The proofreader stares at the bifurcated nib of his red pen and tries not to sob. He turns his attention to the manuscript he is currently proofreading. Where he has scored through the word anunciate, there is a distinct doubling of the line. He sighs and returns his gaze to the pen.
Its his favourite pen, a uni-ball Eye Micro. He loves this pen. The nib delivers a beautiful 0.5mm line of fade resistant ink that refuses to bleed, even on low-grade paper. The proofreader is almost certain that the only paper capable of causing the Eye Micro’s ink to bleed is super-absorbent toilet paper. He looks at the ink window in the pen’s barrel and sees that he hasn’t even used half of that clean, bright ink.
Insult to injury, he thinks.
Although he knows he’s wasting his time, the proofreader draws a vertical line down the empty right-hand margin of the manuscript. Unsurprisingly, the mark consists of two distinct elements running in parallel to one another.
“Well, that’s that, then,” he says.
He doesn’t drop the pen into the wastepaper basket next to his desk. Instead, he reaches over his inert laptop and picks up an ornately carved box. The box is made of mahogany or some similar dark timber. The carvings depict an elaborate knot of serpents. It is the kind of box that might hold cigars.
The proofreader opens the box. It doesn’t contain cigars. It contains pens. This is where the proofreaders red pens go when they die. This is the red-pen equivalent of the fabled elephant’s graveyard. There are several Eye Micros, a handful of Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine Points, a trio of Pentel R.S.V.P. 0.7mm Ballpoint Pens and a couple of Sharpies.
The proofreader places the Eye Micro in the cigar box, closes the lid and returns the box.
“No time for sentimentality,” he says. “I’ve got work to be getting on with.”
He looks down at the page he has been proofreading. It’s been hard going. It’s a treatise entitled The Death of Received Pronunciation and the Decline of the BBC. He can’t help wondering if he’d subconsciously sabotaged his pen in order to bring this dreary exercise to a premature halt.
“Never,” he says. “I’d never knowingly hurt a pen.”
He opens the top drawer of his desk and reaches inside.
An expression somewhere between horror, astonishment and embarrassment animates his face. He pulls the drawer open as far as it will go and looks inside.
“No pens,” he says, disbelieving. “No pens.”
This is a disaster. This is an unprecedented disaster. He has been a proofreader for the better part of 20 years and, in all that time, he has never been without a pen.
The proofreader wonders what it must mean. He wonders what it must portend.
Click 'Read More' below for the answers.
In the first paragraph, the word ‘anunciate’ should be ‘annunciate’. However, this is obviously a deliberate error as the word as been scored through by the titular proofreader.
In the second paragraph, ‘Its’ should be ‘It’s’. Also, ‘fade resistant’ should be ‘fade-resistant’ as this is a compound adjective.
In the seventh paragraph, ‘proofreaders’ should be ‘proofreader’s’; and ‘elephant’s’ should be ‘elephants’’ (i.e. plural possessive).
You'll find more proofreading exercises here.
And don't forget to check out our astonishingly affordable proofreading course.