I’m Not A Great Proofreader Of My Own Work, And I’ve Got Lots Of Company

Put two writers in a room together, and sooner or later – usually sooner – they’ll be sharing stories of errors they missed in their own work.

“I’m a great proofreader of other people’s work,” one says, “but proofing my own?  Forget about it.”

It’s just a fact that for the most part, writers are their own worst proofreaders.

And there’s actually a scientific – and comforting – reason for it.

According to this article:

“When we’re proofreading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey.  Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent.  The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.”

So if I type “to” when I meant “too,” my brain knows I meant “too” and sees that instead.

And I’ve done that, to. 

I mean, too.

I’m guessing that the same not-catching-your-own-errors premise was at work when an artist at the Ohio Department of Public Safety recently created this art for Ohio’s new standard license plate, the state’s first update in eight years:

It’s pretty, isn’t it?

It even has a pretty name:

“Sunrise in Ohio.”

Everyone was all smiles when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine unveiled the plate at a ceremony on October 21, according to this story:

The new design features not only the rural part of the state, but also its cities.  Fields and a river are pictured, with a distant view of a city in the background.  Backed by this are rays of sunshine and the state’s seal, followed by the state’s nickname, “Birthplace of Aviation”:

DeWine was almost rhapsodic:

“This is something that we are, in Ohio, very proud of, the innovators, the scientists, the engineers, the people who have created things in Ohio and continue to do so.”

“We love Ohio’s heritage as the birthplace of aviation, so our newly designed plate reflects all of these.”

DeWine noted that he and First Lady Fran DeWine both played a role in the new design, and that “First of all, our goal was to reflect the beauty of Ohio.  We also wanted the plate to represent the diversity of Ohio in the sense of the geography of Ohio.”

Yes, it was a proud day for everyone – the Governor and First Lady, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), that artist at the Department of Public Safety…

But maybe not so much for Wilbur and Orville Wright, whose plane, the Wright Flyer, is depicted on the plate.

“Holy Toledo!” the Wrights may be saying.  “They’ve got our plane flying backwards!”

Yes, it’s true.

Here’s a close-up of the plane on the license plate, and an image of the Wright Flyer with the pilot in place:

The Wright Flyer’s propellors are on the back of the plane, and those flat things in the front – they’re called “elevators,” two horizontal pieces that allow the plane to change altitude.

You may be thinking, “Hey – that’s counterintuitive!  Propellors on the back of a plane?”

Well, it worked for Wilbur and Orville at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903, so who are we to argue?

Back to the backwards airplane.

I’m not knocking the artist from the Ohio Department of Public Safety – I’ve made creative errors that match, and may outdo, this one.

But my logic says that he would have had a picture or photo of the Wright Flyer to use as his model for the image on the license plate.

Though perhaps the image he used didn’t include a pilot, like this one:

And from this, you could easily assume the pilot would be facing the propellors.

Which the artist did.

And apparently the governor and his wife did.

And everyone involved from the Ohio BMV, and the Department of Public Safety.

And everyone involved at Lebanon Correctional Institution where inmates had made 35,000 incorrect plates.

And everyone attending that October 21 unveiling of the plate.


On unveiling day, the Ohio BMV tweeted this:

And someone, somewhere, pointed out that the positioning of the airplane – as one wit put it – was “Not quite Wright.”

And someone, somewhere, at the BMV or Department of Public Safety, found an image of a Wright Flyer with a pilot, flipped the image, and within hours the BMV had apologized for the error and released an updated version with the plane facing the other way. The updated version is first:

Which was followed by numerous headlines like this one:

To that artist at the Ohio Department of Public Safety who created the incorrect image, I say:

I know what it’s like to create something I think is error-free, and I put it out there for the world to see, and then someone, somewhere catches a glaring error that wasn’t glaring at me.

I feel your pain.

To the taxpayers of Ohio, I say:

I feel your pain.

After all, taxpayers paid for those first 35,000 plates which, according to this story:

“…could weigh anywhere from 7,000 pounds to 17,500 pounds total.”

The taxpayers will pay for tons of aluminum plates to be recycled.

And for thousands of new plates to be printed.

With regards to cost of all this, the state weaseled on that:

“‘It is too early to know about if there will be any additional cost,’ said Lindsey Bohrer, assistant director of communications with the Ohio Department of Public Safety.”

We’ve heard no follow-up regarding the cost to taxpayers, which comes as no surprise.

But – instead of incurring all these additional costs to taxpayers, perhaps the authorities should have just kept the incorrect plates and used them.

Just slap a sticker on ‘em and…

Change the state’s nickname from “Birthplace of Aviation” to…

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