A Second Set of Eyes

Before I submit anything for publication, I make a concerted effort to look over my work and ensure that my editor receives a thoroughly proofread article. I take the time to check my facts and my grammar very closely because they are open to public view. It is my job to be accurate.

I edit my past articles all the time, as necessary. For instance, when I published my article “Modern McAllisters,” several factual errors were very kindly pointed out to me by the curator of the McAllister House. I was pleased to have the corrections given to me because I think it’s important to present the most accurate information available. I made the changes right away because doing so shows I care. I respect the curator and the museum. Not doing so would be irresponsible and lazy.

I wish the rules were as strict as they used to be about publishing, but with the advent of computer-aided journalism and instant access to the Internet, the rush to publication seems to supersede accuracy. In “How to Write with Style,” Kurt Vonnegut says, “If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood.” The same is true for news articles.

Look at the last two sentences of the second paragraph in this article:

article

Article covering Larissa Tiffany-Scheiss’s death on February 4, 2015 (Screenshot credit: DeLyn Martineau)

See the three grammar errors there? I don’t know who wrote this, but it was published within hours of the crime it mentions. It doesn’t even look proofed—it looks rushed. And it was updated the next day, but the errors remain. I have a friend who, as a part of her job, reads police blotters. She says the blotters are rife with errors due to the hurried nature in which they are written. She also says she sees news articles with identical mistakes that look like they are copied and pasted right from the blotter, with no editing. Yikes. How rampant is this problem?

Why don’t more journalists take a few extra minutes to proofread their own work? To have the media be so careless in reporting the story of this woman’s death demonstrates a cavalier attitude toward the seriousness of her murder. A quick read-aloud of the above article would have exposed fixable errors and greatly improved the author’s credibility, casting a more positive reflection on the news carrier. In today’s world, there should be no reason anything should be published with glaring errors because it’s quite easy to correct them, even after publication.

Most journalists have degrees in writing, so their writing should be error-free every time. Also, it should be a requirement that all published work gets a second set of eyes on it before it goes live. It would only have taken five more minutes, and that extra step would have shown the respect to this woman’s grieving family that they deserve. Instead, it’s a poorly-executed piece of reporting that barely qualifies as writing, and it disrespects a wonderful young woman.

See, I knew this girl. Larissa was one of my former students. She read a lot, devouring every novel I assigned to her. She loved language, and she loved learning. We lost a precious gift when we lost her. What a shame she is memorialized like this.

3 Discussions on
“A Second Set of Eyes”
  • As always, a great article by Delyn Martineau.
    As one of her friends, I can honestly say, her undying dedication to professional writing and everyday speaking does not allow her to overlook grammar errors.

  • Delyn, when and where did you have Larissa in class. For some reason, I can’t remember. Thanks for your kind words about my baby girl. Vickie