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Woeful Tales of Blindness in Proofreading

The burning sensation of embarrassment can be an all-too-familiar experience when I've made a mistake and others call me out on it.

No one likes being "wrong" or "incorrect" or even just "slightly off."

I'm not the first person to err, nor will I be the last and I'm certain, regardless of the pain and agony of public wrongness, I will likely suffer from poor proofreading again in the future.

It won't be on purpose for sure ... it never is. It will be an accidental overlooking of something that otherwise seems obvious to someone else.

This specific example was when I got an important educator's name wrong in an earlier post. He was completely kind about the mistake when he called it to my attention and asked me kindly to fix it. Of course, I did.

Admittedly I felt ashamed and embarrassed; I even said so to him.

After all, I'm an English teacher. In years past, (before I changed my approach), poor proofreading could have been cause for verbal flogging, especially if the meaning was altered because of it.

As a journalism teacher, it feels even more egregious. Teaching students to be fair, balanced, and accurate is a part of establishing credibility. So what happens when I, a writer, teacher, and "expert" get someone's name wrong?

Rather than publicly shame myself, I'm opting for a teaching moment.

Mistakes happen, to everyone. It's how we handle them that really defines us. So admitting the mistake, and improving to try to not make it again is the best that I can do.

Here are some things I can do to try to avoid the humiliation again:

  • Slow down. I do everything so fast—like my students, sometimes when I'm on a roll, I think that I do it right as soon as it comes out of me.

  • Re-read and re-read again. It's not enough to read once after I've completed something. I need to read aloud to ensure maximum correctness.

  • Ask someone else to read before I post; what seems right to me may not be right to my readers.

  • Spellcheck in a different document to make sure nothing was missed.

  • Take a break before I go back to re-read. Fresh eyes are always clearer eyes.

  • Recheck all names or references in the article to make sure that all people represented are done so accurately.

Although I'm certain I will make a typo from time to time, I know that there is a level of expectation when you blog on the scale I do. Each time I will work just a little harder to ensure correctness before hitting publish. But when mistakes happen, I will work hard to be transparent about them. After accepting responsibility and apologizing, corrections will be made.

How do you handle your mistakes? What lessons are there to learn? Please share.

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in June 2015

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