Proofreader's Syndrome

by Jessica Mifsud

Published at 2012-07-06

Even in the few short weeks I’ve been here at The Editing Company, I’ve gotten to wear a lot of different hats on the job. One of my favourite tasks so far has been helping to proofread a manuscript for UTP Higher Education. I’ve always had a fondness for editing, and I was excited for the opportunity to get to help out with such an interesting project. Plus I have a pretty good eye for details, if I may say so myself.

But then, tragedy struck.

The job of a proofreader is a tough one. You have to distance yourself enough from the content you’re looking at so that you don’t miss the forest for the trees, so to speak, yet remain close enough to the copy to pick out the occasional typo. It can leave you fuzzy-headed at the end of the day, but the most difficult part of the job is that a proofreader’s mindset is a hard thing to shake off. Once you start, you’re doing it all the time, even when you’d really rather not be.
Imagine this: you get home at the end of a long day of proofreading. Your feet are tired, your head hurts, and you decide all you want to do tonight is curl up somewhere in your fuzzy slippers with a cup of tea, and a good book. You vow to put this plan into action.
Tea in hand, and almost trembling with excitement, you take that page-turner you bought at Word On The Street last year off the shelf. You’ve been waiting for months to get a chance to start reading it, and what better way to reward yourself after a busy day? So you curl into your favourite couch-corner, lovingly caress the cover of your book, maybe ruffle the pages affectionately, and the open to page one.
Alas! You stare at your book, horror-struck. Instead of the riveting second part of the trilogy, all you can see are potential design errors. Are the words in this paragraph supposed to be so far apart? Is there a ladder in that margin? Could there be a stack hidden somewhere? Is that an orphan creeping across the bottom of the page? And why are there rivers EVERYWHERE? I daresay if I’d actually found a typo, I wouldn’t have the presence of mind to be writing this blog today.
I think we all like to assume that the same care and attention we put into reading a book goes into the creation of it, but for various reasons, this can’t always be the case. Still, if spending a little extra effort digging out stacks on my end stops someone else from experiencing Proofreader’s Syndrome down the road, I’ll consider my goal accomplished.