Recently, I posted a proofreading test on a networking website and invited people to see how many errors they could find in the short article. Most people rubbed their hands in glee at the chance to play teacher with mistake-laden text, but what was surprising was just how many mistakes people missed.
Granted, I had been a bit cruel stuffing so many errors into four paragraphs, but people did miss some rather obvious things – such as an extra full stop at the end of a sentence. The absolute killer seemed to be that three months’ worth needs that apostrophe after months. Not a single respondent spotted that – the only one who did, in fact, notice something amiss took great pleasure in informing me that I had missed three month’s worth. Completely wrong.
Another major issue was the amount of changes people made that were completely unnecessary. I had people fiddling with every aspect of the article and changing things that did not need to be changed at all. One of the essential elements of being a good freelance proofreader is knowing when to make changes, and when to leave alone – and to respect an author’s writing style. Some, I think, got rather carried away with their red pens and made the kind of changes that would get them fired by a publisher asking for a proofread.
A great exercise for me which brought home the fact that, realise it or not, many people need some support with their writing and proofreading.