Proofreaders – the goalkeepers of Quality Assurance

Danele Buso, Unsplash
Danele Buso, Unsplash

When you get on a plane, it’s filthy dirty and you watch the neighbouring plane having its luggage thrown carelessly out of the cargo hold, do you think to yourself, ‘I hope the mechanics were a bit more thorough’? Yet very few companies have their websites and service level agreements quality checked before putting them out in the public domain.

Then the trouble starts.  A client pushes their luck and there’s nothing you can do because your service level agreement has a gaping hole in it. Your website promises the earth because in your familiarity with the text, you didn’t notice you missed a word out.  That word is normally ‘not’, so you’ve just promised the exact opposite of what you’ve intended.

If all this seems logical, my question is, why aren’t you engaging the services of a proofreader?  It doesn’t have to be me, although of course I’d prefer it if it was.

Would any team, football, ice hockey or netball, take to the pitch/ice/court without a goalkeeper?  I think not.  Yet the majority of PhD students won’t pay to have their theses proofread until they’ve been given minor corrections.

If this seems like a false economy to you, why not change this?

What is proofreading?

Officially, proofreading is checking for spelling, grammar, punctuation and sense.  This is different from editing.  Proofreaders aren’t responsible for making sure you stay ‘on message’ or that you don’t have a glaring hole in your plot or argument.  In truth, those of us who are good, and who have a sense of integrity, are not going to set you up to fail like that. We  will go out of their way to pick you up on those things.

Markus Spiske, Unsplash

Officially, proofreaders don’t make changes.  They make suggestions for improvement.  Many of us have worked in some kind of training, teaching or other empowering roles, so our reports do sometimes read like marking, but we don’t use red pens!  In fact, these days we mainly use computers, but traditionally we use blue pencils.  My great aunt was a proofreader for the BBC World Service and I still have some of her reassuringly chunky pencils.  One is in a memory box; the rest are still being used for their original purpose on the rare occasions I get a printed out manuscript.  The work is in my blood.

So, my question is, do you treat your quality assurance and proofreading like a ropy Sunday League team, who puts the kid who turns up every week, full of enthusiasm, but with no aptitude, in goal?  Or do you treat it in the same way the first division teams do, investing in trained, experienced personnel, and encouraging and empowering them with as much information and support as possible?  If you want to move the quality of all your words to the premier league, contact us now.

Cats and Other Nonhuman Companions

Why cats you may be asking? Why not, I reply?

We are living in extremely weird times, no social interaction, wearing face coverings, no schools, working from home and the wonderful technology of Zoom.

We here at CoomberSewell Enterprises LLP https://www.coombersewell.co.uk/ own two delightful, but very different, further babies.

Now Kevin is of a mature age,  a little rickety on the back legs, and sleeps more than his younger counterpart. Kevin is a tabby cat, who has lived life to the full and has the raggedy ear ends to prove it. He is not so keen on catching mice as he once was but will happily eat up the remains that his female companion hunts for him. Kevin likes nothing more to come and sit on our laps and snuggle up under our chins whilst we scratch his neck and ears. He will purr contentedly all the time it suits him; he will move from my lap to her lap and then back to my lap until he gets bored when he will walk around the furniture until he can sit contentedly on the windowsill watching the world go by.

And then there is Woof… A female tabby cat who is a little confused by her name and lives the persona of both cat and dog. Woof has her own personal slave who tends to her every whim and need. Her slave is autistic, a recluse and a selective mute. For him Woof is his constant companion. She lives in his bedroom with him, and though he cannot tolerate human physical contact she is allowed to snuggle into him for warmth and tummy cuddles. She persuades him several times a day to feed her Dreamies, to play games which do include the occasional scratch and bite when he least expects it.

These two cats are a delight to the whole household and in these times of lockdown have become a source of distraction and fun.

Perhaps I should also mention our eight chickens who live in a very large luxurious sun house with a huge fenced in enclosure to run around and play in. Now, I would not want you to think that these chickens are in any way, spoilt after all they only provide us with eggs everyday which we sell on to very appreciative friends and neighbours. Inside their wonderful sun house they have a large shelf that they snuggle together on, to sleep every night. They have eight nesting boxes, though I am unsure why they only lay their eggs in one? They have food and water, a ladder to walk up to their bed, sawdust on the floor and a large bale of hay to keep them warm. Out in their run they have two logs to jump on and off of and to find insects to nibble on. They have home-made climbing frames and on the 1st of January they acquired their own Christmas tree. In their run they also have a large bale of straw which has been de-roped, and they have scattered to their hearts’ content. They also have an automatic feeder which these very clever chickens have quickly learned that if they jump onto the treadle the lid pops opens and they can feed to their tummy’s content. Every morning my other half takes them out scraps of food left over from us humans, laced with plain biscuits and warm water. She changes their roosting paper, cleans up their mess, checks their water and their feeder to keep our delightful, productive chickens happy in their daily task. Every evening she visits them again, cleans up after them again, and entices them back in to their warm sun house with delightful treats.

And of course there are the fish, some who live outside in the pond with lots of lily pads and pondweed. The other fish live a warm life in their tropical tank filled with beautiful plants, a sunken pirate ship, beautiful stones and slate.  Today they welcomed 10 new companions, making them welcome in their tropical home.

I hope you have some furry friends or other nonhuman companions to help you through these difficult times. Cuddles, fussing and talking to our beloveds helps with the feeling of isolation, loneliness and the long days.

But should you need a chat with a fellow human please don’t forget we are always here, willing and able to listen and help where we can. info@coombersewell.co.uk

Phoenix from the Ashes – Happy New Year!

My first company was called HG Phoenix.  It didn’t last long – I met Joyce and it quickly got absorbed into what is now CoomberSewell Enterprises.  As any business which has survived the ashes of 2020 may be doing right now, I’ve been thinking about the symbolism of the phoenix from the ashes. I’ve been thinking about the future and how sometimes to move forward, we need to acknowledge our backgrounds and how we are the product of our upbringings, for good or ill.

New Beginnings

When I started HG Phoenix, I’d just resigned from a job with a boss who later had a class action taken out against them for bullying.  The choice of Phoenix was the obvious one. I was rising from the ashes of my tattered confidence, but there was also a family connection.  My mum always told stories of a distant ancestor called Sarah Phoenix Perfect, who, she had always been led to believe ‘came from the gypsies’.  I couldn’t call the company ‘Perfect Proofreading’. That would be opening myself up to all sorts of trouble, but I had always had a romantic fascination with SPP, as I call her in my head. I never believed the ‘gypsy’ tales but resolved that if I ever wrote romantic or erotic fiction, this would be my pen name.  I haven’t written the novel (yet). Years on however, my parents have genealogy as their major non-faith pastime and it turns out its probably true. SPP is real, and she was adopted into the family from a traveller background.  As my theology colleague Steven Horne can attest, traveller records can be a little… oral, so after that, the trail goes cold.

Background

The HG was simple – my father’s middle initials, and I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl.  It was with my parents’ faith in me, and encouragement from an unforeseen quarter, that I set out on my new adventure.  The internationally renowned jazz singer and radio presenter Clare Teal, who I knew a little and whose opinion I value to this day, encouraged me to do what I was passionate about and made me happy. The rest would follow.  The path has been winding, but CoomberSewell Enterprises is a quietly successful business.  Some people question the use of the word Enterprises, but we use it as a reflection of our mindset; innovative, enterprising, hopeful and kind.

Moving Forward

As you shake the ashes of 2020 off your feet, whatever it has cost you whether that is your job, family members or security, I encourage you to look at the strong foundations your upbringing has provided you, however barren the landscape looks.  I totally acknowledge my good fortune in my upbringing in have hard working parents who instilled strong values in me.  No family situation is perfect, and others will have got their strengths and values despite their upbringing.  Nevertheless, that is where the stories we tell ourselves are rooted.  If you are having trouble seeing the wood from the ash, do contact us for a mentoring session with Joyce.