A Spell of Proofing

proofreader_cropped“I have some free time. I get to proof!” Proofing (as we call proofreading at Distributed Proofreaders) is relaxing. I get into a flow where time and place disappear and I am just in the page — in the zone.

“What shall I proof today? The project I have been chipping away at, a page at a time, has moved on. Oh, this project that I’ve been dipping into appears to be stuck in the round. What’s stopping it? Ah, it’s a page with a lot of Greek on it. I don’t think I can leave that page better than I found it. I’ll leave it for someone else.” Perhaps I’ll post about it in the Greek Team forum.

“Look, here’s a book someone proofed up to the Table of Contents (ToC).” I enjoy proofing ToCs because they often hold a few missed errors. “See — that page number is 33, not 38. It’s a bit obscure, but since the next entry is for page 35, it’s likely 33.” I’ll leave a note.

33[**38]

“Ooh look, it’s one of those old-fashioned detailed ToC entries that lists out subjects covered in the chapter separated by dashes. This line starts with a dash so the dash and the word following it need to move up to the prior line. The word is followed by a dash so that needs to move up too.” I change:

porches–rocking chairs–stoops
–steps–lazy conversation–sunset

to

porches–rocking chairs–stoops–steps–lazy
conversation–sunset

“The post-processor is going to have fun with that!”

I’m at the bottom of the page. Let me hit WordCheck (DP’s version of spellcheck). “Hunh. I didn’t notice ‘explain’ was mis-typeset ‘explarn’. I’d better exit and add a note.”

explarn[**explain]

I return to WordCheck. “Looks good.” Save and close.

“I’ve wrapped up the ToC and Illustrations pages. I’m not really interested in the content of this project. What else is available?”

“Oh, I see a novel, a Western. That should have different types of errors to seek out and find.”

I open a page. “Ugh — dialect. I’ll do just this page then find something else.” But dialect means dialogue. Dialogue often means quotation marks misplaced in the text — often mis-spaced ones or ones attached to the speaker instead of the conversation. “Yep, there’s one.”

he said,” Bring that thar hoss over hyar.”

I change that to:

he said, “Bring that thar hoss over hyar.”

Novels, juveniles, and Westerns often seem to have the worst typesetting: missing or misplaced quotation marks, missing periods at the ends of sentences, misspellings. They’re laced with dialect that at times makes reading and understanding the intended word difficult at best.

Speaking of reading: There’s proofing and there’s reading. It really helps to do both to find errors — but not at the same time. “Oh, this is really interesting.” “I didn’t know that.” “What happens next?” Sliding from proofing to reading can mean my eyes gloss over errors, unconsciously mentally fixing instances where a word is repeated, not noticing misplaced quotation marks, but still laser-focusing on typos, incorrect word usage and lack of continuity. Proofing to match letter and punctuation marks can mean I miss the typo because the letters match. These are all important errors to catch. Making separate reading passes and proofing passes as the page is open can help me find different kinds of errors. Muddling both into a single pass risks missing things.

“What? My free hour is up? How can that be? I just got started!”

This post was contributed by WebRover, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.

6 Responses to A Spell of Proofing

  1. jjzdp says:

    Great blog post WebRover!

  2. After post-processing some 750 books, you think you’ve seen them all, but no, almost every new text I encounter has some unique difficulties of itself. But a consistent number one issue are punctuation and quotation marks. Humans just seem to overlook them. Running some automated test scripts over my collection of already submitted texts, and bingo: hundreds of small issues, mostly quotation marks. Add a new test, and again, more cases of these were lurking somewhere in texts that have been seen by at least 6 pair of eyes…. (5 rounds of proofing and a post-processor.)

  3. Mark Widdicombe says:

    Surely that line should read:–

    porches–rocking chairs–stoops–steps–lazy
    conversation–sunset?

  4. olive says:

    As soon as one has saved & closed a “perfect” page, all these quotations marks and punctuation and typos and scannos probably go rock n’ rolling again to their hearts’ content. These typographical creatures sure have strange manners and customs.

  5. genknit says:

    I love the second phase of proofreading, which comes almost at the end of the process before DP’s books move on to Project Gutenberg. Smooth-reading is my favorite occupation at DP. I get to find the missed quote marks, the missed scannos and typos, and best of all, I get to read a lot of books I otherwise might never see!

  6. genknit says:

    P.S. WebRover–another great post. Thank you!

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