In Life and in Page Proofs, Errors Always Slip In

By Curtis K. Shelburne

Would you believe it? I just found another mistake!
I really don’t like proofreading. I’ve tried everything, I suppose, to make it more fun.
I’ve tried proofreading with coffee (no, not pouring the coffee over the pages; you know what I mean).
I’ve tried proofreading with English-style hot tea.
I’ve tried proofreading on a cold day in front of a warm fire.
And all of those things may help. But it’s still just plain work.
You see, I have ample opportunities in my work to make public mistakes that get printed and copied and passed out for all to see.
Oh, I make plenty of mistakes in my sermons, I’m sure. But I’m talking about mistakes in church newsletters, bulletins, letters, reports, etc. All pastors have way too many opportunities of just this sort for many and varied verbal slip-ups. And add to my own proofreading plate this newspaper column.
But my biggest proofreading headache comes in the form of The Christian Appeal monthly devotional magazine my brother Gene and I have edited together for lots of years.
Putting the issues together — theme development, layout, content, etc. — are my tasks. Once the proofs are ready, I proofread one set, Gene proofreads another. I make corrections and proofread yet again, and off to press it goes!
Three times. Two proofreaders. Two sets of eyeballs pass over every jot and tittle, every dash, colon, period, and apostrophe, three times!
Time and again, I’m tempted to rush on past the last pass straight to the press. And I was tempted again today. But I forced myself to read the proofs one more time, and guess what? Just like always, I found one more mistake. “Rom” instead of “Romans.”
This forced attention to detail, well, I’m not sure if it’s just necessary, a necessary evil, or a curse.
But I’m kinda excited. My new book has just come out. That, to me, is good news. The gestation period before birthing a book is not short, but it’s finally here. (I haven’t read it yet. Well, yes, I wrote it. Yes, I’ve proofread it twice. But I’ve not read through the finished and printed product yet.) The bad news is that one day years from now I’ll be sitting in front of the fire with a cup of Earl Grey tea in my hand and beautiful snowflakes gently falling outside the window. Nat King Cole’s velvet voice will be singing on a CD in the background. A beautiful scene. I’ll open a copy of my book just to take a quick nostalgic glance, and there, glaring out at me on page 87, paragraph 7, line 5, will be a terrible typo — something on the order of “htis” for “this.” Count on it.
I’m glad Jesus lived a life without even the smallest moral typo so that the bloopers that slip through my life don’t count against em. I mean me.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at