Mistakes keep us real

Judith Victoria Hensley - Plain Thoughts

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I made a spelling mistake in my column last week for which I would like to apologize. I used the wrong word for sowing, spelling it as sewing. I appreciate the reader who sent me an email to point it out. That’s what happens when I am writing in the wee hours after midnight and don’t even catch a mistake when I proofread because my brain is seeing it as it should be, and not the mistake.

I just finished reading an article about a near death experience by Dr. Eben Alexander, a noted Harvard neurosurgeon, which is hailed as one of the most credible accounts to prove there is life after death, and to be taken seriously in the scientific community. He described being surrounded by inexplicable, all consuming love. He has written a book about the experience called Proof of Heaven. (Anyone wanting to hear more can find an ABC interview with Dr. Alexander on YouTube.)

The article made it through the writer’s hands and the editor’s rereading, but the word “do” was used where it should have said “due.” Somehow this made me feel a bit better after having had my mistake pointed out by a reader.

Our brains are marvelous in their abilities to multi-task and to process so much information at one time. We often have all of our five senses overstimulated in the middle of working on something that needs very narrow attention. My fingers have a hard time keeping up with the speed of my thought processes when I write. I find this especially true when working on a longer written project such as a book that must have character development or plot enrichment. My brain gets engaged in the creative side and I become more likely to use an incorrect word, or use a word incorrectly.

I am sure that those who write a lot can relate to this. Often I will put a project aside for a time before I try to go back and proofread. If I finish and start the rereading process immediately, I don’t catch errors as often as when I have had a complete break from the project and reread it with “fresh” eyes.

I often find errors in emails I have sent. I recently enjoyed a quote on Facebook that said, “I do my best proof-reading after I press send.” One of the triumphs of students in my classes while I was still teaching was to find errors in new textbooks. There were very few of them, but a student would sometimes discovered one and be thrilled to be the one who had found it.

I know that I am not a perfect in any regard. Finding a mistake in something I’ve written certainly reminds me of this truth. Having someone else point out an error for spelling or incorrect use of grammar is even more embarrassing. I confess that I depend largely on my computer’s ability to highlight misspelled words with a red underline, or a blue one to point out a grammatical error. However, even the proofreading software of a computer can and does miss some obvious mistakes.

It is very ironic that I just had a conversation last week in a restaurant with someone paying a compliment to my writing style and how they appreciated that I didn’t make glaring mistakes in what I write. I’m sure that if she read my most recent column, she caught the error in it.

I really didn’t mind the person who took her time to contact me and point out my use of the wrong word. I appreciate knowing that people read what I have written. A newspaper columnist has the task and privilege of writing about the world from their personal perspective. To have made a mistake in print is always embarrassing, but I promise to try and do better.

Reach Judith Victoria Hensley at [email protected] or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.

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Judith Victoria Hensley

Plain Thoughts

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