“Eats Shoots and Leaves” vs. “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.”
What a difference one comma can make in readability and even meaning. The above is the title of Lynne Truss’ book about grammar. Like many people, I am on social media, and notice misspellings and typographical errors. I don’t correct these errors, as I understand that people dictate posts and messages into their phones. It does seem to me, though, that proofreading has fallen on hard times. Using my own skills, I attempt to help when appropriate.
Naturally, I proofed my own papers when in school, and even other classmates’ writing occasionally. I first realized, at college, that I have this skill. If only I’d been on the college yearbook staff! In my current nostalgia brought about by remembering happy times before COVID-19 lockdowns, I’ve revisited college yearbooks and unfortunately noticed many errors. I even took to marking corrections in these yearbooks. After so many years, it wouldn’t hurt anyone, right?
Fast forward to 2007, when I let the world know I can do proofreading. I had the privilege—and being trusted with someone’s work is always a privilege—to proofread someone’s doctoral thesis proposal. Through the years I proofread regularly as part of my duties as a customer service representative (this fell under the heading of “other duties as assigned”). In 2015, I started Eagle Harbor Editing, and have edited—and written—blog posts for a digital marketing company in California.
I’ve heard over the years that mistakes in writing can undermine credibility. To a certain extent, I believe that’s true. But such errors can be corrected, with a close eye on the text before the content is public. I endeavor to be tough on errors, but gentle and gracious with writers.