Monday, April 8, 2013

Fear Factors for Writers and Editors

From Kate's Writing Crate...
         For writers and editors, typos and factual errors are a constant source of anxiety and, if we are honest, a source of pride as well when we spot them before publication–or in another writer's text.
         Recently, I found mistakes in a blog (phased was used instead of fazed), in an article (flack instead of flak), and in a book (a commercial airport was placed in Newport, Rhode Island instead of Warwick, Rhode Island which is referred to as Providence by the FAA–confusing which is why research is necessary).
         But I don't feel smug when I catch mistakes like these. At any moment, all writers and editors are only a misplaced letter away from disaster.
         In the funny and delightful Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman has a chapter about typos entitled "Inset a Carrot/Insert a Caret." On page 82, Fadiman shares that the first sentence in the first printing of Beverly Sill's autobiography read: "When I was only three and still named Belle Miriam Silverman, I sang my first aria in pubic."
         How many people proofed and edited that book? Yet this typo got past all of them.
        No one is perfect so errors will be made. Each one is just a matter of degree. Is it stupid, but trivial or mortifying and will haunt you forever?

          I still shudder to think that the title Education Commishioner instead of Education Commissioner almost appeared in a caption I was editing. It would have been twice as mortifying to me as it appeared after the word education! 
         As a writer and an editor, I try to live by the rule to look up everything I am unsure of no matter how small. Take a moment to double check spellings, titles, and facts either at or open up a dictionary or other reference books. It's gratifying to confirm you are right, but it's more exhilarating when you prevent a typo or an error that would have lived on forever in print.
         As someone once said, "Being a proofreader is like being a goalie: no one remembers all the shots you blocked, only the ones that got by you." However, unlike a goalie who is applauded for each save, no one knows or cares how many errors we writers and editors prevented. Readers only see what we missed.
         There ought to be a chat room–or maybe there already is–where writers and editors can discuss and celebrate their proofreading saves. We work long hours and under extreme pressure at deadlines to prevent errors. Why shouldn't we get some appreciation for it? Plus, reading about other people's corrections will prevent us from repeating them in our own work.
         The typos and errors that do get by us don't need to be discussed amongst ourselves. Readers and critics will let us know about them or, in the nightmare scenario, they will be highlighted on national TV by a late night talk show host.
What typos or errors have you caught or missed?

1 comment:

  1. I am a good secretary but a lousy proof-reader. I see what I expect to see, no matter how often I check. In my new position (same employer, different office) I work with a team and we proof together. At least three of us. Multiple reads. And still mistakes get by.

    We recently printed a list of honor students. Checked. Re-checked. Checked yet again. By all of us. Together and separate.y. After publication, I sent the list to another office for another event. You guessed it: we misspelled a student's name. Arghhhh!!!

    I need to bookmark some of your reference tools. Oh yes. I do.