Re: the proofreading thread--another two cents

Subject: Re: the proofreading thread--another two cents
From: Dick Margulis <ampersandvirgule -at- WORLDNET -dot- ATT -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 20:19:16 -0400

I started to write a long response to Gina's original post and then
realized that _most_ of what I was going to way had already been
covered--prioritize the work; make a case for more resources; etc.

A couple of additional thoughts:

Proofreading is value added for your employer (to avoid sending errors
out the door); but it is not value added for the client. That is the
reason your time cannot be billed. If you were providing the service for
documents written by the client, your time certainly would be billed
(the distinction between Printer's Errors and Author's Alterations,
basically). Not being listed as a resource is an artifact, not something
you should take personally or feel demeaned by.

Proofreading is a specialized skill, much as indexing is. Employers who
want a jack-or-jill-of-all-trades tech writer are fooling themselves if
they think they will get one person who is an expert proofreader,
indexer, compositor, technical writer, marketing writer, graphic
designer, and--oh, yeah--how about HTML programmer and network
administrator, while you're at it. So in plumping for additional
resources, make a case for hiring a professional proofreader rather than
a down-at-the-heels English major.

Third, try the Winners and Sinners strategy. This was (maybe still is) a
house organ at the New York Times that carried passages from the paper
with critiques by one of the editors (Jack Rosenthal, if I recall the
story correctly). The purpose was continuous improvement of journalistic
style, content, and grammar, among other things. There may be a way you
can sell the idea of transferring ownership to the consultants
themselves, by leveraging the proofreading work. This would take a while
and would require additional work at first (after you get the new
resource), but the idea is that if you distribute internally the before
and after of your proofreading efforts (nothing fancy, email would do),
with the authors' names attached, people would eventually be conditioned
to clean up their own messes before bringing them to you. Done in a
non-threatening way, this could work, although I realize consultants can
be hard cases, ego-wise.

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