Before we pull away from the curb . . .

During this lockdown, I’ve taken to shouting at the television. The set is turned on you understand, and tuned to our National Broadcaster, the one that I am paying their salaries.

The other day they were interviewing a man whose young wife, a nurse working in intensive care, had lost her life. In his hour of grief, he was trying to articulate his thoughts, and the BBC had obviously persuaded him to sign a consent form.

In the ‘woke world’ of the Beeb, there must have been a box to tick on the form to register how you view your gender, and this distressed man had ticked ‘woman’ for below his name displayed on the television screen was that he was a widow and not a widower.

In today’s digital environment having up-to-the-minute stories is vital to keep ahead of the competition. But the pressure to get content online creates its own problems – the faster you rush something into ‘print’ the less time there is to proofread and the more chances of mistakes getting through – more of which later.

In this recent piece, with its missing ‘has’, the journalist at the BBC appears rather conversant in Pidgin English.

Now Leicester University has recently announced they are dropping Middle English from their English curriculum, so out goes Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Milton’s Paradise Lost and Beowulf. So presumably we can expect more of the likes of this on our television screens.

Which brings me neatly back to my ‘curb’ on misspellings. Having run numerous spellchecker passes over my book, and having recently completed a line edit (the result of being dropped by Penguin Random House), I glanced down at a chapter title and found ‘Before we pull away from the Curb…’

No spellcheck or the Grammarly app would pick that up, only a measured, and more diligent approach to the written word, which seems to be missing, both in my book and at the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Now if you’ll excuse me I must go and proofread what I’ve just written – about 15 times.

4 thoughts on “Before we pull away from the curb . . .”

  1. The problem with proofreading is that English text makes sense. Thus, as we read, we become aware of the sense and this conditions what we expect to see next. So of course we see it – the brain excells at “completing the picture”. The more familiar we become with a text by rereading it, the more difficult it becomes to spot errors, especially those errors that we may have added while correcting previously discovered errors!

    A colleague of mind who also worked as a proofreader told me that when proofreading, he read a book backwards. That made it easier to spot the errors. I can’t quite see how that works but have no reason to doubt him.


    1. Having been a typesetter (and occasional reader) for 40 years, before becoming a cabbie, I’ve never heard of that one. They say when painting a picture you should turn it upside-down and also look at it in a mirror to see the faults. So reading backwards makes kind of sense.


  2. In America we seem to spell that ledge at the edge of the pavement (sidewalk here) curb. Kerb is unknown. You’ll even see signs saying “Curb your dog” which doesn’t mean hold your growling pitbull back with a bit, but drag it to the gutter before it “fouls” the sidewalk.


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