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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Proofreading Our Christmas Letter

Last night I stayed up into the wee hours to finish Christmas cards so I could get them in the mail today. In addition to the cards, I do a letter with the highlights of our year and a handful of photos. I love doing the letter. It's so much fun to look back over the year and remind myself why the year was terrific.


After feeling fantastic after licking the last envelope and affixing the last stamp I decided to look at the letter again and wrap myself in the warm, fuzzy feeling it gives me. And then, like a zit on the end of a nose, I saw it: the apostrophe that had no business being where it was.


How could I have missed it. I read and reread that letter dozens of time. But now suddenly, I only need to glance down and I see that apostrophe. This all came after I'd already reconciled myself to a different proof reading error that I fixed in a not so subtle way.


I've always been a poor proofreader.  In my early 20s I worked for a newsmagazine. For the time, the magazine was technologically advanced. Journalists could telex their articles to us and they would go right into our computer, or, if telex wasn't available our fancy fax machine was. (Believe me, 20+ years ago, this was advanced.) My job was to take the telexed articles and format them, and to type up the faxed articles. Normally, any mistakes I made were caught down the line since what I typed was read by at least three people, oftentimes more. However, my biggest blunder went unnoticed. I typed the year as 18 something rather than 19 something for a Latin American uprising. Although no one at the newsmagazine noticed, plenty of readers noticed and gleefully reported the error. Inquiries were made and it came down to my mistake. How humiliating.


I've never forgotten that feeling, and think of that day every time I make a proofreading error. One would think that type of blunder would have made me a better proof reader. Not so; it merely demonstrated that I'm not good at proof reading.


I thought of that story again last night as I stomped off to bed leaving behind the warm, fuzzy feeling my letter had given me before the stray apostrophe sighting.

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