Proof Negative…

I am sad to report that my editor and proofreader, Heidi, has decided to retire. She has been correcting me for 22 years. Only my wife has beaten her record. When Heidi first told me she was quitting, I panicked. To be honest, many of the mistakes she found over the years were the result of my haste to get a new idea fleshed out, and my knowing that in her capable hands everything would be checked. Is it French Poodle or French poodle? French fries or french fries? I never worried about stuff like that because I knew Heidi would either know the correct usage or would google it. Sometimes she would just underline phrases and say something very subtle like: NOT FUNNY!

The big question now was: who would replace her?  Within hours, Mary Ellen volunteered for the job. My wife is an excellent proofer, but I have real concerns about how this will affect our relationship. Heidi and I often disagreed and got into wording arguments. Mary Ellen told me that if she took on this task, she was the boss and there would be no quibbling.  I was to do what I was told. This was also in our wedding vows.

I had to be sure she could be objective with my writing, so I created a little test. I wrote a paragraph about an upcoming trip we have planned to compare Heidi’s proofreading skills against Mary Ellen’s. Following is the first draft that I filled with intentional (and some, I am sure, unintentional) errors.

Mary Ellen and me are planning a trip to Washington D.C for a short week end. While in our Nations Capitol we will stay at the Downtown Holliday Inn.  I hope that we have time to do other things like visit the Smithsonian Institute and the International Spy Mueum! I look forward to seeing alumnus from George Washington University and I look forward to dinners at some of the old joints we used to go to.

Here’s the version Heidi corrected. Can you see the differences?

Mary Ellen and I are planning a trip to Washington, DC, for a short weekend. While in our nation’s capital, we will stay at the downtown Holiday Inn. I really want to visit the Smithsonian Institution and the International Spy Museum. Most of all, I Iook forward to seeing the alumni I worked with from The George Washington University and then having dinners at some of the old joints we used to frequent.

Here are the changes Mary Ellen made:

My beautiful wife and I are planning a trip to Washington, DC, for a long weekend. While in our nation’s capital, we will stay at the Waldorf Astoria and we will spend an entire day at the National Gallery of Art, viewing their French sculpture exhibit. Most of all, I look forward to visiting with one of Mary Ellen’s longtime friends who lives in DC. Mary Ellen and I can’t wait to dine at Imperfecto, which is known to be among DC’s most exclusive and swanky restaurants.

After I read her edited version, I said to my wife, “You fixed all the grammatical and spelling mistakes, but you also changed our trip.” We discussed it and before the conversation got heated, we came to an agreement. Now she’s my travel agent, too.

– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@