Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Proofreader’s Story: A Writer’s Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, the Proofreader held an exalted place in the Kingdom of the Writer. She spoke to the Writer every day; her opinion was valued. Then one day, Spell Check and Grammar Check arrived. They didn’t think the Writer needed the Proofreader anymore, so the two of them pushed the Proofreader off the top of the Tower of Thesaurus. “You old-fashioned biddy,” they jeered. “We don’t need your books or your red pens. We’re new technology, and now the Writer doesn’t need you anymore.”

The Proofreader was undaunted. She shouted, “You two wouldn’t know a homonym if it smacked you in the face!” She marched to the castle’s front door and pounded on it. She was so angry that all of her commas fell out of her pockets. The Writer herself answered the door.

“Do you know that Spell Check and Grammar Check just threw me off the roof?” The Proofreader was indignant. “And Grammar Check can’t even conjugate correctly!”

The Writer cleared her throat. “I think that’s a rather personal matter, don’t you?”

“You can’t be serious about exiling me from the castle! You can’t trust your important work to those two jokers!” The Proofreader stomped her foot so hard that all of her paragraph marks spilled onto the ground and got tangled up with the commas.

“Poor, poor proofreader. Go look up Luddite. You can stay in the pantry if you feel you must stick around,” the Writer said. “The Checker Twins are just so much easier, even if I don’t always understand the corrections they make.” And the Writer shut the door, leaving the Proofreader to wander the grounds aimlessly.

But the Checker Twins were rash and impetuous. They changed the Writer’s word processing settings so they were allowed to make automatic corrections. The Writer wrote: The sun rose in a burst of flames, drowning the darkness. The Checker Twins changed it to: The rosy flames burned the night. “Why did you change this?” the Writer demanded. “We’re not sure,” the Checker Twins told her. “We can't really tell you. According to our rule book, it's supposed to read like that, but the truth is that we just liked it better that way.” Soon the Writer was spending all of her time arguing with the Checker Twins.

At the end of the week, the Writer went looking for the Proofreader. The Proofreader was sitting under a tree, taking notes on the colors of the flowers. She asked the Writer, “What do you think? Would you call this red or maroon? Maybe blood red? Perhaps vermillion?”

“I don’t know,” the Writer said. “But I do know it takes an actual human being to contemplate the difference. Will you come back and help me get rid of the Checker Twins?”

“So my extra eyes are better than those automated twits?” the Proofreader asked.

The Writer nodded her head affirmatively. “Nuance isn’t their strong point.”

“New Aunts? New Ants? New Age?” called the voice of the Checker Twins. They were searching for the Writer.

“Follow me,” said the Writer to the Proofreader. “Let’s disable them before they replace anything else.”

Writers: Do you have a flesh-and-blood proofreader, or do you rely on Word’s automated features?
Photo courtesy of Mario Sanchez at


Merina said...

Bravo, what a great little story that makes a whole lot of sense.

Samantha Dias said...

Absolutely fabulous! :)