The Proof is in the Proof-reading

The importance of being a good proof-reader is summed up in this Oscar Wilde quote: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back  again.”

Being a freelance writer for a community newspaper and a novelist “in progress”, I have often wondered about what makes a really good book or article. Is it the cover? The title? The topic? Or, the writer? In my belief and experience, these are small factors that play equally small roles in the success of the finished product. The main ingredient (as I have noticed time and again) is how well you proof-read the write-up.

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be the first one to review Saborna Roychowdhury’s debut novel, The Distance. The book had potential and the writing style screamed of individuality. But what prevented the book from becoming a masterpiece were the many grammatical and factual mistakes I came across. Similarly, there are many community newspapers in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) but the quality of the papers is questionable. The reason? Again, lack of thorough proof-reading.

Having to write atleast 3-4 articles per week, I have an urge to take shortcuts. Shortcuts usually entail not paying attention to a comma, or exact quotes, or even facts. It’s an urge that goes back to my essay writing days at York University where a well-written essay with short-cuts would gain me a B or a B+. However, a well-written essay that had been proof-read atleast 2-3 times would entitle me to an A, always without fail. It is a deadly urge that can bring the demise of any aspiring or promising writer. I do believe I belong to the former category, while family and friends like to attribute my writing to the latter. The trick to avoid this urge is to promise oneself to always be a writer with integrity (the importance of which will be the topic for another blog post).


It usually takes me three hours to write a 600 words article because I spend two hours on proof-reading. However, do not mistake me for a writer sitting on her high-horse criticising other writers out there. I am just pointing out a flaw that I have noticed. And, if you spend as much time proof-reading as I do, you will know exactly what I mean.


Filed under Writing about writing

3 responses to “The Proof is in the Proof-reading

  1. Sheena

    Hi, this is Sheena. I found your blog through your twitter account. I was actually on the Generation Next website, and was reading your articles (started reading the interview with Kaberi Chatterjee). Googled you out of curiosity. Just wanted to say, really well- written, and your effort to proofread shows in all your articles and blog posts. I am subscribing to your blog for more. Would be happy if you write back to me on my email. Thanks, Sheena

  2. Shin

    You make me feel like I should spend 15 minutes proof reading this comment. What I’m trying to say is that you have a point and it’s** (yeah, you’ll get the reference) a good point too.

    Umm, I don’t actually think you are the latter (as you mentioned). You do have some haste in your writing. Lately though, I must say I do feel like I want to continue reading. And, I dislike reading.

    So, keep writing, my dear sis. Keep writing.

    • You wound me, little sis. With your carefully crafted words, you both insult and flatter me. And, since it would make me a hypocrite to disapprove your comment in the face of my ego, I swallow my pride in “haste” and allow you your moment of criticism.

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