A Rant Against Typographical Errors in Books

Victoria Silverwolf

Vegetarian Werewolf
Joined
Dec 9, 2012
Messages
8,263
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
I have just starting reading The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. This is a well-known, award-winning author, and this is one of her most praised books. It's a large, nicely printed, oversized softcover. Imagine my shock when I found this on page 14.

. . .it's armed guards . . .

Mind you, this is in the same sentence where "its" is used properly several times. Why this one error? Is it the fault of computers?

Oh, well, just one of my pet peeves showing up again. (Don't get me started with seeing the phrase "vocal chords" in print.)
 

Mouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
10,658
Location
Devon
Drives me absolutely mad too!

I read a book recently where they used the wrong gender pronoun* for the character!!


*is that the right phrase? It said she when it should've said he.
 

jastius

life is an awfully big adventure
Joined
Feb 9, 2013
Messages
1,482
Location
Canada
Auto correct fells another victim....

the problem with these types of errors is that the computer is off all smiling and happy because its got the manuscript the way it wants it. meanwhile we poor gullible fools, leaning so heavily upon the crutch of spellcheck, dodder on believing in the mythos that if there aren't any little red lines then that means its correct.. and a sloppy reread passes right over the errors.

and this stuff can happen at any stage of the publication process. you send out your beloved baby with each word polished and carefully trimmed, and some editorial assistant in a rush just hits correct all on the prompt instead of carefully checking each prompt and seeing that the computer doesn't know what it is talking about. and because this incorrection is correctly spelt, it does not retrigger the little red cheat line.
 

Kissmequick

loony
Joined
Nov 12, 2007
Messages
1,151
Location
stuff
Er, not really. I don't know about other houses, but I get very thoroughly copy-edited. (My copy editor catches lots of little things. Like me adding in a chapter and forgetting to re number them. Oops. All number of other errors too. They really are face savers!) Pubs aren't going to skimp on something that makes their books look bad.

But!

Occasional errors are bound to happen though -- people are not infallible, sometimes you get the MS as clean as you can and things get goofed when it's set to print, sometimes three sets of eyes (mine, editor, copy editor) miss the typo.

It's a lot easier now with modern technology than it used to be, but until people become 100% perfect, you'll find the odd typo. As long as it isn't ten to the page, or ten a chapter....or even in the chapter title...or the fecking book title (saw that once! They pulped the print run IIRC and had to redo)*shrugs* It happens, no matter how hard you try. Not that long ago I read a (fairly big publisher's, let us name no names) book that had one paragraph repeated straight away, with minor tweaks -- looked like a pre and post edit para had somehow made it into the book. I thought was going a bit crazy for a moment :D Now, for me that's a big deal, and a serious snafu. One misprinted word not so much
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
13,938
Location
nearly the New Forest
Not that long ago I read a (fairly big publisher's, let us name no names) book that had one paragraph repeated straight away, with minor tweaks -- looked like a pre and post edit para had somehow made it into the book. I thought was going a bit crazy for a moment :D Now, for me that's a big deal, and a serious snafu.
Would that book perchance have been a freebie at the Brighton FantasyCon last year/the year before? I threw it away at that point. (Mind, I wasn't that impressed with it up till then, and that was just the final straw.)
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
25,738
Location
UK
IIRC, there's a stage in the editing process where the writer can suggest changes at the last minute - but these come after the editor and copy editor have made their recommendations, and are not subject to their oversight.

I presume this is where some of the errors come in?
 

Gary Compton

I miss you, wor kid.
Joined
Jul 8, 2007
Messages
3,247
IIRC, there's a stage in the editing process where the writer can suggest changes at the last minute - but these come after the editor and copy editor have made their recommendations, and are not subject to their oversight.

I presume this is where some of the errors come in?

Is it standard practice for a book to be edited by a professional then copy-edited as well?
 

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Aug 7, 2007
Messages
23,163
Location
England
IIRC, there's a stage in the editing process where the writer can suggest changes at the last minute - but these come after the editor and copy editor have made their recommendations, and are not subject to their oversight.

I presume this is where some of the errors come in?
I think this is right, at least in some cases.

For example, this item on Joe Abercrombie's website contains, amongst other things, these two paragraphs:
Gillian Redfearn is not a character from the Heroes. She is, in fact, far more powerful and dangerous, for she is my editor, and I got her detailed mark-up of the manuscript last week. This is where she goes through and points out with the infamous red-pen (or indeed grey pencil, in this case) anything that still bothers her following our earlier more general discussions, both at the level of bad word choice or clumsy sentence construction (what, me?) and broader points of things missing or overdone, iffy or overused phrases, features of scenes or characters that are inconsistent or unconvincing. This is straightforward in a sense, as I just look at each change and decide whether I want to do it or not or, more likely, to make a slightly different change from the one suggested in order to demonstrate my independence. In another sense this is quite tricky since, when changing sentences or replacing words out of context, you can break up the flow of things you’ve carefully worked out before, use words that in fact appear in the next sentence without noticing, and generally introduce more mistakes than you fix.

In particular there’s one extra scene I’ve got to add, or at least greatly expand on, and that won’t be subjected to the kind of scrutiny and careful revision that the rest of the book has, so I’ll need to go over it every morning for a few days to (hopefully) make sure it works as well as possible.
 

chrispenycate

resident pedantissimo
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
7,444
Location
West Sussex
According to Wiki, this book was published in 1993. Did they even have computers back then :rolleyes:

Yes, they were already typesetting books by computer in the early nineties, although some more traditional presses were still using lead; but anyway, if the book were a reprint, it would have been set by computer for the new edition. The things are just too convenient to bypass.

Yes, I agree it's annoying, typos and such in printed books (carefully represses the temptation to red-pen jastius' post;)), but it's hardly a recent addition – I've been pencilling comments in margins for fifty years now.

Probably worse for people like me, nature's proofreaders. Spelling mistakes leap savagely off the page at us, breaking the suspension of disbelief and the continuity of concentration.
 

Kissmequick

loony
Joined
Nov 12, 2007
Messages
1,151
Location
stuff
IIRC, there's a stage in the editing process where the writer can suggest changes at the last minute - but these come after the editor and copy editor have made their recommendations, and are not subject to their oversight.

Would that book perchance have been a freebie at the Brighton FantasyCon last year/the year before? I threw it away at that point. (Mind, I wasn't that impressed with it up till then, and that was just the final straw.)

I can't recall where I got it (but yes, last straw for me too. IIRC it was some kind of ARC?? Not sure)


The galley proof, yes. These are the printed proofs the printer sends to you to check it's all ok. Any major (ie not typo)changes will cause conniptions, and probably cost.

I presume this is where some of the errors come in?

Errors can come in everywhere. It's unfair to blame the printers solely (though it does happen that a clean MS gets the odd typo inserted) Errors can happen all down he line - because people are not perfect. One or two typos in a 100k MS..that's 0.002%. That's pretty damned good

Is it standard practice for a book to be edited by a professional then copy-edited as well?

Yes. Even when I was at a small press, they had a person dedicated to copy editing. At the big -- yeah. It's someone's job to do that, not anything else, just that. My current copy editor that is all she does -- not her just rushing it off or whatever. This is her mission.
 

j d worthington

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 9, 2006
Messages
13,889
Yes, I agree it's annoying, typos and such in printed books (carefully represses the temptation to red-pen jastius' post;)), but it's hardly a recent addition – I've been pencilling comments in margins for fifty years now.

Probably worse for people like me, nature's proofreaders. Spelling mistakes leap savagely off the page at us, breaking the suspension of disbelief and the continuity of concentration.

"Fifty years" eh, Chris? I am currently (re)reading a facsimile reprint of R. W. Chambers' The Maker of Moons (1896), and even there I find periodic typos... one of which is in an epigraph from Whitman, and which makes utter nonsense of the final line of the verse.....

We've had several discussions on this before, as I recall; typos are by no means new, but the frequency with which they occur has skyrocketed the past two to three decades; by the 1990s it was already becoming notably worse; by the early 2000s it was frankly irritating as hell; and now I sometimes find myself wanting to throttle the people on the production line for (apparently) being oblivious to such often glaring errors every few pages... or (not infrequently) sometimes several to a page for a number o pages at a time....

On the repeating of paragraphs, etc.... I've seen this happen more than once; just as I've seen paragraphs broken up and separated by interpolated text -- often in the middle of a sentence -- during the paste-up process; which is intensely annoying, as one has to then attempt to find the remainder of that paragraph to finish the thought, then go back and pick up the text where the break originally occurred. Zebra Books was especially bad about this during the mid-1970s, and some of their books I have on my shelves were almost unreadable the first time round because of these.* From what I understand, these weren't corrected either when other publishers picked up their catalogue several years later for reprinting.....

*Later readings were easier, as I knew where they were and would lose very little time getting the correct reading.
 

mosaix

Shropshire, U.K.
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2006
Messages
7,871
Location
Shropshire, U.K.
I think it's getting worse. I've just been reading SF Masterworks Tau Zero by Poule Anderson. The thing is littered with typos.
 

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Aug 7, 2007
Messages
23,163
Location
England
Auto-correct is an absolute pain, I almost always have it turned off. :rolleyes:
Agreed.

I'm a poor typist, often swapping random character pairs. Autocorrect often turned the result into a completely (and apparently randomly) different word. Before I realised what was happening, I half-thought I was going mad, given the odd (and, sometimes, suspiciously typo-free) sentences I seemed to be typing.

If you type well, but get the occasional spelling wrong, it might be useful, I suppose. I wouldn't know.


As for bulk changes, you can use the facility in a useful and more controlled way. Select the word you want to change, but instead of requesting Replace to insert the new word, tell it to put the existing word** in, but with Highlight switched on. That way:
  • You won't miss any words.
  • You won't be tempted to click on Replace even when you're going through the words one at a time. (In fact, because you have to do the edit, you can make sure you've done it right before moving on.)


** - Make sure you don't change the spelling. I use copy and paste to avoid introducing a typo.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
8,388
Location
Scottish Highlands
...Probably worse for people like me, nature's proofreaders. Spelling mistakes leap savagely off the page at us, breaking the suspension of disbelief and the continuity of concentration.

This is why I hate books with loads of typos and why I may freqently come across as a little obsessive about it. Each error snaps me out of that meditative immersion in the story which is what I am generally trying to achieve when reading.

My pet hates that I see time and again, even in moderately 'high brow' literature: its, it's; to, too; your, you're. It leaves me wondering whether proof-readers actually read any longer or just rely on software to do the job. I can't understand how anyone with at least a smattering of education in English could possibly read these books without seeing the errors. They leap out of the page and slap me around the face.
 

Grunkins

Couch Commander
Joined
Jan 18, 2012
Messages
620
It pulls me right out of the fictitious dream, if only for a moment. The Malazan Book of the Fallen trade paperbacks had more errors than any other book(s) I can name. Tor should be much better than that.
 

Similar threads


Top