Proofreading Quotes from Proofreading Tips

Proofreading your Work in Progress? Looking for inspiration? This month Catriona brings us memorable quotes to keep us going. Some you might know, some you won't. Read on...

"Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error.” Erin McKean, Lexicographer 

The World's End
“I don’t even know what a pronoun is.” 
“Well, it’s a word that can function by itself as a noun, which refers to something else in the discourse.” 
“I don’t get it.” 
“You just used one.” 
“Did I?” 
“Yes, ‘it’ is a pronoun.” 
“What is?” 
“Is it?” 
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg in the 2013 film The World’s End 

“Picking up your first copy of a book you wrote, if there’s one typo, it will be on the page that your new book falls open to the first time you pick it up.” 
Neil Gaiman, 2005 

Neil Gaiman

“I wonder what Ernest Hemingway’s dictionary looked like, since he got along so well with dinky words that everyone can spell and truly understand... My own is a tossed salad of instant coffee and tobacco crumbs and India paper... The truth is that I have broken its spine looking up the difference between principle and principal, and how to spell cashmere.” 
Kurt Vonnegut, 1966 

“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.” 
George Orwell, 1946 

Walt Disney's - Peter Pan

“The man is not wholly evil – he has a Thesaurus in his cabin.” 
J.M.Barrie describing Captain Hook in Peter Pan 1904 

“Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray.” 
Mark Twain 1889 

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” 
Attributed to Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) 

Mark Twain

“And then there is that other thing: when you think you are reading proof, whereas you are merely reading your own mind; your statement of the thing is full of holes & vacancies but you don't know it, because you are filling them from your mind as you go along. Sometimes -- but not often enough -- the printer's proof-reader saves you -- & offends you -- with this cold sign in the margin: (?) & you search the passage & find that the insulter is right -- it doesn't say what you thought it did: the gas-fixtures are there, but you didn't light the jets.” 
Mark Twain, 1894

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” 
Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland, 1865 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

“I knew the time when great care was had about printing ... good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the best, but now the paper is nought, the composers boys, and the correctors unlearned.” 
George Abbott, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1631 

“I am a poor devil and my name is Titivillus, I must each day bring my master a thousand sacks full of failings and of negligences in syllables and words.” 
Paraphrased from a fifteenth-century English devotional treatise (Titivilus was a demon said to work on behalf of Satan to introduce errors into the work of scribes) 

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” Attributed to Cicero, Statesman, 106BC - 43BC

Catriona Tippin has been a member of SCBWI since 2006 and helps organise venues for SCBWI North East. Details of her writing and illustrating here. She proofreads study guides, house magazines and publicity material for national educational organisations, in addition to working on a variety of proofreads and copyedits for the growing self-published world. Her monthly column is intended to give you food for thought, remembering “Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling or typographical error” (McKean’s Law, named after its inventor Erin McKean, editor of the Oxford American Dictionary).

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