Ode to the Squiggly Red Line

I’ve been proofreading on paper this week, and I’ve missed my squiggly red line.

You know the one: the thin red line that pops up on the computer screen when Microsoft Word thinks it has detected a misspelling. I’m a good speller—and a good editor—so I can spot most misspelled words with or without Word’s assistance.

But without the squiggly red line, I get stalled by words like ubiquitous and prerequisite. Accommodate and occurrence slow me down too.

little red line

little red lineReading on paper, I have to slow down and examine certain terms letter by letter. Yet when I slow down too much, words start to look wrong even when they’re right!big thin red line

I’m sure that red pens and Number 2 pencils will always have a place in my editing toolkit. But I think it’s time for me to show some appreciation for the useful, powerful, helpful, squiggly red line.

Thank you, squiggly red line, for helping me zip through daunting words like commodities or lieutenant without a second glance.

Thank you, squiggly red line, for not slowing me down when I can’t remember how many l’s in millennial or n’s in centennial. I just type, comfortable in the knowledge that if I miscount, you will throw your squiggly self beneath the offending word, allowing me to try again until it stands proudly unadorned.

Thank you, squiggly red line, for letting me teach you new words so that you never mistakenly flag eDitmore and I don’t have to look twice at Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Thank you, little squiggly red line, for making my life easier—one word at a time.

January 30, 2015

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Tammy Ditmore edited my book, The Quest for Distinction: Pepperdine University in the 20th Century. It was a huge assignment, requiring skills that set her apart from most professional editors. She re… Read more
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