What do they have in Common? Quite a lot, actually!
“A view from behind the stumps“
If, like me, you are a keen cricket fan, you will be well aware of the man standing behind the stumps and will probably look at the one wearing all the protective gear – the wicketkeeper. But spare a thought for the chap at the other end who invariably has his back to the TV camera.
I’m talking about the umpire – after all a cricket match can’t start without one – or preferably two! The umpires are the most important people on the field of play and their task is to keep a close eye on proceedings and make key decisions when called upon to do so.
But what does an umpire have in common with a proofreader? Well, the role of an umpire can be compared quite easily to that of a proofreader when you look at the various qualities required to perform each role.
The qualities required to be a cricket umpire include:
a) Concentration – an umpire must have the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Every delivery is a potential LBW decision-in-waiting and an umpire must concentrate on all the aspects of the delivery in case he is called upon to make a judgement. He will have a split second to make his decision. In the event that he is not called upon to adjudge LBW, he must remain instantly aware as to what is happening and, when necessary, make the correct signal for the benefit of the scorers.
b) Knowledge of the laws of cricket – needless to say an umpire must know the laws of the game and the local playing conditions and how to interpret them at any given moment during the match.
c) Impartiality – an umpire must remain impartial at all times and not favour one team over the other.
d) Respect – an umpire will respect the players from both sides and will expect the players to respect his decisions.
e) Technology – the elite umpires these days have access to all sorts of technology to aid their decision making. Unfortunately, at grass roots level, this technology is not available and the umpire must rely on his powers of observation in order to make a split second decision.
Let’s compare these qualities with those required by a proofreader:
a) Concentration – a proofreader must have an eye for detail and therefore be able to concentrate for long periods in order to identify the smallest of errors. As much proofreading is done ‘on-screen’ nowadays, it is advisable to take frequent breaks to give the eyes a bit of respite (which an umpire can also do, to a certain extent, when standing at square leg and when his colleague is behind the stumps – always assuming that there are two umpires officiating, which is not always the case in some grass roots cricket – thereby making the powers of concentration even more important!)
b) Knowledge of the rules of proofreading – proofreaders are trained to use the British Standard Proofreading Symbols. This is vital when proofreading hard copies on behalf of book publishers. Nevertheless, the skill of when to use each symbol appropriately comes through much practice and experience
c) Impartiality – if authors proofread their own work, no matter how many times it is read and re-read, errors will still be found. Proofreaders reading a piece of work for the first time will remain impartial throughout and be much more likely to spot errors first time around.
d) Respect – proofreaders will always respect the author’s voice and will never seek to change this without obtaining the author’s agreement.
e) Technology – much modern day proofreading is done ‘on-screen’ using such tools as Track Changes in MS Word. A proofreader, therefore, has to be familiar with and keep up-to-date with technological advances as well as remaining familiar with the traditional methods of proofreading on hard copies. The ease with which documents can be emailed between publisher/ author and the proofreader has made life a lot easier but at the same time has increased the pressure on proofreaders to turn a document around that much quicker.
It’s remarkable how similar the qualities are, however, I suppose one difference between an umpire and a proofreader is that, by and large, a proofreader does his work sitting down! An umpire is on his feet for the entire game which, in the case of a Test Match, can go on for five days and will require significant levels of stamina.
So what’s the moral of this little tale?
Just as an umpire is crucial to a game of cricket, a proofreader is crucial in the process of publishing a book or business document. Without either, the outcome could be very costly.
Without an umpire, the game of cricket is much poorer. Without a proofreader, your business could be much poorer for maybe having to reprint books or documents when you could easily have got it right first time.
I’m a qualified cricket umpire and I am also a trained proofreader, so please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you think I can help you or your business to “get it right first time”.