Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Proofread This!

Though all my blogging buddies come from a variety of backgrounds, in my mind they all share one trait. Whether they write personally or professionally, in a folksy manner or with a more scholarly tone, they all know their way around the English language.

So a question for all of you--because of your writing skills, have you ever been asked to help write or to proofread something created by someone else?

I know it’s happened to me. Someone will start up, "You’re a writer. Can you take a look at this (fill in the blank) and tell me what you think?" Sometimes I’ll look at a cover letter for a job or some kid's class assignment and think to myself, "Boy, this isn't the way I'd write this."

Once, I proofread something for a friend of mine, suggesting a lot of changes as it seemed quite awkwardly worded. He appeared perturbed and offended. "All I wanted was for you to check for grammar, spelling, punctuation-stuff like that."

Ohhhhhhh! Sorry. Makes me wonder what Shakespeare would have done if his kid asked, "Dad, you’re a good writer, can you write me a note to get me out of school today? I feel sick" . . .

To be at class or not to be at class, that is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of fever and pain,
Or to take rest against my sea of troubles,
And by staying in bed, end them.
That flesh is heir to learn, to know, to pass - 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.
But to come and perchance to infect the plague,
Ay, there's the rub

"No, dad. All you have to say is "Please excuse Bill junior from class today. He’s ill."

Nobody can please everyone. And I, of course, am no Shakespeare. In fact, when I used to anonymously haunt on-line discussion groups, offering my humble opinion among minds and scribes both great and ungreat (word?), I was accused of being a noted author. Not because I wrote well, but because they thought this author was trying to disguise himself by deliberately writing badly. Fair ‘nuf.

But it kind of makes me wonder how those of us not shy about scribbling our minds for cyberspace respond when someone starts up-"Hea, you’re a writer, can you take a look at this . . . ."


Blogger jan said...

When someone asks me to proofread, I let them know what my hourly rate for editing is.

Of course I lose their friendship, but I consider that a bonus.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Matty said...

I am often asked to write letters or proofread resume's and so criticism is taken well. Then again...if it was a story...I would refuse. Writer's can be extremely touchy or sensitive about their work and I don't wish to offend.

2:48 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

I'm not getting trapped anymore. I respond: "Sorry, I gave up writing for retirement. You should try it."

4:28 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

As usual I think Hoss has hit on the answer Dave.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Kacey said...

As an adult, I have only written for myself. I always wrote "tongue in cheek Christmas letters" and the few years when I missed, people complained. Apparently, they did like another year of the thriil of victory and the agony of defeat. Now that I am getting older, it's so much more difficult to see the funny side of life. But when I was young (15 and 16), I wrote my brother's English papers for his English 101 and 102 classes. At seventeen, my high school English teacher picked me up two nights a week and dropped me at the college library to do his note cards for his thesis. (That was back in the dark ages before the computer was invented.) I did mention once that my father was a high school English teacher, didn't I?

7:10 PM  
Blogger Carine said...

part of the course for writing Dave. My kids still ask me to proof and suggest even thank you notes on job interviews! LOL
Okay by me, it seems as if I have quite a writing career-it just doesn't show it in my bank account-yet.

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Max Power said...

I only ask for the grammar and punctuation because I know nothing about that. You try to take the creative flair out of my writing! My genius is so complex I have a hard time putting it on paper.

9:10 PM  
Blogger simply me said...

I majored in English during my first bout with college, dropped out to get married. Since then, I only write for myself (blog). I enjoy writing but don't consider myself good at it so I try not to critique the work of others.
The most challenged I get is when my son lets me proof read his school projects....and then dare I say naught about his work. No way - he's 15 and touchy about his, oh well, just about everything.

BTW- love the Shakespearean passage. You may be on to something.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Back in College, I asked my brother who was working on his doctorate in English to proofread a paper that I had written. I happened to be extremely proud of it and hoped for praise. Intstead I received it back with more red on it than a small child with measles. I think his point was to make certain I did not ask him to proof-read again. I never did.

Yes, I have been asked to proof-read and it is a difficult task. Folks don't like you playing around with their words.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Dave, good thing I am NOT a writer. I liked your Shakespear note for his son. I think the school would have a good laugh on that one. "Ahhh, Master Shakespear again."

9:06 AM  
Anonymous MSU Gal said...

I can't tell you how many times I have heard that statement! As you know writing and proofreading are very different things. I like writing so much better! It is an art. It has rhythm.

Proofeading is a chore but the writers of the organization must step up and help where we can!

I was thinking of writing about the primary, so thanks for the inspiration. I promise to post something this weekend. Right now, we have got to go. Dance class on Sats for B-girl!

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my past experience, I'd have to say writers are THEE most tempermental and defensive.
Therefore, when approached to proof something or give my opinion, I do it with a very objective mind-set. ie: Rather than thinking that it's an aquaintance of mine, I consider it just I like I would were it Grisham or some other top author.
You know the old saying...if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Many amateur writers need to stay out of the kitchen.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Dust-bunny said...

Dave, loved the Shakespeare're always so creative like that.

I get asked to proofread emails and documents all the time at work, and I don't care for it at all. Just the other day, my supervisor (who admittedly does not master the art of grammar and punctuation) asked me to proofread an incident report she had to send to the big boss. I noticed misspelled words and grammar mistakes...but I said it looked fine. Ironically, they sent it back to her and told her to re-word it...and she seemed very insulted. She could've been feeling that way toward me! After all, I have to work with her every day.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Deb said...

Hehe. I get the same thing. Some have asked: "Whatta ya trying to be, an editor?" I smile, nod my head and reply, "Yes, that's exactly what I want to be when I grow up."

I love the note to the teacher! LOL

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:33 PM  

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