And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, Editor Emeritus

... that in a recent column, I mentioned that it is never a good idea for a writer to be his or her own proofreader.
I wrote that after a careless mistake I had made in a previous column.
The wisdom of that thought jumped off the page of The Standard’s next issue.
I do not always read my own column after it is printed. After all, I know what I wrote, right?
I did read my column in the August 6 issue, and screamed “you idiot” at myself while still in the first paragraph.
Because I had written about a “guiding principal.”
Principal. Not principle, as I had intended.
No educator was involved. And I learned the mnemonic of how to spell the different versions of those words that sound alike as far back, as, what, when we had spell downs in seventh grade? The educator, the principal, is your “pal.”
True, we use principal more often than principle, I suppose, which is sort of a sad commentary in and of itself.
But I do know the difference, so it was simply a careless mistake.
In that earlier column, I wrote about the difficulty of teaching a non-English speaking person why there are 12 teams in the Big Ten conference, but 10 teams in the Big 12. That is a comment I had made a few times a year or more ago. But the fact is, there are now 14 teams in the Big 10. And I knew that, even though competition with those new teams doesn’t start until this football season. Again, just a careless mistake.
I know that the editors at the paper sometimes proof my columns, because they have caught past errors. But what I write is still my responsibility.
I expected someone to call me about either or both of those errors, but nobody did. Too polite to insult an old man? Or, horrors, perhaps nobody is reading the column!
From time to time, someone will ask how long I have been writing this column. Earlier this year, I would have done the quick math and said “49 years.”
For a while last week, I almost thought the correct answer should be “too long!”
I don’t blame my age. I suspect I am seduced by the big picture to the point where I ignore the smaller parts. And I am still convinced I have it right on the big picture. Most of the time.
And so will keep trying.
Along that line, I am reading a book about Lebanon and its place in the Muslim-Jewish continuing war. And when I ran across the word “adumbrate” I had to stop and look it up. A great word! Look it up. I seldom am totally as unaware of a word as I was then.
Spell check accepted it. Why didn’t spell check ask me if I was sure about principal!