Multi-tasking and the professional proofreader

Interestingly, my successful completion of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ Proofreading Progress course has coincided with news of a study showing why multi-tasking is bad for our brains.

I’m one of those people who would always claim to enjoy and be pretty good at multi-tasking – I think it’s ‘very me’ to keep a number of rather varied interests going at the same time. No surprise I’ve taken to social media, especially Twitter, as I can now ‘follow’ all of my interests all of the time. Yet I have noticed that while I absolutely love this, I end up being rather distracted and stop-starting all the time – less an actor than a consumer, flitting between everything that’s on offer and never fully absorbed in any one issue.

So, what’s all that to do with proofreading? As I was progressing through the progress course it struck me that the art of proofreading lies to a large extent in being able to multi-task successfully.

When checking a document you need to be on the lookout for quite a number of things: from spelling (of course) to lay-out (visual so I like this) to consistency of tone and style (tricky), as well as to who introduced or missed errors (mistakes cost in publishing as they do elsewhere!). But, and here’s my point, this kind of multi-tasking does not seem to make my head spin in the same way that keeping an eye simultaneously on my Twitter, LinkedIn and email feeds clearly does – not forgetting the temptations of on-demand digital services!

I guess in proofreading, however many aspects we consider, we still remain focused on a single matter – checking and correcting a document so it can be better understood by its eventual audience. This kind of multi-tasking that gets our brains working on multiple aspects all relating to one overarching task is what I’ll try and do more of!


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