Friday, December 4, 2009

Proofreading, Jennifer Kerr

In class on November 16th, we did a proofreading exercise. We watched a video of a speech given by Erin McKean. In this exercise we typed as much of what Erin was saying as we could while she was speaking. As there was no time to correct typos and grammar problems during this “live blogging,” the result at the end of the video was a large block of text with a multitude of errors and mistakes to correct. This was a similar experience to one I had a couple years ago when I was responsible for transcribing the meetings of an organization I was part of. After the meetings I would spend a large amount of time correcting my spelling, sentence structure and punctuation before the transcript was ready to be archived.

The experience of writing without correcting any errors is an interesting one. In that same November 16th class, we did another exercise in which we were to write a few paragraphs without deleting or correcting any of our errors until we were finished. Without the time constraints that we had in the first exercise, this was difficult. I noted in my analysis at the bottom of the post that it was hard for me to keep from subconsciously backspacing and automatically rewriting any sentence that I wasn’t happy with. It was a different experience from the live blogging one, because it was not necessary to move forward and ignore mistakes; there was no need to keep up with an external source of information.

Despite the difficulty that I found in saving all edits for the end in the second exercise, I found it very satisfying and enjoyable to go through both of these posts and edit. This was probably because of the abundance of errors in my work. Because there were so many errors, there was no choice but to go proofread and edit. When there are few errors, those that do exist are often overlooked, because the writer does not take the time to go over his or her work and check for them.

Proofreading, as Murriel points out in her post “Can Proofreading Be Fun,” is often a laborious and tedious process. For many writers, it is considered to be a chore. Is it better to leave all editing and correcting until the end, or to do these things constantly throughout the writing process? I find that it’s too difficult for me to continue writing if I’m not happy with the sentence or paragraph that I’ve just finished. It’s impossible for me to develop a style of writing and a flow to the content in any piece of work if I am not constantly adapting and changing what I’ve written to fit what I want to come next. On the other hand, it’s a lot less frustrating to proofread when the task is rewarded abundantly by a large quantity of errors to be corrected.


  1. I recently took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which I had to write 50 000 words in a month. Basically the contest was an exercise in writing without stopping. There was no time for editing. I made it a week and half (10 000 words) before I could not resist the temptation to edit. I went back and started editing, unfortunately I did not meet the 50 000 words. What an experience. Its amazing the things I came up with when I wasn’t worried about mistakes. I had the same reaction to the live blogging exercise.

  2. I took part in NaNoWriMo as well, and despite the fact that I truly didn't get very far this year I love the experience of just writing for the sake of writing. I've attempted to reach the 50 000 word goal for three years now, and even if I never manage it I think I'll always appreciate the freedom it gives me in my writing. It truly benefits all the writing I complete in the same time-frame as I tend to refrain from editing and re-editing as Jennifer says she has trouble with. Unfortunately, the benefits of NaNoWriMo don't always remain with me for the rest of the year.