Mark Hammer

There is something to be said for having naive proof-readers. We know from considerable research that experts in a field can often mistake what they already know for what may actually not have been said in a text. Indeed, that’s one of the very reasons we need to have someone else proof-read our documents: we’ve been staring at them for so long, we can’t tell the difference between what’s on the page and what we intended to say. So, knowing nothing about the text permits someone to catch the sorts of errors that may elude our own eyes.

On the other hand, if you’ve ever handed a document to someone, in the hopes that they will provide the services of an editor, and improve the document, and the best they can come up with is tiny superficial corrections, such as flipped letters (“wehn” instead of “when”), it can prove frustrating.

There is algorithmic proof-reading of the meticulous superficial variety, and there is heuristic proof-reading, that relies on a degree of understanding about the ideas and communicative intent of the writer. Do NOT rely on your management to necessarily understand the document at a deeper level. All the same, they still have to make it look like they went through the document…which is where the little low-level corrections peppering the document are likely to come from.

If you’ve ever been to grad school, there are many folk-legends about thesis/dissertation committee members who ask bizarre questions during the defense that seem to come from out of the blue. I can assure you that a large segment of those result from the committee member trying to distract from the fact that they have not either understood the thesis or read it.