Sunday, March 09, 2014

Nashunal National Proofreading Dey Day

I didn't mention it yesterday, because it was Cartoon Saturday and I was busy engaging in my orgy of self-congratulation over my blogoversary, but March 8 was National Proofreading Day - a day to "promote error-free writing and communication to enhance a professional and personal image," according to its official website.

There's a day for everything, isn't there?

This one is actually pretty important, though, when you think about it. Grammatical, error-free writing is important to the projection of a professional image. People who may never see us in person form opinions of us based on the way we write, and if that writing is full of errors, their opinion isn't likely to be a good one.

Here's a true story from The Annals of Bilbo on the importance of good proofreading ...

Many years ago, I was responsible for a project my organization was running in conjunction with a similar organization in another country. For political reasons, the project had been going along for years on a more-or-less informal basis, but at the time I was in charge, it was decided that it should be formalized. Our senior officials on both sides came up with the basic framework of an agreement (about two paragraphs), and it became my job to turn it into an official document that could be formally signed at an appropriately solemn and stately event.

I spent several agonizing months working with specialists in international law to make sure that the agreement was exactly right ... that everything was legal under the laws of both countries, all responsibilities of both parties were outlined accurately, all considerations of funding were addressed to ensure everyone knew who would pay for what, etc, etc ... by the time the lawyers got done with it, the simple couple-of-paragraphs-on-the-back-of-the-napkin agreement on which the seniors initially agreed had turned into a document of many pages of dense type, with appendices, annexes, annexes to the appendices, and appendices to the annexes. God Himself only needed ten commandments, but our agreement needed that many pages and more. So many people had their fingerprints on it that no one knew any more who had written what.

So ...

Fast-forward to the day the agreement was to be signed. The foreign dignitary and his staff had come to the US for the ceremonies. We'd made all the protocol arrangements, and two pristine copies of the agreement were laid out on the conference table with brand new pens* for the official signing. All was in readiness. Everyone filed into the room and took their places, appropriate remarks were made, and our boss and his foreign counterpart (a man of cabinet rank in his own country) picked up those nice new pens to apply their signatures to the agreement ...

... on which the foreign dignitary's name was misspelled.

Being a gentleman, he made a joke about it and signed anyway. I hid under the table.

And so, Dear Readers, that is my cautionary tale to you of the importance of good proofreading. Dozens of people had reviewed that draft agreement and looked at every letter of every word of every sentence of every paragraph ... and yet we all missed the glaring typo that might have proved to be a grave insult to a less jovial, more self-important person. I try very hard to make sure there are no typos in my posts, but - as you know - they occasionally do creep in, no matter how hard I try ... and there are those of you out there (yes, Dave, I'm talking to you) who will be happy to find them for me.

I wish all of you a happy, if belated, National Proofreading Day! May you never have trouble with your colons. Or any other punctuation, for that matter.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilby Bilbo

* Yes, we had done test signings to make sure the pens would actually write when called upon to do so.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Should those who misuse colons be required to get a colonoscopy?

KathyA said...


Mike said...

Al the rets of year its mispel everthin dey.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

We need to spel rite on National Proofreiders Day, at least!