Editing and proofreading is a professional service that every writer needs … even if you’re an editor yourself. Trying to correct and find problems in your own work is limiting. You need that second opinion, that second pair of eyes to see what your mind might skip right over because the mind convinces the eye to see what it expects to see, whether that’s what in print/on-screen or not. Words and images in print or online are forever, and they can and will come back to haunt you!
Typos, autocorrect, which can cause as many problems as it corrects by inserting an incorrect word just as often as the right one, especially synonyms like “rode” and “road”, aren’t the only concern. Awkward phraseology, verb tenses (an author’s nightmare–we think in present tense, but usually write in third-person past) can cause your reader to stop reading and move onto something else. There’s so much online to read!
Some genres and authors, both fiction and nonfiction, are using first-person present tense, which was a complete no-no in the writing industry when I was educated and have worked for many years. But every decade or so, experimental “new” ideas surface that are supposed to be unique and alternative. Have you ever heard, “There’s nothing new under the sun”? It’s a very true statement. It’s all been tried before and much has not stood the test of time.
We try to remain current and far-reaching for the future as writers, but it seems like the rules change all the time. There is this lackadaisical attitude that anything goes and typos, inaccuracies … well, they’re just to be accepted as “that’s the way it is–overlook them, and that’s not a misspelling, I’ve just created a new word!”
Styles change and words emerge, but as an avid reader, author, and editor I constantly stay in touch with what’s new in the writing industry to keep my clients on-track and in-sync with evolving trends. Yet, nowhere are typos, misused grammar, misspellings, and unclear syntax an attractive addition to a written piece.
The writing industry is more competitive and overcrowded than ever and that is going to keep escalating with technology. Write about what you care about, and just as importantly, care about the quality of what you write.
–Deborah A. Bowman
I hope you always have smooth sailing working with your editor.
I know that we are dreaded like the plague
And good writers all have been known to beg
For leniency, or “for just this once”
“Let me please have my participles in a bunch…”
It’s not rocket science or even a hunch
There really are tried and true rules
That adhere to the ‘Elements of Style’ clues
The bible, so to speak, on traditional editing
There is a right way and a wrong way for betting
On your words, finding your way
To take your thoughts and what you say
And put it in verse for another day
Or lovely prose with descriptive highlights
To tickle someone’s fancy and take them to new heights
In appreciating a well-edited dialogue
So your momentous scene isn’t bogged
Down, dribbling with boring facts
Or inconsequential IT hacks
Who’d rather be staring at patterns in binary
Who cares about your words? So secondary
To your science, technical, and professional views
If you can’t spill the beans on the most recent news
In your industry and do it justice
Your words are just tracks of scuffs
Showing you’ve been there
But you just didn’t care
About the right ways to present
Your latest new plot or business event
When you need to get the word out
By better means than just a shout
Editors can make it delectable–
Extract the extraneous, enhance the essential
Let your words speak for themselves
Letting your editor proofread and clarify
With accuracy and consistency
What you need to in-print upon the masses
For all time, literate passes
Through the online super highway
To express your desires, put out the fires
On the subject matter that you share with your peers
Releasing your fears, making the syntax clear
Yeah, an editor can do all that…
–© 2016 by Deborah A Bowman.
Editing from yesteryear…
Just this weekend I posted a blog with a misspelled word in the heading–“dos” instead of “does”. Well, my Spanish isn’t good enough to pawn it off as the number two, which didn’t make sense anyway, so there I was with the only line showing on the link broadcasting my error. A delightful friend immediately sent me a comment on Facebook, “Is this an editor’s test? lol” Why didn’t I just go with it and say, “Yes!”? I caught it and fixed it right after I hit “Publish” on WordPress, but since I have automatic share for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, it was out there for all to see. In my haste to remedy this, I sent the whole post to trash. It was a rather lengthy poem with visually descriptive words, now lost and gone forever, except for the heading postings everywhere which now link to nothing.
As much as every writer and editor would love to have an all-knowing editing key or a magic wand to clean up any discrepancies and errors/typos in a manuscript, business letter, a blog posting, even an email, it just doesn’t exist. The human element of eyes, ears, and touch remains the only way to be sure you’ve said what you meant to say in a manner that will relate to your target audience.
There’s no way a computer can think and analyze like a human brain. We speak and write metaphorically, tongue-in-cheek, sarcastically with puns and wit and comparisons that a machine governed by a finite set of rules and commands cannot comprehend. The hard drive doesn’t care how many times you use the same, monotonous word in a sentence, in a paragraph, on a page, in a chapter. Nor does your spell-check, grammar-check, or latest software package notice inconsistencies in who, what, when, where, and how.
Wouldn’t it be hilarious if you sent an RSVP with all the information garbled by the automatic words the smart phones or tablets choose for you? For example, misspelling both names: Who was giving the event and for whom; What the event was–hmm..wouldn’t that make for a colorful dress code, jeans and shorts to black-tie and gown, perhaps festive and mourning attire; When the event was occurring–time and date; and Where? Of course a misspelled street name and an incorrect address number and zip code. How to get there? Try GPS or mapquest on that one!
You can’t trust your own eyes to show you what you’ve written. They see what they expect to see.
You can’t hear your mistakes in your mind as you read silently to yourself. Your inner ear hears what it expects to hear.
You can’t touch your words on the screen with a pencil, a pen, an eraser. If you print it out your eyes, ears, and engrained memory of what you’ve written will still have you reading right over a misplaced, forgotten, or left out word.
All is not hopeless. You just need a proofreader or editor who hasn’t seen your words before. Also, editors train their senses to see, to hear, and to touch inconsistencies, discrepancies, and content that is awkward or structurally unsound. They just can’t proofread for themselves. I don’t see technology changing these basic human traits.
So please let me know if I’ve messed up again. I’m always grateful for a chance to make things right.