I read a post on LinkedIn that actually made me think. It was entitled ‘do you overuse exclamation marks?’
I don’t think I do. But I do use a lot of semi-colons. I use them far more than most people whose writing I’ve been familiar with over the years, be that authors, journalists or colleagues. I then wondered whether, if someone were to proofread my writing, they’d remove a lot of my semi-colons. Would they see them as errors? I could understand if they did take a red pen to my writing.
But then would what was left really be my writing? Would it read as though it had been thought and written by me? Or would it have become something bland and impersonal? And that’s the crux of proofreading; it’s relatively easy to spot spelling errors, repeated words and random changes of font. What’s much harder is to leave a piece of writing in a state that it still carries and puts across the writer’s unique style and personality. Ultimately, it’s why a well-trained proofreader is a professional who’s worth seeking out and developing a strong professional relationship with. Someone who understands you can refine your work in a way that many self-styled proofreaders on various freelancing websites cannot. It’s a skill that is worth paying for; and yes, I do have a very clear interest in that argument, but it’s something I also believe very strongly.