Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Oops! To err is human--but I don't like to be human!

I have spent much of my adult life finding and marking mistakes.  For thirty years I taught English to middle-schoolers (and fifteen more years with high school and college students) and from late August through early June each year I was spending hours each day marking quizzes and tests and essays and homework.  I remember a story a veteran colleague told me once.  She'd said to a class: "You're still writing a lot as one word?  I've been telling you for twenty years not to do that!"

On and on I marked: spelling, comma splices, subject-verb agreement, misplaced modifiers, tense inconsistencies, antecedents of pronouns, commas and quotation marks ...  Over the years I segued from red pen/pencil (inhumane) to green pen/pencil (more humane!) to plain old pencil (most humane).  But the errors continued, from Day One to Day Last.  Which, I guess, kept me off the unemployment rolls.

Perhaps as a result of all this seek-and-find I did for decades, I am horrified by my own errors.  Which do, of course, occur.  Far too often.

When I was part of the Cleveland Plain Dealer's now defunct "Board of Contributors," I was publishing op-ed pieces about once a month from, oh, 1982 or so through the late 1990s.  Once, I remember, I said something about secondary education for women in the nineteenth century--something I did not check.  Later, when the piece appeared, I saw that what I'd said didn't look right.  I checked.  Oops.  The opposite of what I'd said was the truth.  I immediately contacted my editor, who, far more relaxed than I, just told me to see if anyone reacted.  Then we'd deal with it.

No one did.  (I was glad--but wondered, too: Is anyone reading my pieces?)

It happened not long ago, too, in a book review.  I am normally hyper-fastidious about checking and re-checking.  But in a review of a new book about the Lindbergh flight, my PD editor emailed to point out some errors--careless ones, sad to tell.  She was kind about it, but I felt bug-under-a-rock low.  How could this happen? I barked at myself.  Why didn't I check?  Fortunately, she caught the mistakes before publication ...  But still ...

All of us make typos (just look on Facebook at any random posting)--typing its when we meant it's, that sort of thing.  I carefully proof my FB posts--but not carefully enough, I guess, for I am continually having to re-post them after fixing obvious errors.

And what's really made me mad (meaning crazy) in recent months: My books on Amazon/Kindle, books I've formatted and uploaded myself.  (There are now five ... here's a link to them: my books on Amazon.)  Before I upload them, I read them over and over and over again.  Searching for typos.  I run spell-check multiple times, but, as we all know, spell-check can't help us identify the misuse of words--your for you're, etc.  Nor does it find those annoying places where we've done cut-and-pastes but have not deleted all the old words that the pasted words are replacing.

Anyway, every single book I've uploaded has contained uncaught typos!  And--every single time--when I'm reading the book over on my Kindle, those errors leap up at me like rattlers and hook their evil fangs into my jugular vein.  How could I have missed that(And when Joyce finds them, well, that has a special pleasure.)  And so I have to repair the file, upload it again, wait four hours or so till it's back on Amazon's site, re-purchase the book, download it to my Kindle, start reading it again--only to find more errors!  So far I've ended up re-purchasing my own damn books about three times each!  But--hey!--improved sales!

I don't know why typos and errors bother me so much--probably because I was for decades The Marker of Mistakes in the work of others.  A Usage and Grammar and Spelling Cop.  It never really bothered me, you know, finding the errors of others.

But my own?  Now those are the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy.

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