It is not possible to provide explicit examples from the text of past proofreading projects and to detail some of the errors corrected due to client confidentiality and copyright. However, I give below some short case studies based on real events that illustrate the value of proofreading in catching some awkward and embarrassing errors before publication. In each case the client’s identity has been obscured.

Case study 1: A legal agreement

In this case, my client was project managing the drafting and production of a legal agreement for their client, a financial services firm. On proofreading it I queried the discontinuity of sense between two pages – had some words been omitted perhaps? Although the pages were consecutively numbered a whole page of the terms and conditions had been omitted in the production process because the financial services firm had not sent it. My client’s client was grateful that this had been picked up before the agreement was signed as it would have been disastrous for the financial services firm’s relationship with their own client, especially if a legal dispute were to arise.

Case study 2: A textbook

On proofreading a financial textbook, I reported to the publisher’s desk editor that a diagram of the accounting steps to be taken for a transaction had been omitted even though there was a text reference to it. As it was large and appeared near the beginning of a long chapter it was not possible to insert an extra page without it affecting pagination or the index, which was already being prepared. As there was a text reference to a previous diagram on the same page that related to a full-page diagram on the facing recto page I suggested that the diagram to be inserted should share a page with this existing diagram after both had been reduced in size and turned from portrait to landscape orientation. Problem solved without awkward renumbering.

Proofreading of textbooks, one of the many media handled by Stephen York
Proofreading of textbooks, one of the many media handled

Case study 3: Annual Report and Accounts

I was proofreading a firm’s Annual Report and Accounts and on checking the list of directors found that one person was listed as ‘Director of Communications and Pubic Relations’. The client was mightily relieved when I reported the correction I had made.

Case study 4: Terms and conditions: ‘The Wicked Bible’ all over again

The omission of a single word ‘not’ made the intended meaning of a legal clause take on the opposite meaning and would have involved the customer of my client firm being able to avoid a legal responsibility and possibly cause my client financial loss. It is reminiscent of ‘The Wicked Bible’ printed in 1631 (see previous blog post) where the word ‘not’ had been omitted from one of the Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shalt commit adultery’.

In conclusion

A single proofreading correction can make a world of difference, so imagine what the proofreading of a whole book or document could reveal.