I came across a great post on copy editing by a colleague, Chantal Saville:
Would You Like Some ‘Desert’ Tonight?
Last night, I posted this on Twitter:
I just read this line in a self-published novel: “There were salads and chocolate éclairs for desert.” I feel a blog post coming on.
The excerpt was on page nineteen and matters didn’t really improve from there.
This is a book that someone took the time to publish, albeit through a vanity press, obtain ISBN numbers for, and have the Toronto Public Library buy a copy or two.
I found it because this book was also—wait for it—long listed for a writing prize.
The triumph of mediocrity is complete.
Now, I won’t say what the title of the book is and I won’t say what the prize was, except to say that it was not the Giller; though it IS a known and relevant award, at least in Canada.
Here’s what I want to say: editing matters.
Copy editing, substantive editing, editing, editing, editing. It matters.
Why? Because this book is actually a little bit funny. It has moments of excellent writing, at least in terms of the ideas and the flow. The reader, however, has to spend too much time re-reading sentences that are clumsily or even erroneously put together, all of which takes away from the experience. It’s a frustrating and yet completely preventable problem. The author saved himself a few bucks by not having someone edit the manuscript; or by having it edited by a five year old. A brainy five year old, but nonetheless, a five year old.
It makes no sense to me. Why would you want to put something out there for public consumption that is chock full of errors and what I can only hope are typos?
I ask this despite having read several blog posts from fairly well followed bloggers who have stated outright that they thought editing was overrated. They never bothered correcting typos and grammar because, well…because they felt it was more natural, as if they were speaking to the reader face to face. Yes, writing should ‘speak’ to the reader and, yes, it’s okay to overlook some rules for the sake of impact in the sentence structure but…
Is is natural for your reader to stumble over your sentences?
Is it natural for your reader to think you aren’t too bright?
And when you’re shilling product for brands, how does that lack of concern for basic editing go over with them?
An honest phrase is a natural creation but its impact is lessened when it is replete with errors.
I make errors. You do, as well. We all do, and when we’re writing quickly, particularly on social media, it’s even more likely that we’ll drop a grammar bomb or two. My issue isn’t with the fact that the author made errors. It’s with the fact that the book went to print with the errors uncorrected.
If you are self-publishing a book; if you are submitting a manuscript to an agent for consideration; if you are writing anything that you want to have taken seriously by the world around you, hire an editor. Please.