You didn’t proofread? What were you thinking?

Posted on 16/01/2012


Before the summer holidays, I bought a couple of easy-to-read books, knowing that I needed to switch off my editor’s brain for a while.

I was not disappointed with the Reginald Hill ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’ mystery: tight writing, intriguing plot, evocative descriptions, smattering of words that I hadn’t met before, references to classical literature (and music, in this story). All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable experience, and my editor’s hackles weren’t given a reason to rise.

However, I can’t say the same for the other book. I’d chosen it on a bit of a whim, the blurb that included ‘The Top Ten Sunday Times Bestselling Author’, and the 1920s setting in Liverpool and Dublin. (I have a liking for fiction set in Dublin and Cornwall.)

I couldn’t keep my editor’s antenna quiet when the author’s acknowledgment of the help of her expert included ‘…but because of a rush to get this book ready for the printers, he has not been able to check the MS…’ OK, so I can live with a few inaccuracies that don’t detract from the plot.

But, it made me wonder.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to spot some typos – and I’m not talking complex grammar or punctuation. Most readers would notice missing quote marks at the end of dialogue, inconsistent spelling of character and place names, lack of subject–verb agreement.

A final proofread would surely have rectified those simple mistakes.

Although the story was enjoyable enough (despite the lack of surprises in the plot or character development), I won’t be buying any other books by that author. And I now question the professionalism and credibility of the publishing house.

So what does this mean for you and your writing?

Please have someone edit or proofread anything that will possibly influence your reputation. A potential client experiencing disappointment in your writing can decide not to use your product or service, simply because they wonder if your business is as sloppy as your writing.

As difficult as I know it is, try to plan your writing tasks to include time for reviewing. I see so much writing that could easily move from the ordinary to the excellent because of a review by editor or proofreader. An earlier post gives insight into how editing adds value to your writing.

What has been your experience with writing that could have benefitted from an editor’s eye for detail?



Beautiful writing (digitalart ID10043412)

Beautiful writing
(digitalart ID10043412)

Posted in: Writing