Text of John 3:16 written with several homonyms in place of the correct words.

Digital and Human Proofing: the Hybrid Approach to Bible Proofreading

Almost anyone who spent time in front of a television set in the 1970s remembers the hit series the Six Million Dollar Man. You can probably still see Colonel Steve Austin’s eyes as he realizes his NASA test flight is failing. You may still picture his ship crashing to the earth. Can you hear the narrator? “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capabil­ity to make the world’s first bionic man.”

By the end of the opening credits, Austin has been rebuilt with several bionic body parts. He can now run sixty miles an hour. He’s got telescopic vision. And he’s strong enough to take down any criminal and send him flying into the nearest police station. He has become a cyborg—part man, part machine. He is now “better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster.”

And all for a measly $6 million.

In its heyday, the Six Million Dollar Man was outlandish, campy fun. But more than four decades later, technology has managed to move many crazy ideas from the realm of science fiction into scientific reality. Stunning advancements in robotics, computer technology, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) are radically changing how the
world works.

This is true even in Bible publishing. At Peachtree, we depend more and more on advancing technology to help us deliver Bible projects that are both beautiful and error-free.

Don’t misunderstand. No one on our staff is bionic. We’ve never hired a cyborg (that we know of). But we do take advantage of the best and latest technology, even as our team continues to offer wise judgment on every page of every project.

We’re convinced that modern Bible publishing requires the latest digital tools and the best human expertise. We rely on both.

The Role of “Machines”

When we onboard a new project from a client, we use proprietary, custom-built software programs to do what only they can do. They’re fast and highly reliable. Very quickly, we can verify that the Bible text is complete: every verse is present and every paragraph is accounted for.

We further use our advanced digital tools to search for specific problem areas and to ensure that passages are presented correctly. When we discover a unique problem, we can create a custom search tool to identify and locate other places in a project where that same problem might occur.

If, for example, the siglum (plural sigla)—that tiny symbol that points to a footnote or marginal note—is too close to the chapter number, we can quickly develop and run a search that locates other places where this occurs. Advanced tools like these not only save time and increase accuracy but also relieve the stress of wondering if we’ve found all the occurrences of a problem.

The Role of Humans

Electronic tools make great servants but poor masters. They’re incredibly helpful, but on their own they’re incomplete. Computers still cannot read with a human’s discernment. If a space between words is too great or too small or just doesn’t “feel” right, a computer can’t tell you that.

And consider an electronic tool as simple as spell-check. This resource has amazing power and can save its users much embarrassment. But if you rely solely on spell-check and fail to pass a human eye over the same text, you could end up with quite a few mistakes. Spellcheck doesn’t catch homophones (words that are pronounced the same but are spelled differently). Consider an example:

Four God sew loved the whirled that He gave his only begotten sun that whomever believes in hymn should not parish but have eternal life.

That nonsensical sentence will pass your spell-check program, but it will also earn you plenty of one-star reviews.

Our Hybrid Scripture Integrity Program

While the world’s best Bible typesetters have character-for-character tools that can verify the Bible text, these tools are not foolproof. They’re only as good as the operators using them. Mistakes can (and do) still slip through even the most sophisticated comparison programs.

Some of the things these programs cannot catch:

  • The spacing between words
  • The correct location of running heads
  • The proper placement of text boxes on each page

For this reason, Bible typesetting and proofreading is best done with a hybrid proofing approach: humans and machines. We find our electronic tools sync well with (a) the rigorous checks our experienced Scripture Integrity Team uses and (b) the electronic checks employed by the typesetters.

The Human Element at Work

Our team still prints out every page of most Bible projects. We study each page intently, checking even the distribution of ink on paper. Research suggests that the human eye is more forgiving toward text on screens than on paper. So proofreaders who rely solely on what they can see on a computer screen often miss things that can only be seen on a physical page.

Our approach is to let computers be computers and let readers be readers. By having our skilled team work in tandem with the latest and most effective proofing technologies, we’re best able to hit our target: producing perfect Bibles.

To the outside observer, our offices may not look as exciting as the world of the Six Million Dollar Man. But we Bible proofers are Word nerds through and through, and we think this life is pretty exciting.

The best Bible proofing is a hybrid of computer and human effort.

 Contact us for a quote.