9 Jul

Surfing the Internet — oops, I’d better make that “looking for online freelance writing markets” to make it sound like I’m productive — I came across the most amazing thing: an “internationally recognized proofreader.”
That’s what the site promoting her book called her, and I’m not questioning her abilities because last year I purchased her book on vocabulary-building, and it’s great. I am just awestruck — I hope she would approve of my reach for a less common word — that not only can a person cite “proofreader” as a feather in one’s cap, but also that it can be preceded by “internationally recognized.”
The writer / editor is K.D. Sullivan, and her well-known work is “A Cure for the Common Word,” an indictment of 100 of the most overused words in the English language and a guide on how to find more vibrant alternatives. I thought it would be a great buy for my English classroom after having pored through so many student papers that overused words like “interesting,” “unique” and “good.” Sullivan also promotes herself as a public speaker and entrepreneur.
But about that proofreader claim: In my years on newspapers, I spent many, many hours in that unsung task as a proofreader, sometimes because even though it didn’t fall into my job duties, I was the only one around who cared enough to do it. I figured I got a secret joy out of the “catch” — saving “public” from being “pubic,” “it’s” from being “its” in its use as a contraction. If there had been an international medal of honor for proofing, I surely deserved one. And recently, as the yearbook teacher, I spent many of my weekends proofing the kids’ layouts to save them from minor and major embarrassments. They often didn’t have a handle on “principal” vs. “priniciple,” for instance. And even now, I’ve backtracked on the screen several times to correct my own errors before giving myself permission to continue.
Turns out, when I clicked further into K.D.’s home page, I found that she is “an internationally recognized authority on proofreading.” Aha! Or is it “a-ha”? Now that’s a different spin on “internationally recognized proofreader” and certainly a noteworthy addition to her bio when I get a look at her many publications, along with seminars and other editorial pursuits.
So I am brushing aside those visions of a lowly, disheveled character from a Dickens or Melville story, scratching out spelling mistakes for a few pence a day until suddenly the Queen of England or somebody recognizes his genius.
Still, wouldn’t it be swell? A proofreader hailed ‘round the world.


One Response to “Superciliousness”

  1. Laura July 10, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    Proofreaders are the most underrated class in any publication — online or in print. The online world especially could use more of them, but I fear that correct spelling, grammar, etc. is unimportant to the powers that be on the Web. — Laura (at

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