Language is a fluid and changing phenomena, a unique method to communicate and express ourselves fully. The English language is a particularly versatile little beast, adapting and absorbing from other cultures, improved knowledge and experiences. I was re-reading a most wonderful book by Richard Dawkins ‘The Magic of Reality’. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11256979-the-magic-of-reality In the book, he develops a very interesting idea in which language evolves like we do. It reacts and changes to what works and survives in the real world. Such a process is not built on perfection, but using strengths and applying them. As my blog title suggests, I am aggrieved we have lost ‘stap me vitals’ Mr Dawkins mentions in his lost phrases. That beauty is a loss!
As proofreaders we should indeed pick up the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, the details that interrupt the flow of communication and confuse meaning. However, we should preserve the original voice of the author. Proofreading a document requires skill in judging who the audience is and matching the corrections with this in mind. We should also keep in mind how the author wishes to engage with the audience they are writing for. I would not say proofreading is perfecting a document to the Hart’s Rules standards alone, although I won’t be the only one who scurries for the Merriam-Webster and pretend I knew that already, really, I did!
Perfection is an illusion when it comes to committing the written word to paper or screen. We support the author of the document to communicate their message in the best way possible for the intended audience. Luckily, we have a very flexible and adaptable language that allows for just such a situation. That is also a very good reason why a spellchecker will never replace a proofreader!
So, stap me vitals for being a painted maypole and enjoy the madrigal within my tights! (That may be rude, I am not terribly sure!) Let us enjoy the freedom of language and communication, whilst keeping a beady one on the Merriam-Webster.