Not So Fast, Mister

My job as a proofreader is only so in the most academic sense in that I am paid to find and correct mistakes. But the difference between this and previous proofing jobs is that I don’t have the leeway to grab my red pen and start marking up clean copies like crazy.

Rather, I have a clean copy and a redlined copy and what I do is make sure that the corrections on the redlined version have been made on the most current clean copy, and that it matches the redline character-by-character. That’s right—I have to proof one character at a time and in up to 24 languages, most of which I am not fluent in. You don’t have to be if you’re “proofreading” like this. It’s more like one of those Moose A. Moose puzzles where you have to spot the difference between the four pictures of fuzzy little bunnies.

As you can imagine, this leads to a good deal of frustration, especially when I’m proofing something that, if I were working anywhere else, I would mark the living crap out of and return to the artist that worked on it.

That was the case today when I was proofing a doctor’s form that, um, for the lack of a better term, sucked. Now if I may be so bold, I’d like to share these errors with you along with the corrections I would have loved to make but just am not allowed to.

Ready? Here we go.

Inconsistent Use of a Colon. The form included many questions or statements along with boxes and answers underneath. Some were followed by a colon, others had a period and some simply had nothing. My choice would have been to stick with a colon since it was a kind of list that followed that statement and a period or nothing at all wouldn’t have worked or looked very well.

Caps, Initialisms and Acronyms. It seems that whoever was putting this document together was unfamiliar with what was an initialism, acronym or what needed to be in caps. Some examples include:

  • PO BOX was on the return envelope while every other place inside listed the correct term of PO Box.
  • Both FAX and Fax were used. I’m not sure what they think FAX may stand for (Failed Another eXam?) but I do know that fax is short for facsimile and doesn’t need to be in all caps.
  • Zip Code was used on all fields requiring the 5-digit code. Since ZIP is an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan, it should have been ZIP Code.
  • All fields requiring a name listed Last name then First Name. For the sake of consistency, it should have been one or the other, preferably the initial caps.
  • For the Last name field, a request for (include Suffix, Jr., Sr., Etc.) was included. I would have gone with a lower case S on suffix and definitely on etc. That just looked goofy.
  • MI and not M.I. This one could probably go either way but M.I. isn’t exactly as popular as ID which, when you think about it, isn’t exactly a true initialism, is it?

And the rest. The rest of this stuff doesn’t necessarily fall into any of the categories above.

  • IMPORTANT: — This is how the document began. It must have been extremely important to have a colon followed by three hyphens. DO YOU SENSE THE URGENCY? Man, pick one or the other already.
  • Date format of (MM/DD/Year) instead of the standard (MM/DD/YYYY).
  • Comma after the PO Box number when it was the second line of text. If it were all one line it could have remained there.
  • No comma between city and state on the return address.
  • “…will be mailed for the patient.” Mailed for the patient to whom? Santa Claus? Shouldn’t that be to the patient if they were the intended recipient?
  • Other, specify and not Other (specify).
  • Long Term Follow Up Doctor for Patient. While most of the errors I came across had to do with consistency or capitalization issues, this was probably the worst violator of the bunch. I mean, read that as it is and tell me it doesn’t piss you off. It did me, and the urge to mark it Long-Term Follow-Up Doctor for Patient was overwhelming.

So yes, errors all were these but since they weren’t marked on the redlined copy or the clean copy, and because they matched, I couldn’t do a damn thing about them except bring the issues home with me and blog about them in the hopes of making myself feel better about things.

Well, I do feel better.

Until I get to work on Monday and have to do it all over again.