There’s a story I heard once that I like to believe–and tell. It is said that when a group of Mennonite women get together to make a quilt, they use their very best skills. They choose colours that please the eye. They make designs of lovely symmetry. They stitch nearly invisible stitches. And then they deliberately introduce a mistake.
They do this, I’ve been told, to remind themselves that only God is perfect.
I remind myself of this story whenever I’m at the proofreading stage of a project. Like today. Today I sent in my final proofreading of the new version of Seeker of Stars. There weren’t many things I needed to catch–but I wonder: did I catch them all?
The eye often corrects for meaning. You’ve probably seen this interesting paragraph before:
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
Given that most of us can apparently sort out this garbled mess for meaning, it adds to my anxiety about whether or not I’ve found all the typos and errors in my manuscript. Only God is perfect, but I find errors in a book annoying–especially if that book is mine.
Someone I once worked with at an advertising firm said that one way to proofread is to read lines from right to left, to take the meaning of the sentences out of the equation. I’ve tried this approach but I always find it hard to actually do. What works better for me is a good cup of coffee, a strong pair of reading glasses and the willingness to pay constant attention to every punctuation mark and word. (Which is really what a writer needs to do at some point anyhow, isn’t it.)
One nice thing for this writer is that even though I’ve read this story a thousand times by now, my slow proofreading read was still enjoyable. I still like these characters and this story, and I enjoy going on a journey with them every time. Comma by comma. Word by word.
I hope you will too.