Ask any copy editor/sub (never a reporter!) and the chances are, he/she has proofread his/her way through life. Ever since they handed out some little pink ‘slips’ off the teleprinter in the Mass Comm school I studied in, I have been trying to make sense of spelling, punctuation and grammar for the past 20 years. And with a vengeance, if I may add!
And so most of my ilk proofread our way through menus, billboards, catalogues and also newspapers and magazines. The most recurring proofreading memory that often appears in my dreams is of my first-ever editor scratching his way through copies with a red pen. I saw commas in what I thought was the most unlikeliest of places (until the red pen struck!), also semi-colons and colons punctuating long-winding sentences and sometimes, I could feel his sense of frustration on the pages… there was a tear on the page when the grammar went haywire. It gave me heartburn at the end of the day but it taught me a lot – every extra space between words, wrong alignments and ‘widow words’ must be chopped off with a flourish.
A copy editor does not become one if he does not make his point by pointing out a mistake wherever he is! While some feel that inner sense of ‘gloating’, others throw away all traces of shyness to happily point out a typo. In short, the typo types wear their badges with pride in the journalistic world.
I still proofread the old-fashioned way, spectacles perched on my forehead, a red ink pen for company as I wade my way through slugs, headlines, intros, fonts and spaces.
Remember, copy editors are not perfect. While I proof-check every e-mail before sending, I do manage to send a few, whose subject lines begin with ‘Hell from Rekha’. Needless to say, I don’t receive any favourable replies to these e-mails.
Who says life is perfect even if you try hard to proofread it!
P.S. (Please don’t proofread this piece. I never claimed I was perfect!)
Image: Google Images