C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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Proofing a manuscript

My local newspaper fired its copy editors as a cost-saving measure. Now typos and grammatical errors abound. It’s a detail that particularly bothers older readers and fired copy editors. It’s happened in publishing as well. Fewer bodies mean fewer lines of defence against the dark arts errors in manuscripts.

When I was a proofreader for a publisher, the manuscripts had already gone through the author-editor-copy editor-first proofreader stages. I’d put the books together on computer and probably find up to thirty-five errors on average. The last proofer might find two to eight formatting errors or problems that I missed if it was an especially long book. By the end of all that, the text would be pretty clean. (I’m not counting the errors readers think are errors but aren’t. Usually this rears up when people misunderstand the differences between affect, effect, comprise and American vs. English english.)

If you catch a lot of problems in a published book, that may mean the book is self-published and an editor didn’t look at it at all. It may also indicate the publisher cut back on the expense of multiple lines of defence (proofers and editors.) Another possibility is that the manuscript was packed with errors to begin with and lots of errors were caught, but the sheer number of typos overwhelmed the worker drones.

When next you notice a short guy has turned into a tall guy or someone’s eye color has changed or you see a flock of geese instead of a gaggle, you’ll know why. I’ve just finished reading a Writer’s Digest book and noticed ten or so errors. I don’t get too self-righteous about it, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t irk me, especially when you think of all those people who are now out of work. With the idiosyncrasies of text messaging, the new generation of readership are much more tolerant of textual errors than their parents and grandparents.

Curmudeonly grammarians are a pain, but too many errors are distracting and can detract from reader’s confidence in the work.

Filed under: Books, publishing, , ,

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