“When I was only three, and still named Belle Miriam Silverman, I sang my first aria in pubic.”
—Bubbles: A Self-Portrait, by Beverly Sills (1976—1st edition; 1st printing)
The publisher Bobbs-Merrill was indeed fortunate that the author of the book whose first chapter opened with that sentence was the incomparable soprano Beverly Sills. I can think of few other mortals, much less opera divas, who would have met it as generously or with a laugh. It still gives me a chuckle. And it remains an object lesson and source of shudders to many a professional proofreader.
Unquestionably, proofreading is a talent. One that, I believe, is about 50 percent learned and 50 percent predilection. And without that second trait, it is nearly impossible to do well. Further, perhaps alone among its companion editorial pursuits, it appears to be immune to technologically driven extinction (at least for the time being).
In preparation for this blog, I treated myself to a discussion with Pam Andrada about errors that proofreaders catch most frequently. Pam should know. Like her mother, she is a long-time professional proofreader and heads up our preferred proofreading company, Beyond Words. After a few good laughs, which I'll pass along momentarily, Pam remarked that Beyond Words is continually grateful for the invention of SpellCheck.