Monday, May 20, 2013

Professional Paranoia

I fully admit that, in my job, I'm never going to save the world by italicizing a book title. No one who references my job is going to say that I saved lives by formatting the footnotes correctly. No one who points at what I've done is going to tell me that life on this earth was altered because I corrected the use of a comma.

And yet, every day when I'm working on an edit, I worry that I'm going to get something wrong, and someone is going to complain.

Whenever someone does a proofread after I've done an initial edit, I'm always freaked out when errors are found - even when I can tell that they were created by the author or the formatter.

On some level, it's professional pride in what I do. But it's also paranoia.

It's like when I'm cooking a meal for a group, and I find out three days later that someone who was there isn't feeling well. I'll spend a while running it all through my head, making sure I didn't accidentally cook something that the person was allergic to. Even if the person simply has a cold - or a twisted ankle - which would have nothing to do with what was eaten.

So, when we got a physical sample of the cookbook that I did a rush proofread on a couple of months ago, I immediately went to check it out. It looked good. But there were pages in the book which I knew I hadn't seen in the proofread, which I opted to simply ignore.

And then someone came over to me and pointed at a page and said "uh-oh..." and I looked and immediately noticed a major typo on the bottom of the page. One of about 20 words on the page had a letter missing. And I looked closer and thought "I've never seen that page before." And I said to my coworker, "That's new copy - I didn't see that." She simply chuckled and blew it off, blaming it on the author and his penchant for changing things over and over.

But I couldn't let it go. Two days later, after at least one semi-sleepless night, I pulled up the document on my home computer (because I had done the proofread at home since it was a rush job), and - sure enough - the text on the bottom of that page was brand new.

Is the change from "May" to "My" on that page going to change the world? No. But knowing that the error wasn't mine certainly helped me to sleep better the past few nights.

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