proofreading in the electronic age

I read a lot of blogs. Most of them actually don’t really count as ‘blogs’ anymore. They’re more like mini news outlets. They’re essential, often covering niche subjects that the print media (if they even exist in a given community) can’t or won’t cover due to costs and assigning coverage based upon demographic respones (i.e. clickbait). Being a Portland resident, I’m into craft beer, and one of my go-to blogs is The New School. They provide an amazing service to the craft beer industry and consumers in Oregon and Washington. That being said, they desperately need a copy editor. This is what I encountered when I read their article on the new Breakside Brewing location in Slabtown:

nsbeer

‘They’re’ is used instead of the correct ‘their’. It’s a small thing – but they’re is a contraction of they and are. It’s not a possessive, which their is. My guess is that most (I see mistakes like this all over, even with some of the largest and most respected blogs) blog contributors are using a spell-checker and nothing else. The word is spelled correctly, and it is a homophone of the correct word, so it passes the (presumed) proof-reading pass before the post is published. I’m assuming that The New School has an editor of some sort. It looks like they do not, however. They seem to have a decentralized system of contributors. I sense that a lot of blogs operate in this way. One that does not: Oregon Arts Watch. I may quibble with some of their editorial stances, but they have editors, which I know from first-hand knowledge. I’ve been a periodic contributor to OAW, and Brett Campbell did an ace job of not only editing for grammar, but in making my piece (through pointed questions and suggestions) flow better and have a more cogent point of view.

I know that I’m being a nudge, maybe even a  nudnik. No one likes a know-it-all, least of all me! I’m also a far-from-perfect writer! There have been many occasions when I’ve hit “Publish” and then my fiancée’s eagle eye spots a typo that I had missed. Grr! What we write, however, and how we write it makes an immediate impression on the reader. Having a blatant grammatical error in the first paragraph of your post isn’t the way to inspire a reader’s confidence in what follows (and making matters worse in the example above, the lede containing the error was used as the subheader in the headline slider at the top of the blog). Don’t we, as bloggers, owe it to our readers to give them well-written posts? With the availability of online proofreading services such as Grammarly and Ginger, one needn’t go to the expense of hiring a professional copy editor or proofreader (though I’d argue that this would be well worth the expense for serious content-producing blogs). Anyway, I’ve been stewing over this for quite some time, and apologies for the ambush to the otherwise excellent The New School – you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time! I’ll keep coming back and will continue to recommend your site to my other beer-minded friends.

7 thoughts on “proofreading in the electronic age

  1. cellonancy

    YES! This stuff matters! When I wrote a post for Oregon Arts Watch, it was quite a treat to have it professionally edited. It really was about more than just grammar and spelling! I hope editing doesn’t become a dying art…

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  2. Pat Zagelow

    Amen to everything you said Charles! Spelling and grammatical errors are definitely a pet peeve of mine. We all make mistakes sometimes, but I do notice and appreciate OAW’s and your attention to detail.

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  3. Bob Priest

    My own fave typos that I happily caught during the final pass are:
    + Autistic Director
    + Marzena resents Sofia Gubaidulina
    OMG, not much could be worse than either of those two – gasp!

    Reply
  4. brettwriter

    Thanks for the shout out, Charles! I’m glad to see the hard work we do at ArtsWatch is recognized and valued, both in proofreading and in story editing. I’m not sure all our readers understand the number of hours that go into taking a story from first draft to publication. (Of course, none of it matters if the substance isn’t there to begin with, and it certainly was with your story.)

    But I’m afraid I must agree with you that editing doesn’t seem to be as valued as it used to be out there on the intertubes, in magazines, and even in books. Publishers don’t seem to think clarity of thought and expression is worth paying for, and maybe they’re right — maybe those stories would still draw just as many readers whether they’re edited or not.

    Still, the fact that you notice when the editing is poor or missing, and that it commensurately reduces the publication’s credibility, or your desire to read it, gives me some hope. Maybe we all need to start letting these publications know that poor editing is interfering with our enjoyment of their product, and then they’ll think it’s worth paying for. Assuming, that is, there’s an editor there to send it to!

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