Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

November 27, 2009 -- 2:31 p.m.

Nothing makes you appreciate good copy-editing like a mistake.

There are the minor annoyances like "security" for "scrutiny," that sort of thing. And I read them and I chuckle and I move on.

But then you come across a sentence like this: "he appeared to have fallen in love with Vialle, and now he resided the legendary unicorn."

And you say to yourself, what is that supposed to mean? Out of context as I've left the line, you might think the character could be residing with the legendary unicorn, except he isn't. Or that Vialle is the legendary unicorn, but she isn't. In context, the line is totally incomprehensible.

Obviously, there was a line break between "now" and "he" and somehow, a line got left out in the publishing process. Luckily, I could fill in the missing words reasonably quickly and go on.

But it just reminds me how thankful we should be (in this season of gratitude) for copyeditors. I was a newspaper editor and so one of my main duties was copyediting. It about tore me up inside. With long hours and hard days and so much information you're supposed to know (or wore, you assume that you do know even though you really don't) there's really no way to avoid mistakes entirely. And I made some big ones. I made mistakes and let mistakes slip by that still haunt me sometimes at night. Grammatical copyediting is something I'm good at, but catching name misspellings and the wrong name on the wrong photograph, that sort of thing, is really not my forte.

The worst part is, nobody notices you until you do a bad job. If you do a good job, you're invisible, but if the reporter under you accidentally writes the wrong name for the mayor and you don't catch it because you're new in town...all sorts of people call you up (not the person who made the mistake) and tell you what an ugly, awful, stupid little person you are.

Getting those calls helped me develop a thicker skin, so I thank them, because I am overly sensitive and while stuff can still hurt (like having my writing being called "too girly"....grrrr...) at least now, I can take a step back and thank the people who are kicking me in the solar plexis.

And I can forgive myself for my mistakes and move on.

What's the worst mistake you've seen in a book or newspaper? Any howlers?


  1. Lee Ann Setzer said...

    nobody notices you until you do a bad job--

    Like the writer and copyeditor who both missed the reference to "the Twelve Apostates" in the BYU Daily Universe.

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