Inevitably, when each of my books first comes out, I get notes from readers catching typos. “ Doesn’t anyone proofread anymore?” they ask plaintively.
The answer? YES! I carefully read through looking for errors, as do my editor, my agent, my assistant, and more people at the publishing house than I care to count. And still, when the copyeditor gets the manuscript, she’ll find a typo or two. The eye plays games, especially when you’ve read a book numerous times. You know what the word is supposed to be, so that’s what you see. (Actually, I just typed “numberous,” which I often do since my fingers are more attuned to typing “number” than “numerous,” which is why I proofread this blog before posting.)
I’ve just finished going through the copyedited version of Sweet Salt Air, and I’d say that the copyeditor caught at least a dozen typos. But that isn’t all she caught. Other examples?
Commas. You can talk about a peanut butter, jelly, and fluff sandwich or a peanut butter, jelly and fluff sandwich – series of three items or phrases, the last two of which are either separated or not by commas. I wrote the latter, but since house style is the former, commas were inserted.
Hyphens. I wrote email; house style is e-mail.
Capitalization. Is it web or Web, internet or Internet? Moreover, words like Jet Ski, Jacuzzi, and Jello are trademarked and therefore must be capitalized. When you blow your nose, you either use a Kleenex or a tissue. Get the idea?
Em dashes. These are the long dashes I often use — like this, when I want to add a little something by way of explanation — and house style dictates no more than two of these in a given paragraph. Since I’m a BIG em dashes user, the copyeditor had quite a few to remove.
Plain old mistakes. You can have a book that you buy second hand, or a second-hand book. You can call a character Antoine in one chapter and Anthony in the next. I had Nicole poring “through” the files Charlotte sent her, rather than the correct poring “over.” Ball cap is two words, whereas wineglass is one word. The copyeditor catches things like these.
I was describing all this to a friend the other day. She asked if style changes bother me. Absolutely not! When it comes to style, it’s six of one, half a dozen of another. Real mistakes are something else. I am deeply appreciative for every one of these that the copyeditor catches.
Bottom line? We do try to make every book perfect. If you find a typo, it’s not for lack of looking on our part. Your eyes are just fresher and keener.
The good news is that when you point out typos, I pass them on to my editor, who assures that the correction is made in all future editions of the book.
Typos are only one of the things that bother readers. What’s your pet peeve when you’re reading a book?