Admonitions to “measure twice and cut once” or to “proofread before hitting send” are likely based on learning from painful, yet avoidable, mistakes.
Careful, accurate documentation is obviously essential in medicine, law, and business; but I suggest it is essential in everything we write.
This past week I took a trip with my husband to southern Indiana where the Mayfield family first settled in the early 1800’s. We were in search of his great-great grandfather’s parents. The mystery would not be a mystery if it were not for an error left unchecked on a death certificate.
When Joe’s great-great grandfather passed away, at the age of 88, the attending physician was the deceased’s own son and my husband’s great-grandfather. In his grief, Dr. George Mayfield wrote his own parents’ names in the spaces where the names of his father’s mother and father belonged. This mistake was carried over onto all of the other official records of his death. No one caught it, or if they did, corrected it. On top of that, documentation listing family members in other official records is scanty and inconsistent. Newspaper stories and DNA evidence are helping narrow the search – but it wouldn’t have to be so hard if one mistake had been caught.
This experience has strengthened my resolve to be as vigilant as possible in checking and double-checking my work. It also highlights the value in peer review and multiple editors carefully reviewing our work.
Even a quick text or email deserves a reread before sending. How often a typo or an unintended autocorrect leads to a misunderstanding. Completely unnecessary.
What are you writing or documenting that deserves checking and rechecking? Future generations may thank you.
If you’ve never watched Taylor Mali perform “The the impotence of proofreading” you deserve a good laugh – https://ed.ted.com/on/THsiwdgA
To read it: https://taylormali.com/poems/the-the-impotence-of-proofreading/
“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it
is committing another mistake.”