• Helen Row Toews

Prairie Wool

Proofreading Matters

The world of instant messaging has seen some big blunders as far as spelling goes. Often, my cell phone technology replaces the word I wrote with one it thinks I meant to write. Consequently, I’ve sent some pretty strange notes to family and friends. Most folks are kind about it. Some say nothing, do a little deciphering, and move on. Not my son Justin. He calls me on it every time. Quite sarcastically, too, I might add. Maybe I’ll remember to proofread next time. Here’s a sample taken directly from my phone.

Me: “Come on over Justin, I’m plating with the grandkids.”

Justin: “I see. Nice you’re teaching them the finer points of meal presentation.”

Me: “PLAYING! I’m playing with them! Sheesh.”

I’ve slipped up so often, he felt compelled to point out that I sure write a bunch of lousy text messages for someone who considers themselves a writer. He wasn’t wrong.

I see funny sentences written by sweet, well-meaning children every day at school. Just like me, they don’t mean to misspell words. Their intentions are pure, but their meanings are lost in translation. Often it boils down to the omission of one tiny letter.

Here are a few examples.

-Jim went home, ate a snake, and watched TV. 

It’s reasonable to assume Jim didn’t actually eat a snake as he relaxed in front of the television. Instead, he likely ate a snack. However, the image of Jim consuming a snake after school does paint a far more interesting picture.

-The turkeys were very sacred and ran away.

As this memorable sentence was penciled out around Thanksgiving, I think it’s safe to say the turkeys might have been scared rather than sacred. Otherwise, the eating of said birds could border on blasphemy.

-We used chicken bunion to flavour our soup.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but while chicken bouillon is a tasty broth, I feel that incorporating the bunions of farmyard fowl into soup, or any other dish, would not enhance the taste. Nor would it meet Canadian food safety standards.

-Dark Vader garbed his goggles.

Obviously, Dark Vader must be brother to Darth, and no doubt, to garb one’s goggles must be some secret code known only to these two dastardly villains.

Last week, kids learned to punctuate dialogue by copying a sentence from the board. Naturally, spelling always counts, but it wasn’t the focal point of this lesson until I read one child’s interpretation of the following sentence.

“Cool shirt,” said Sue. 

Reading over this young girl’s shoulder, I watched her print the line.

“Cool sh-t,” said Sue. 

Sadly, that just wasn’t the same thing at all. Notice how one little letter can make all the difference? We quickly found an eraser.

Yes, it’s easy to see how simple mistakes can be created with a missing or transposed letter, but isn’t it all the more interesting for that? None of these sentences would have made headlines any other way. However, while attention-grabbing, they do underscore the need for a renewed commitment to proofreading before sending your words out into the world. 

Yours turley, 

Helen

Helen lives on the family farm near Marshall, Saskatchewan, where she works as an author, columnist, and in education. Find her online at helentoews.com. There, you can learn more about ordering her humorous Prairie Wool Books, or newly released fantasy series, Runestaff Chron

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