Monday, December 18, 2006
Give us proof, but give us time
This column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram touches on the issue of proofreading — or lack thereof. Reader advocate David House argues that old-fashioned proofreaders would catch foolish mistakes:
We're missing a human remedy from the Stone Age that would erect a mighty backup defense against errors that no computer program or harried staffer on deadline could match: proofreaders, those wonderful thinkers, grammarians, spellers and widely read all-around trivia experts from yesteryear. Their roles were absorbed by technology and loaded onto copy editors, and we've paid the price in inaccuracies ever since.
At my most recent newsroom job, reading proofs was part of the job description for all copy editors. Granted, the copy desk was often too busy to read each page proof line by line, but the task was not ignored altogether. Section fronts were proofed carefully. In an earlier job at the Greensboro paper, copy editors initialed page proofs to add a layer of accountability.

Even desk managers read proofs. As Nation & World editor at the Raleigh paper, I read proofs from the Business section, partly to make sure the A section had no overlap with Business (Enron stories, for example, that could work in either place). Sometimes that's all I had time to check; on other occasions I was able to read beyond the display type and do a line-by-line read.

Bottom line: Give copy editors the time, and they will prove that they can proofread.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:44 AM | Permalink |


  • At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Iulian Comanescu

    The issue becomes more menacing in electronic media and television. I've been a writer for a very successful TV show, and the only proof-reader I've had was the host reading my prompter. With blogs and on-line news sites the situation is the same.

    In addition, small cultures such as Romania, where I am, have a common characteristic: computer spelling is not effective, assuming it exists. Anyway, in spite of the .otf fonts unification, various accents are still in use, in various places on the keyboard (or mapping). So one can't at least rely upon "cyborg-proof readers", and I subscribe to your praises for the wise human that takes care of our memory blanks.