Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

A few years ago, I was delighted with the book “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves”, as it highlighted the fact that there were people in this country who are even more pedantic than I am about spelling and grammar.

My work as a translator demands linguistic accuracy – I pride myself on delivering publication quality English text across a variety of styles and media (technical manuals, marketing, websites, online help and many more), and I work hard to make sure that I do this every time.  I admit, it does spill over into other areas, hell I even proofread text messages before I hit “Send”! One result, however, is that I expect similarly high standards from other people.  Mistakes in informal communication I can just about forgive, but not when something is published.

In recent years, I have noticed a sharp decline in the standard of proofreading and editing in published books I have read, and this trend is something that makes me extremely mad.  It seems rare these days to read a novel that is free of errors and, increasingly, I come across books that have numerous basic mistakes scattered throughout the pages.  I just finished reading the worst example I have found – “Holy Warrior” by Angus Donald.  What I generally thought was a good novel was somewhat spoiled by the huge number of editing errors – every couple of pages on average, with some pages having two or three mistakes on them.

My frustration with this trend is twofold.  Firstly, I like to lose myself in a book and a mistake in the language throws me straight out of the story, the world conjured up by the author, and back into my lounge, bedroom, coffee shop or wherever I am.  Secondly, somebody has been paid good money to eliminate such errors prior to publication.  By buying a book, I am paying their wages and if there is one thing that infuriates me it is people who are shoddy and/or incompetent at what they are paid to do, especially when I am the one doing the paying.

Novels by leading authors, produced by well-known publishers should not, in my opinion, be riddled with linguistic mistakes.  Either they are cutting costs somewhere in the process or there is little quality control on the editing and proofreading work.  Both of these are unacceptable to me as a paying customer and are an insult to the author, whose months and years of painstaking research and creative work are being undermined by others’ slapdash approach to their own jobs.

Having read “Holy Warrior”, I felt strongly enough to email the author through his website and received a response the next day.  The issue had been raised by many readers and steps are being taken to make sure the situation is not repeated in subsequent books in the series.  Fingers crossed that the problem can be resolved successfully, so that I and others can enjoy Angus Donald’s work without these annoying distractions.  I hope that other authors and publishers are also receiving critical feedback and taking similar action to eliminate very avoidable mistakes that impair customer satisfaction.

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