Even at a very young age, I was a perfectionist when it came to grammatical errors or spelling errors, especially those found in newspapers or on store signs. It was nothing for that Type A little eight-year-old to write a letter to our local paper or march into a store and ask to speak to a manager about an article or advertising signs. Were any appreciative? I never heard back from the newspaper and still don’t to this day, and yes, I still write and email offering to proof the articles. Store personnel didn’t take kindly to being corrected by a child; and I find today is no different, they still aren’t appreciative.
No one likes to be wrong and especially proven wrong after arguing about a grammatical or spelling error. I’m not always correct myself, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m human and not infallible. The articles I write for this newsletter always come back at least once with needed or suggested edits. We all need a second set of eyes looking at our work.
One of my pet peeves is the reality shows where the subtitles across the bottom of the screen captioning those shows when it’s thought the audience may not understand what’s being said. I am continually aggravated at the companies whose charge it is to have these subtitles transcribed before the show airs. I cannot think of a single 30-minute show that I’ve watched in the last five years that I didn’t get in a temper at least three times over mistyped subtitles.
To switch gears slightly, I made the gradual transition from transcription to proofing about eight years ago, and I have definitely found my niche. While I have never been that fast of a typist, I have always been able to produce fairly clean transcripts. So it was natural after a while to move in the editing direction.
When I first made my transition into proofreading in about 2007, I honestly had no idea that it was not a common practice by companies that all transcripts get proofread. My transcripts had always gone through Question and Answer for the companies I worked for, so I assumed everyone employed this practice. Boy, was I mistaken. When the first company I was a proofreader for and I parted ways, I truly thought, no problem, I’ll be able to easily find another company for which to edit transcripts. Not so. I went from March of 2013 to November of 2013 with no one nibbling at my self-recruitment emails. I got the invariable “we don’t need anyone right now” to the shocking “we don’t have the resources to proofread our transcripts.” WHAT?!?
This is absolutely disheartening to me, especially if it’s legal transcripts. I tell the team I proofread that everybody says things like, “It’s life or death,” but in the case of legal transcripts, it really could be. Recorded statements by police, depositions, and court transcripts all can lend themselves to whether someone is found innocent or guilty, have a successful appeal, or, yes, even whether they receive capital punishment. So why would a transcription firm choose not to proof every transcript before it goes to the client? I have no answer for this. I wish I did, because I know that even as anal as I am about producing clean work, I make mistakes and appreciate having fresh eyes and ears going over my work.
I understand proofreading can be too costly or time intensive for a small firm, but in the long run, if a company has their transcripts proofed, their reputation should soar and in turn servicing more clients definitely becomes an option. Then comes more money. There are those clients who want transcripts “yesterday”; however, in those cases they need to understand that it’s not fair to them or the people they’re representing if a transcript has that one incorrect word or sentence that could cause the whole case to turn on its ear. Time needs to be built into quotes and deadlines in order for every transcript to be proofed.
For those who have worked hard to get CET certification, having those three letters behind your name may be a feather in your cap, but don't let it make you lazy and arrogant. CET does not mean you are perfect and do not need to have your documents proofed. It means you have shown proficiency at a snapshot in time. Continue to progress and don't let yourself grow stagnant by believing that having your CET means you've learned all you can learn or reached the highest level you can reach. Strive for more and continuing improvement because nobody's perfect.
I strongly encourage all companies to have every transcriptionist proofread, even if it’s spot checks every once in a while to make sure they haven’t gotten sloppy or lazy or are just relying on the CET behind their name to be the “voice” of how well they are performing. And those who take offense at being proofed and receiving constructive criticism of your transcripts, stay calm and be proud of yourself by implementing the feedback given and striving to maintain the reputation that a CET deserves.
How do you know if you'd succeed as a proofreader? Do you find yourself proofing web pages, emails, and other forms of written word that you see in your everyday life? Do you watch television shows with captions and pick out the errors while you're watching? You may want to think about putting that nitpicky personality to work in a rewarding career. I've moved fully into proofreading instead of transcribing and I love it. The years of experience in transcription of all flavors (general, medical, legal) set me up perfectly for the transition. To proof or not to proof, that is the question. The answer is in the proof.