The Proof is in the Reading

Happy October! Fall is in the air, pumpkins are in season, and business is bumping. I’ve been doing a lot of proofreading recently and have come to realize that I have yet to do a blog post about the joys of proofreading. Please accept my sincerest apologies and allow me to remedy the situation.

Proofreading is a skill that, like any other skill, takes time to refine and perfect. Additionally, language changes over time, and any good proofreader needs to stay abreast of all universally accepted changes. For example, when first created, electronic mail was known as only that. Any reference to its shortened form was purely abbreviated slang and not considered grammatically correct. After a (short) while, it became evident to everyone in society that nobody referred to it as electronic mail, no matter the setting. Thus, it became appropriate to use its abbreviated form while properly hyphenated, and electronic mail became known as e-mail.

But it doesn’t stop there. E-mail is an abbreviation for electronic mail, but the abbreviation is used so much more than the extended version that society has deemed it a word upon itself. Therefore, despite e-mail being the abbreviation for electronic mail, e-mail is most commonly referred to as email, with no hyphen necessary.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Most legal briefs still use the term electronic mail and do not allow any abbreviated form. Yet counsels will use the abbreviated form on record, and every agency has a different style guide for how they want it written. Some require e-mail, others require email. As a proofreader, you have to understand your clients’ expectations, what set of rules they are basing it off of, and then to apply your knowledge to those set of rules.

And that’s just for email. This is why all good proofreaders are language-lovers at heart. Most have strong opinions on the Oxford comma and ending a sentence in a preposition. Many couldn’t move past a typo without correcting it if they tried.

“Human speech is liked a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” – Gustave Flaubert

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