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The Zen of Proofreading


I remember a couple of things about my study of Zen. The first was the importance of “beginner’s mind”. In his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki, the Zen master wrote:

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s there are few.”

The other thing I remember is that even if you have cultivated your beginner’s mind, you may not be ready for the teacher to hit you with a bamboo stick after you’ve been sitting for several hours. It will be a welcome relief from numb bum anyway.

But when I think about proofing, I believe an empty mind is the best way to approach it. The longer you can let your writing sit, so that you can come back to it with an empty mind, the better.

I’m not saying I’m successful — if you’ve spent any time around The Skwib I’m sure you’ll have seen all kinds of proofing abominations. This is why I pay proofreaders to go over my long-form work. The Fridgularity had a half-dozen kind-hearted friends do the first rounds of proofing, and then I hired two separate proofers to correct my various linguistic crimes. (This was AFTER two editors also had a shot.)

But for the blog writing I do, I just don’t have the money or time for this approach. I can muster up the beginner’s mind, but that’s more so I can accept the fact that when I look at this post a year from now, I’ll see any number of problems.

At least there’s no bamboo pole waiting for me then.

Alltop thinks grammar is hilarious. Originally published June, 2013.