GrammarPhile Blog

The Worst Things We’ve Ever Heard About Proofreading

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 23, 2020 7:30:00 AM

wise owl with bookWe submit, for the sake of tickling your funny bone, this unofficial and completely made-up list.

1. Proofreaders are all elderly spinsters who love cat sweaters, yell at children, and only date men who are named Oxford Comma.

Let us use this as a prime example of logical fallacy. First, cat sweaters are loved by any sane person so there’s no shame in that affinity. Yelling at children is something most people do on occasion even if they vehemently deny it (little people run around with sharp things, sing at the top of their lungs four inches from your ear, and describe bathroom habits to strangers—all on purpose, for goodness’ sake). Finally, there aren’t any men named Oxford Comma, more’s the pity for those of us for whom grammar-loving men are relevant and extremely desirable.

I may have given myself away.

2. Proofreaders constantly correct your grammar as you speak.

We do. It’s automatic. I’m joshing—that sounds exhausting. Although we may notice speech errors, they don’t come from a place of judgment, just observation. It’s like a bird flying by our head, sometimes repeatedly. “Oh, that’s interesting,” we may think. It’s a rare thing for us to leave a conversation musing, “Her use of prepositions was positively appalling. Does she even know what a subjunctive is? How can she say ‘ain’t’ without immediately apologizing? I ain’t never done that!”

3. Proofreaders are hacks.

This is a common myth, first propagated in 1922 by a resentful second grader named Billy after he failed a book report. He had it proofread by Gerald, his sixteen-year-old, self-professed “genius,” older brother. Apparently, offenses like, “Thee hole book was verry good” slipped right past him. Poor Billy saved for three weeks only to throw away an entire nickel on that hack job. His brother never apologized, and the good names of many skilled proofreaders were tarnished in the aftermath.

We designate Gerald as a disgrace to the name of proofreading and an exception to the rule: Proofreaders are amazing.

4. Proofreaders have a superiority complex.

This is categorically untrue and offensive to boot. We only think we’re better than some people, namely those who insist that “would of,” “could of,” and “should of” are acceptable spellings; anyone who has the audacity to believe Comic Sans is a viable font option; raw potato eaters; those who possess more than a reasonable number of refrigerator magnets (ten, if you were wondering); anybody who believes the world is flat…and people who disagree with us.

Based on this progression, we have reconsidered the validity of the original statement. We would also ask you to send a pin so we may pop our very large heads.

5. Preafrooders are prefect.

See? We’re not. That’s why we have backups of backups at ProofreadNOW. Multiple reads, constant referencing, note-taking, collaboration, and internal checks to ensure your documents return to you spick-and-span for clarity jobs and absolutely singing for style jobs.

6. Proofreaders aren’t necessary.

First of all, how dare you?

In sincerity, this is an understandable misconception, until the day it rears up and bites you in your unmentionables. We know what it’s like to stare at a document, searching for errors until you aren’t even sure how to spell “word” anymore, much less make sense of it all.

Writing, once it’s published or posted or printed, is permanent. Off-the-cuff conversations can make us look foolish for a moment; mistakes like “pubic” instead of “public, “orgasm” instead of “organism,” and “anus” instead of “angus” haunt a person or an entire organization for years, even decades, to come. For that reason alone, proofreaders are indispensable.

Or we could avoid the issue altogether by refusing to write anything. That seems a little drastic.

7. Proofreaders have more dictionaries than forks in their homes.

There is only one dictionary in our lives of note, and she’s a beauty. Sweet, saucy Merriam, last name Webster. You’ve probably heard of her. She’s extremely well-preserved for her age and agile to boot. She’s not opposed to long hikes, quiet walks along the beach, and cozy afternoons cuddled up with a blanket and a virtually unreadable eighteenth-century novel.

In all honesty, a more accurate statement would be: Proofreaders don’t have homes; they only have books, some of them dictionaries. Sometimes we build our homes out of books. It’s a great comfort to us to know that all the words in every book we read are contained within our beloved Merriam or one of her compatriots.

I got the word “compatriots” from the dictionary. You know which one. (We actually love all dictionaries of good repute.)

8. Proofreaders work silently and vindictively.

Neither is generally true. We assume the best no matter how many mistakes we encounter—despite our ferociousness in taking them to task—and never hold them against the writer.

If you happen to walk by our homes (made out of books, remember) you may hear muttering, laughing, and the occasional exclamation, such as:

  • “Where’s that style guide? Who took my style guide? Jerry, did you steal my style guide? Oh, I’m sitting on it.”
  • To the tune of Jingle Bells: “Em dashes, em dashes, commas everywhere!”
  • “For the love of Pete, Track Changes, just behave!”
  • “Goodness me, is that a dangling participle?”
  • “Well, aren’t you just the sweetest little apostrophe I ever did see!”

9. Proofreaders work in their pajamas.

I can neither confirm nor deny this statement, but I do assert that a comfortable working environment cannot be overrated.

10. Proofreaders aren’t born; they spring from the pages of a newly buried dictionary in the light of a full moon.

This is absolutely true.


We wish all of you health, joy, and comfort during this holiday season.


Topics: proofreading

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