I pity the fool who doesn't use spell-check. I'm an excellent speller, yet I've become so dependent on
spell-check that I won't even e-mail without it. Still, as embarrassment-sparing as this tool can be, we all
know that if left to its own devices, editorial mayhem – and in some cases, hilarity (read on)
– ensues. Whatever you do, DO NOT rush your spell-checking; when the program comes to a
word it doesn't recognize and offers you alternatives, choose carefully.
I recently made a written reference to the film "An Inconvenient Truth." I can be a sloppy typist, and when the red squiggle appeared beneath my attempt at "inconvenient," I just right-clicked on that puppy and selected the "inconvenient" option. Or so I thought. Imagine my horror when, upon my first read-through, I saw that the title appeared as "An Incontinent Truth."
Granted, I literally laughed out loud (don't even get me started on all those people who write "LOL" when they simply aren't), and I'm still laughing about it. But consider how my credibility would have suffered if I hadn't proofread that text. There would have been no mitigating the mortification, but more to the point, could the client who'd commissioned the copy ever trust me again? A miss is as good as a mile, but ... I shudder to think.
Indeed, one must spell-check mindfully and proofread thoroughly to avoid such mishaps, which have resulted in some of our favorite Not Our Clients moments, including this classic: "The employees were ejaculated, the area was sealed off for public safety, and the LAPD bomb squad responded ... "
Our favorite proofreading trick? Place the upper edge of a clean, white #10 envelope underneath your first line of text and proceed down the page one line at a time. Reciting the copy also ferrets out errors. Some of my colleagues even swear by reading the text backwards. Of course, you could also hire a pro. We were lucky enough to get an interview with a master of the form for this issue (direct your gaze to "Proofreading Confidential").
Clearly, bodily fluids are lurking around every corner, just waiting to soil your otherwise pristine prose. Eternal vigilance is your only recourse. We think you'll agree that it's a small price to pay.