Let me begin by saying that I don't like reading grammar mistakes. To me, reading blatant errors shows a lack of intelligence and casts doubt on the validity of the claims in the text. However, much like coding, I believe that writing should be an organic process where you plop your thoughts down in words and then refactor it later. With code, however, you have a compiler to check your work. For word processors like Microsoft Word or Google Docs there is no compiler to run the text through and reveal grammar mistakes with the same level of detail as a skilled proofreader (note to self- this could be good project). These programs love to tout how they have grammar checking engines, but it seems that at the moment human proofreading is the best method for catching and fixing the most errors.
In the past when I have written blog posts and had them proofread it happened a few different ways. When I worked at an advertising company that I won't name, there was an "article master" who would just change things and throw the article up on the web. I would many times find errors in the published post, sometimes ones that were added by the proofreader! For this reason I think it should always be the original author's call to make changes to the document. The proofreader gives advice on which things need changing and how to change them. That's all.
How then, should the proofreader give the author his suggestions? How can he say it in such a way that it is clear, succinct, and doesn't require unnecessary extra effort from either party? I've devised a method here that I believe is succinct and clear. Once both parties are aware of and agree on this common notation then they can easily communicate three things about each suggestion:
Now, we want to make a suggestion for how this should be changed. Note that there are many possible suggested ways to change it, but let's just give one. To show a distinction between the text that is the offending piece and the text that is the suggested replacement text we put an arrow simple. In many word processors simple typing "dash, dash, less than sign, space" will automatically create a small right-pointing arrow. If it doesn't transform into a nice arrow, the less pretty set of characters --> still creates the appearance of an arrow facing towards the right. We can then type a suggestion. Since the offending piece begins with "-- " it can be nice to begin the suggestion text with three spaces so that the two pieces of text are vertically aligned.
Notice that the edited parts, here they are additions, are encased by parentheses. This is to highlight to the original author looking at it which parts were changed. Without these, it becomes a bit of a scavenger hunt for the original author to find small things like apostrophes and commas, or even worse; the original author could skip over them completely and the mistake offending piece continues to live on in the article.
Now suppose we want to give another suggestion. Maybe we like the word don't that think it works here, but we know the original author likes "do not". We can offer another suggestion by using two pipe symbols, ||. This is a common programming symbol know as the logical OR operator. Here we are saying that either of these suggestions could replace the offending word.
I've found that there can be times where I want to explain my suggestions. Sometimes I want to defend my suggestion, and sometimes I want to highlight some specific grammar rule that I have in mind when making the suggestion. Borrowing again from programming, I like to use the double slash to denote the line as a "comment line". The comments can go before the offending piece line or after the last suggestion's line.
The above text here is what I call a suggestion block. A suggestion block consists of the offending piece of text, suggestions to replace it, and any comments regarding either the offending piece or the suggestions. Notice that there are no spaces between any of these lines. A space should go after the last line in the suggestion blocks so that the empty line itself separates each suggestion block. Here's how it might look with another suggestion block:
It's a very super simple system, and if don't want to use fancy things like MS Word's "with comments" then you might give this a try.
The posts on this site are written and maintained by Jim Lynch. About Jim...