed to read, 'Peace of Mind Warranty on ALL MAKES.' The sign, instead, reads, 'Piece of Mind Warranty on ALL MAKES.' How did it go unnoticed by the people working at Gorman McCracken? The best answer given is that it’s because the sign faces away from their building. General Manager Travis Potter says that he’s heard from several people about it now. He told KLTV, 'We’ve had several people complain on it and we realize our mistake. And, instead of fixing the sign we’re just going to donate what we would spend to fix the sign to the East Texas Literacy Council.'
KLTV reports that it would cost approximately $250 to fix the sign, so that’s the amount that will be donated."
More fascinating than any of this, though, is that there's an East Texas Literacy Council.
We don't often use colloquial abbreviations here at Solidus, but here's one for the WTF? pile. It's simply beyond human comprehension to think that race could have anything to do with proofreading. There are no doubt some closed-minded folks out there who like to think that copy riddled with errors must have been written by what they perceive to be an inferior race -- and to those people we say, your bus is leaving, get under it -- but the idea that anyone could see fewer errors based on race is simply baffling.
But here it is, courtesy of bustle.com: "A new study by Nextions discovered that proofreading is not the objective task we may have thought it was. When partners in a law firm were given a research memo to evaluate, the lawyers who thought the memo was written by a Caucasian male found fewer mistakes and gave the memo higher ratings than the lawyers who thought the exact same memo was written by an African-American male.
'Tomas Meyer,' the imaginary, race-shifting author of the memo, made a total of 22 errors: 7 concerning spelling or grammar, 6 that were “substantive writing” errors, 5 factual errors, and 4 analytic errors. What’s extra creepy about the study is that even the obvious, objective errors like spelling mistakes fell victim to the racial bias of the readers. When Tomas Meyer was Caucasian, readers found an average of 2.9 spelling/grammar errors (OUT OF 7!) in his work. When Tomas Meyer was African American, they found an average of 5.8 spelling/grammar errors. So not only does this show us that lawyers can’t proofread, it means that when we believe an author is white, we may actually fail to see the objective mistakes that they’ve made.
Tomas Meyer also received much crueler comments on his work when he was African American. While Caucasian Tomas Meyer 'has potential,' lawyers 'can’t believe' that African American Tomas Meyer 'went to NYU.'
Perhaps surprisingly, the readers’ race didn’t appear to affect the outcome of their proofreading bias. According to Nextions, 'There was no significant correlation between a partner’s race/ethnicity and the differentiated patterns of errors found between the two memos.' They did find, however, that female partners spotted more of the errors than the men did. Looks like the unbiased, objective art of proofreading could use some editing itself."
Ah, Chuck D. Where would we be without you? For anyone unfamiliar with Chuck D, shame on you, but here's what Wikipedia has to say about him:
"Chuck D is an American rapper, author, and producer. He helped create politically and socially conscious rap music in the mid-1980s as the leader of the rap group Public Enemy. About.com ranked him #9 on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time, while The Source ranked him #12 on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Lyricists of All Time."
Everyone up to speed? Good. So Chuck D created the #IGotTen campaign, which asks each person to help sign up 10 other people for health insurance before the March 31 deadline. A noble effort to be sure, and we salute Chuck D for trying to make things happen, but this is the image that accompanies the campaign:
So, in reality, Chuck D is asking each person to help sign up 10 other people for heath insurance. Now if this has anything to do with insurance against Heath Bars -- y'know, insurance for your teeth against that brutal concrete caramel on the inside -- then sign me up. If not, Chuck D, use some of that Public Enemy money and hire yourself a proofreader.
By Steve Boudreault
Porn is a multi-billion-dollar industry. These days, it should come as no surprise, the biggest chunk of that pile of money comes from Internet porn. One wonders how much more money might be made if those online porn rascals bothered to learn spelling and grammar.
One pornographic video site that I … heard about from a friend ... states plainly that “Every photos in tour done freely you precisely will discovering members of a part we do not deceive you, every photos really is in members and even more!!!” Well, that’s … reassuring. I suppose we should be thankful they spelled “deceive” correctly.
Well everyone complains about the weather, I hear you all say, but no one does anything about it. Why doesn’t Solidus jump in and offer to fix these sites? I’ll tell you why.
Years ago, I applied for a proofreading position working on a website whose name has no place in polite company. The concept was that the site would review adult toys and videos, and I would proofread the reviews. I spoke to the site owner and asked him to send me some sample text from the site so I could show him my editing skills. “No,” he told me. “I’d rather meet you in person.” I asked him for the company address. He gave it to me, but it didn’t come up on Google Maps. “Oh, yeah, it won’t,” he told me. “It’s not an actual address. Look for a brick building, and it’s the unmarked black door around back.” With visions of Pulp Fiction dancing in my head, I told him thanks but no thanks. So yeah, proofreading porn is not a road we’d care to go down.
Heh. I said “go down.”By Steve Boudreault
Early on in my editorial career, I would start at a company and invariably my colleagues would be either my age or older. Considerably older. That huge age gap never really made sense to me, but the dynamic did. There was an older generation of editors and we were coming up behind them. Circle of life.
Now that I'm in the middle of my career -- or possibly toward the end, nothing in life is certain -- I can't help but notice that there isn't a new crop of editors coming of age behind me. The only young editor I've encountered in the past few years is the talented Katie Ells, but she's the exception to the rule. Old editors are retiring and dying off and there aren't nearly enough young folks to replace them. What's the deal?
I can appreciate that it's a very specific calling. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me "Oh, I could never do what you do!" I'd have $5.65. But is it really not calling anyone anymore?
Over the years, I've had several people ask to apprentice with me, and one or two actually completed their training, only to drift away and never be heard from again. Could editorial work really be that unengaging?
Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places. I know that since Corporate America started circling the drain that a lot of companies have downsized their editorial departments -- some of them right out of existence -- so perhaps the next generation of editors are almost entirely virtual. That would be a mixed blessing. I'd be pleased to know that there are younglings to carry the flame, but what a tragedy that they'll never know the camaraderie, nerdy joy, and heated discussions regarding the English language that only an editorial department has.
Ah, well. I can't force anyone to follow in my footsteps. But if there are any young people just starting out and considering an editorial career, I'll tell you this much -- it's more rewarding than you can possibly imagine
By Steve Boudreault
‘Twas the night before Christmas
At Solidus HQ
And the editors were stirring
With still so much to do
“Look at this shit,” Steve said
With familiar contempt
“They used ‘your’ and not ‘you’re’
In this half-assed attempt!”
“And they made this possessive,”
Said Emily with bite
“It’s like they didn’t even want it
To remotely be right!”
“Oh that’s nothing!” cried Emily.
“Take this line right here.
I’ve never seen anything
That’s quite so unclear!”
The three of them sighed
As they grabbed their red pens
It looked like they’d work
Straight through Christmas again
When suddenly they
Were all bathed in a glow
From a light that shone in
From the fresh fallen snow
And a jolly old elf
Just appeared in their midst
With a giant red bag
He held tight in his fist
“Who are you?” the three said
Though they all had a clue
“Why, I’m Santa!” he laughed
“And I’m here to help you!”
Then he opened his bag
And he pulled forth a book
They knew just what it was
With the briefest of looks
“Dictionaries!” said Santa
“Dictionaries for all!
For the old and the young
For the big and the small!”
“They’ll all learn to spell
Which will lighten your load
And give you all back
The great Christmas you’re owed!”
Then he went up the chimney
And into his sleigh
And he and his team
Flew up, up and away
And Steve looked at Emily
And Emily in turn
And they all shook their heads
They knew Santa would learn
That as nice of a gift
A dictionary would make
The use of it was
A step no one would take
So they all settled back
To their editor tables
And that’s where we end
Our Christmastime fable
They’re thankful for you
And the fact that you read it
But time marches on
And there’s so much to edit
And they need peace and quiet
To get it all right
So Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night!
By Steve Boudreault
This is a true story.
I recently met a gentleman who hauls trash for a living. Well, not trash per se, but junk. He hauls junk for a living.
He showed up to haul away an old couch of mine, and while his partner fiddled with some paperwork, he asked me, “So what do you do?”
I get this question a lot, and since I do so many things within Solidus, unless someone is genuinely interested in everything I do, I usually answer simply, “I’m a proofreader.” So that’s what I told this gentleman.
“A proofreader?” he replied.
“Yes, a proofreader.”
“Whazzat?” was his response.
“You’ve never heard of proofreading?”
He shook his head.
“Well, I read through and find errors in copy.”
This seemed to turn on a dim bulb over his head. “Oh, you make copies?”
“No, I read through copy. You know? Like text?”
“Oh,” he nodded sagely. “You send texts?”
(I know how this sounds, but this was the actual conversation.)
“No, no,” I said patiently. “Um … you know how when you’re reading a book?”
He nodded, but without conviction.
“And sometimes you find a typo?”
He nodded again. “So you type books?”
Was he only hearing the last word of every sentence?
I was starting to think the couch would never be hauled away, so I said, “Forget it. I’m an anthropologist.”
“Oh,” he said. Then after a pause: “Good money in that?”
By Steve Boudreault
When you make the decision to dip your toe into the editorial world – and here’s hoping you do – you have to make a fundamental choice early on. Are you going to create the words, or are you going to fix them?
I’ve seen every type of scenario imaginable when it comes to writing and proofreading, and there are only two that are ideal: when a talented writer is writing for a living, and when a talented proofreader is proofreading for a living.
Here’s what can happen when things go wrong.
- I want to be a writer so I’ll start as a proofreader. This is far and away the most common situation, and the most frustrating for the editorial department. If you’re honest about your intent to use proofreading as a stepping stone, why would the proofreading department want you? You’re already planning your exit! And if you’re disingenuous, you’re only going to piss off your fellow proofreaders when you leave, and that is not something you want to do.
- I want to be a proofreader so I’ll start as a writer. This never happens.
- I choose to be a writer; proofreaders are bottom-feeders. Harsh as it may sound, there is some truth to this statement. Proofreaders are bottom-feeders in the sense that if there are no writers, there’s nothing for proofreaders to do. Still, an attitude like that will not ingratiate you to your editors, who can make or break you at their whim.
- I’m a proofreader, and I could write better than this. Even I’m guilty of this one – you read the copy looking for errors and it suddenly dawns on you that the writing is shit. You naturally assume that since you have a passion for words and an ability to spot shitty writing, you’d make a better writer than the writer. Trust me, it may look easy, but writing is hard. Really, really hard. Just because you think you can write better doesn’t make it so.
- I hate proofreaders. This would be the battle cry of the tired and cranky copywriter who just got back his or her copy marked up in copious amounts of red ink.
- I hate copywriters. This would be the attitude of the proofreader who just spent hours and hours thumbing through dictionaries and thesauruses to try and make heads or tails of what the copywriter is trying to say.
- I’ll do both. It’s not often you run across someone who’s an equally skilled proofreader and copywriter, but it happens. If you’ve got both skills, go for it. Just don’t fall into the trap of being the only proofreader for your copy. Get some fresh eyes.
- I’ll do neither. This is perhaps the greatest gift you can give the editorial world. If you have enough self-awareness to know that you stink at writing and you stink at proofreading, then choose another career path with our heartfelt blessing. There’s always politics.
By Steve Boudreault