by J.T. Ellison
I’m a true Taurus, which means in addition to being exceptionally bullheaded, I find slapsticky humor hilarious. But I also appreciate the subtle, cerebral stuff. It boils down to this, highbrow, lowbrow, subtle, crude, sexy, sexist… make me laugh, and I’ll love you forever. I love to laugh.
One of my favorite sure bets is on Monday nights, when Jay Leno does his headlines. I know this is the second time I’ve mentioned Leno lately, and don’t worry, I also love Letterman, and Conan, and we all know how I feel about Mr. Yummy (Yes, it’s the Scottish accent coupled with the humor. Sue me.)
ON Leno, though, there is something about the typos in headlines, the deadpan delivery, even the in-your-face innuendo of the wedding announcements that just cracks me up. I swear, the Upper-Bottoms wedding just slayed me. WHO doesn’t read these things aloud when they’re putting them together? I know, it’s protocol to have the bride’s name first, but my goodness, save everyone the trouble and switch the names already. Of course, on that one, it would just end up as Bottoms-Upp.
And I wouldn’t get my juvenile jollies if people actually paid attention.
I’m a huge fan of bloopers, too, and gag reels, people getting tongue-tied and embarrassed. I’m just one of those easily amused people, I guess.
So why don’t I find reported instances of my own typos at all amusing???
And not just not amusing, but a personal affront on my soul???
Part of it comes from the fact that the reported instances of typos in ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS are my fault. The second issue is the notifications come with such breathless glee. And the third insult to injury is that they’ve come from my family. Yes, you read that right. The very people who are supposed to turn a blind eye to my shortcomings have been the first to point the proverbial finger. I haven’t had any strangers write to me with problems. It’s all come from within. Makes me feel like I’m still in junior high.
In all seriousness, this is a real issue. Many lists get into discussions about all the editorial errors in books these days. The complaints are numerous, the blame widely spread. I thought I’d take a moment and talk about how those errors come into being.
I just finished my "Author Alterations", otherwise known and galleys or page proofs, for my second book. I know the manuscript was relatively clean. I’d been through it at least three times, my independent readers caught errors, my editor caught a few. Then it went to copyediting. The copyeditor makes all the changes she or he thinks are appropriate, and the author is left picking up the pieces. My first go-round with copyedits was brilliant. The second wasn’t as simple. Writing books set in the South can be difficult, simply because we use phrases and vernacular that’s grammatically incorrect. Modern usage of language has changed. Writing has become less formal in many ways. So if you score a CE who is a stickler for proper grammar and usage, and who doesn’t know your style, it can be a nightmare.
So I undid a lot of the changes she made (STET is a girl’s best friend) and sent the manuscript back. A note here for the newbies. One — when you get your first set of copyedits, you don’t make the changes to your electronic manuscript, you make them directly onto the paper. Yes, it’s a bit archaic, but that’s the way things are. A sweet friend saved me from that very mistake my first go-round, so take it as free advice. Two — and this is a BIGGIE — make a photocopy of your copyedits. That way, when your proofs come back, you can check to make sure your CEs and STETs made it into the final product.
And herein lies the rub. Between copyedits and page proofs, the manuscript is typeset. Which means it’s reentered into a document in full. Which means there will be errors that weren’t in the copyedits. It’s just one of those crazy things. I know a few houses have moved to an electronic CEs and PPs, but mine hasn’t. Which means my author alterations not only include reading through for errors, I need to make sure all my CEs made it into the final product. It’s time consuming, but I care about making sure there are as few mistakes as possible.
After all of that, the manuscript is finished, sent off to proofreaders for a final read-through. And mistakes still make it through. After I was informed of the two errors in ATPG, I went back and looked. One was a typo, an extra A, the other was an action. Baldwin turned off the television twice in two pages. And I’m not making excuses, I should have seen them. The proofreaders should have seen them. The copyeditor should have seen them. But they didn’t. And that, unfortunately, is life. I hate that my book is out there with a couple of typos. Drives my OCD butt mad. But what can you do?
I did my absolute best to make sure 14 is clean, but it’s out of my hands now. I don’t get to see it again. I can’t take one last pass through to make sure everything is perfect. And to be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn’t catch anything more. I’ve read that book at least five times now, and the mind plays tricks on you. You reach a point with these novels that you can recite passages by heart. You know what you mean, so your mind tells you it’s correct. I have high hopes for my proofreaders. And I’ll live with the consequences.
But it won’t stop me from enjoying other people’s mistakes. All hail the typo!
So as a readers, how much is too much? Will you abandon a book that has too many typos? And the writers, what tricks do you use to eliminate these problems?
Wine of the Week: 2006 Deltetto Langhe Arneis, a Geerlings & Wade special.
P.S. I’m here in Denver at Left Coast Crime. A great time is being had by all. I’ll check in as much as I can!
I let my wife proofread the CEs after I’m finished. She catches stuff I miss.
Drives you mad, doesn’t it? My father usually the one who points out the typos and literals that crept through into the finished book, so now I give him the pageproofs to check through.
And on SECOND SHOT my US copyeditor decided I had no idea of the correct placement of commas, so she moved just about every one of them. Do you have any idea how many commas you put in a book? I do, because I counted them all … argh!
On a lighter note, it could always be worse. When I used to work for my local newspaper years ago, they once printed an advert for a local country club, and some bright spark at the typesetters left the ‘o’ out of country …
My sympathies on the uncaught typos! I had one that was worse than a typo–there were two similar last names for characters, and the victim’s last name was used mistakenly for a suspect. Aargh!! A thoughtful reader contacted me through the web to find out if this was a “clue.” (And then Kathryn pounded her head against the wall). That’s the last time I use last any names that are remotely similar to each other!
Good stuff, and very informative for a newbie who isn’t there yet. It seems like an insane number of steps to go through when a c/p from a Word doc would work, but who am I?
So, their just going to have to loose all of they’re hangups about typos. 🙂
Echoing Chuck, I really appreciate the info, JT. But now I have something else to worry about in my publishing woes, lol.
Have a great time at LCC!
Thanks for the kind words, J.T. I had a marvelous time at LCC and was so happy to have met you, Pari and Alex. I wish I had been able to meet Naomi and Toni as well.I will go to more of them. I had the time of my life. Many thanks to Pari for taking me under her wing and showing me Convention Survival Techniques. And I was gob-smacked at the friendliness there. All you had to do was stick your hand out towards an on-line acquaintance, introduce yourself, and you had a conversation going. What an amazing, and addictive experience.