Friday, January 22, 2010

So You Wanna Be A Proofreader: Ten Tip

by: Tom Aaron

The title in this article should grab your attention for one of two reasons: you are interested in being a proofreader or you notice the language is inappropriate. "Wanna" is not standard English. Looking at this title, you probably came to one of two conclusions: the writer deliberately used a mistake to grab your attention, or the writer did not proofread very well. At Aaron Language Services, we see error after error from people who apply for proofreading work. We do not expect perfection, but we do have ten tips to help proofreaders get closer to producing good work.

1. Careful checking

Your email message may not be your proofreading work. If you are looking for proofreading work though, any typos or other errors will cast doubt on the quality of your work. If the email message is accompanying proofreading work, the errors will cast doubt on the attached work.

2. Three times

Good proofreading borders on the obsessive. Catching those last errors requires attention to detail. Proofread everything at least three times. I needed three reads to finally notice that I had written "tree times" above instead of "three times".

3. Time intervals

If you keep reading the same writing over and over, catching mistakes becomes more difficult. We suggest that you spread out your three proofreadings over time. For simple text, this proofreading does not have to be on different days. For a longer and more complicated document though, each reading should be on a separate day.

4. Fresh and alert

We work best when we are fresh and alert. Proofreading is complicated because we read for meaning, not for errors. Be sure that you are fresh and alert when you do your final proofreading.

5. Your spellchecker

As basic as this tip is, many people seem to forget. Use your spellchecker.

6. Search engines

Spellcheckers are not perfect. When writing this, the spellchecker said "proofreadings" was misspelled. I was positive it was not, but I still checked. Even when I am positive, I am still wrong sometimes.

7. When in doubt

With the Internet just a few keystrokes away, the answers to most of our questions are just as close. If you do not know something, research it. Check dictionaries and other references. Check search engines to see what standard usage is.

8. Read

Reference materials help us to become better writers and to catch mistakes. Take advantage of them.

9. Reading

Anyone wanting to be a better writer, editor, or proofreader needs to read. Reading gives us the unconscious language knowledge that we need. As you read more books on writing, editing and proofreading and as you write, edit and proofread, you will also start to look more consciously as you read in general. You will notice Hemingway's short active sentences and Faulkner's punctuation of his long descriptive sentences. The more you read, the more you will notice. The more you notice, the better you will write, edit and proofread.

10. Taking a break

We do not work in an ideal world; sometimes we must work when we are tired. Take breaks; refresh yourself. Do a page; walk around the room; do another page. A tired proofreader is a poor proofreader.

Being a good writer, editor, or proofreader takes time. Improving your writing, editing, and proofreading takes time too. If you follow these ten tips, you will learn and get better. Writing, editing, and proofreading are not mysterious skills that come to us naturally. If we work on them, we will get better. We wish you the best in developing your proofreading and editing skills.

About The Author

If you are an experienced editor specializing in medicine or the hard sciences, Aaron Language Services is interested in working with you. You can find us at on the web at

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Voynich Manuscript

I am reading "The Book of God and Physics", a book on the Voynich manusript, and the third book I have read on this subject.

A large bibliography: Voynich Bibliography

The Voynich Manuscript  is probably the world's single most intriguing and potentially solvable puzzle. The puzzle consists in determining the age, origin and purpose of the Voynich manuscript: but first, one must be able to read it. The manuscript is written using a mixture of vaguely familiar characters with some very strange ones. Despite the efforts of a great many professional and amateur cryptologists, we quite simply do not know if the manuscript is a hoax or a code.

It is somewhat futile to try to decode any document without being able to put it into a context of time and place. It is time and place which give us our first clues as to the author's probable purpose and language. Thus, before going into any detail about the Voynich manuscript itself, I shall give some historical background. Meanwhile, just to whet my reader's appetite, here is a picture comparing a small portion of the original manuscript with a computer-readable document version.

The Voynich manuscript takes its name from Wilfrid M. Voynich, a book dealer who claimed to have acquired it in 1912, in Italy. He was a Polish revolutionary who escaped to London where he met and married his wife, Ethel. He had seen her before, from a window in his prison in Warsaw. They later emigrated to America. If the Voynich manuscript is a hoax, a fake, a means to make some quick money, then the prime candidate for the faking must be Wilfrid Voynich. Everything that can be determined about Wilfrid and Ethel Voynich suggests that he had the funds to purchase the manuscript in good faith.

Behind the Voynich manuscript lies a web of connected names so strange that it reads like fiction, or a Who's Who of academics and revolutionaries. Indeed, Ethel Voynich, by her own account, was inspired to write much of her fiction from her own experiences and acquantances. Political turmoil, revolution, espionage and intrigue; all are to be found in the Voynich manuscript story. More strange, perhaps, than the mystery of the manuscript is the list of well-known names which are connected with the history of the manuscript. Most of the names can be linked directly to Ethel Voynich.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My recent reads!

Try as I may, I fail to read more than three books per week!  So many books, so little time.  Here are some I have read in the last two weeks, and enjoyed.

  • "Damage Control" by J A Jance
  • "Triple Cross" by Mark T Sullivan
  • "Portland Noir" edited by Kevin Sampsell
  • "The Ninth Generation" by John L Owens
I am currently reading "Gone Tomorrow" by Lee child ( a Reacher novel), and soon will work on the "The book of God and physics : a novel of the Voynich mystery" by  Enrique Joven (the third book I have read on this subject).