Absolute Beginners

I once thought proofreading might be a suitable retirement occupation, and signed up for an online course.

I don’t know why I thought proofreading was for me. At work, whenever I penned an instruction leaflet or drafted an all-staff email, someone would read it through and always – every time – find errors and typos. (Many thanks, Sarah, for being my unofficial proofreader for so long.)

One recurrent error was omitting full-stops (periods) at the end of paragraphs. These seemed unnecessary in emails – what difference did it make? I soon lost the habit of putting them in at all (if ever I was in the habit).

Which is a good reason to be precise with punctuation (and consistent in cases where options are available). Bad habits are hard to break. There are excellent blogs and websites out there that explain punctuation rules – just ‘google’ your query. These don’t always agree with each other – but I’ll get to that in a later post.

The proofreading course taught me that a lifetime of skim-reading is poor preparation for proofreading. It also taught me that my knowledge of punctuation wasn’t good as I thought it was, and my understanding of style – what my O-Level teacher would have termed Good English – was sketchy at best.

And that was only the beginning of my learning curve.

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