Is proofreading even a thing any more? My New Old Self feels strongly that proofreading should still be a thing.
“Is it even a thing?” Look it up!
Being a thing is totally a thing now, by the way. The phrase, “Is it even a thing?” recently made it into the Cambridge Dictionary. The definition: “used when you are surprised that something exists.”
My own surprise is over increasing evidence that proofreading seems to no longer be a thing. Where to put the blame? On cellphones, of course. Ever since we learned to thumb-type, proofreading started going out of style. Emails are also rarely proofread.
Who cares about spelling and grammar? Who has the time to check? I get it. They don’t call it Instant Messaging for nothing.
What bugs me the most is an unproofread Tweet. You’re typing a maximum of 140 characters and you can’t be bothered to reread your 10- to 15-word declaration before pressing Send? How many seconds would this take out of your busy day?
Reread before sending
Some people do reread their messages, but too often they do so after sending, not before. Those precious seconds it would have taken to proofread beforehand are not a time saving if you have to go back and correct your message.
Lack of proofreading is responsible for much miscommunication. For example, you receive a message that “I have not read” a certain document. A few seconds later you receive a one-word follow-up: “Now”. The sender meant to type: “I have now read”. Not not. Big difference.
When bad typing is responsible for a spelling mistake we call it a typo. It’s often the result of “fat fingers” on a tiny keyboard.
You type Hi Trash when you meant to type Hi Trish. Or if you’re the President of the United States you Tweet about something you describe as: “constant negative press covfefe” when you meant to type…? POTUS’s infamous “covfefe” typo remains obscure. As are Trump’s reasons for waiting five hours before deleting (not correcting) it on Twitter. It got worse, and funnier, with US Court Jester Sean Spicer’s explanation at a White House media conference: “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”
Thanks a lot, Auto-correct
We have seen recent evolution of the typo due to apps like Auto-correct and Predictive Text. They aim to save you time by second-guessing the words you intend to type next. But they sometimes fail and that can be embarrassing. I got a text about someone named Mandla, but it was wrongly Auto-corrected to – wait for it – Manslaughter. Pity the guy who intended to text: “I have a bad case of the Mondays”. Auto-correct sent this instead: “I have a bad case of the Manboobs”.
Just turn it off
No wonder many people elect to turn off Auto-correct. A journalist recently conducted an experiment by typing identical 15-word texts, first with Auto-correct on and then with it off.
“On average, the non-Auto-correct version took three seconds longer to produce an error-free message, but I didn’t have to worry about any weird, surreptitious word replacements. I know I will never go back to the old way. I’m happy to captain Team Kill Autocorrect. But I was clearly in the minority following that one-week experiment. A mostly accurate typing tool that helps one finish and send messages faster is preferable to a more user-controlled input method that makes one work a bit harder, even if the end result means dealing with the occasional embarrassing mistake.”
– Matthew J.X. Malady, Slate
I wonder if using Auto-correct will make our spelling and punctuation muscles flabby. Like the way that people who exclusively use GPS trackers are reportedly unable to read maps. Which turns out to be a really important basic human skill that we’ve honed since hunter-gatherer days, and could be lost in only one generation.
Don’t worry – Be Sloppy!
The generation gap is a factor in the proofreading debate.
“Doesn’t anyone care anymore that words are spelled correctly or that proper grammar is used?”
That website, I would wager, is frequented mainly by older people. They bemoan the widespread new attitude of “Don’t Worry – Be Sloppy!”
About the tone
Pro-proofreaders are worried about more than typos, misspellings and incorrect grammar. They are also concerned that “you can easily lose tonality in a written communication” through the use of texting shorthand. Again this is largely a concern of the older generation, who still communicate mainly through speech.
The youngest generation of communicators send text messages far more often than they use their voices. Regarding the concern for lost “tonality” – presumably referring to sarcasm and irony – texters do not need words to convey subtle tones.
This is what Internet Abbreviations and Chat Acronyms are for. You may know LOL (Laugh Out Loud) and YOLO (You Only Live Once) but there are hundreds more. Many lend themselves to a sardonic tone, like SCNR (Sorry, Could Not Resist) and WFM (Works For Me).
Emojis to the rescue
Anyway, who even needs letters when there are so many emojis to choose from? The thumbs-up, the thumbs down and faces that smile, cry, stick out tongues or wear sunglasses. Much quicker to send a tiny picture than to crack your brain trying to write wittily. With emojis there’s no risk of typos and no need for Auto-correct.