On a summer’s day at Coney Island I came across the 1950s style, robot-like woman with the trance-like gaze giving out fortune teller cards. Reading through the fortune, I saw that it was not typo free and this got me to thinking. Who originally wrote these and why were they not proofread?
The writing had that crass “get me down on paper no matter what!” air about it. Function versus design. Words dangling without perfect spellings and certainly not strung together with perfect grammar.
But the typo geek in me with the eagle eye for errors took a step back and thought about how many kids and adults have enjoyed the fortune teller’s cards. Their prophetic purpose has been around for more years than me. Not to say that I don’t want writing to be more refined, but for a moment I got lost in the nostalgia. After all, this was Coney Island and the fortune teller had a message worth reading.
When you have a tendency to proofread the world around you, it begs the question of when it is okay to let the people in charge of the words you’re editing know all your corrections?
I work at a museum … does the PR person want to know that “haricots verts” is misspelled as “harcots verts” on the wedding brochure? I saw stacks of brochures waiting for visitors, already printed and the cost of ink already figured in to the budget. I finally decided to let an assistant in the department know. At first he looked surprised, then gracious, then relieved to know an edit was only needed on one food item with a French name!
Does the aquatics store manager from Western Massachusetts really want to hear from me that he is not in the business of “aquetics” and that “aqua” is the root word? In that case, not knowing the store at all, I decided I should keep my proofreading to myself.
Proofreading demands politeness when you are not specifically hired to do the proofreading. It seems that people are as sensitive about their written words as they are about their spoken words.. And when there’s more than one acceptable way … or at least more than one typical way, there can be much room for debate. Think of all the clothing stores with Kids sections and Kid’s sections and Kids’ sections! The poor kids don’t know what grammatical puzzles are coming down the road! Even adults wonder whether all forms are acceptable or whether one is chosen while grasping at grammatical straws.
Language is universal and so are misspellings. Proofreaders to the rescue, but please choose wisely, and be polite! It’s a totally different ballgame when hired to proofread. Then people are looking to you as a resource. They want the paper to have blotches of red ink or the computer screen to have corrections in red or boxes of changes. In that scenario, still tread with ultimate respect for their words and don’t meddle with overall meaning.