Thursday, February 13, 2020

Where Are the Editors?

It's discouraging that, while reading books from major publishers, I run into "Where was the editor?" moments all too often. As a reader, I've always been picky about details, and working for over twenty years as a legislative editor exacerbated that tendency. I can't NOT see errors in printed publications. (Spotting them in my own writing, of course, is less reliable; like many if not most writers, I tend to see what I thought I wrote rather than what appears on the screen.) I grind my teeth and mentally scream, "Where was the editor?!"

Some examples from novels I've read lately: "Putting on the breaks" instead of "brakes." Putting someone "through the ringer" instead of the "wringer." That hardy perennial "it's" (it is) for "its" (possessive). And not exactly an error, but a little odd—"damnit" instead of the more usual "dammit." (Many years ago, I read a book review containing the remark that "damnit" sounded as if the curse were directed solely at immature lice.)

In a particular book co-written by one of my favorite authors, the text constantly substitutes "snuck" for "sneaked" and "anyways" for "anyway." Granted, the younger generations habitually use those words, so they're appropriate in the dialogue of teenagers and young adults. However, this novel also has those errors committed by a middle-aged bookstore owner and an immortal elf, as well as the third-person narrative voice. In the latter case, it might be argued that the narrator is echoing the mental processes of the tight-third-person viewpoint character (if that happens to be a teenager in a given scene), but I maintain that this usage makes it sound as if the authors themselves don't know better.

And then there are factual errors, which I don't spot so often. (After all, noticing them depends on whether the problem relates to a subject I know about.) A 2019 contemporary fantasy I enjoyed very much makes it clear—repeatedly, not in what might be an isolated lapse—that the authors think Long Beach, California, is in San Diego. They're in two different counties!

Maybe some readers don't notice or cringe at typos and errors. As both an English major and a former proofreader, I find such things distracting, although seldom enough to spoil my pleasure in a book. If the lapses are so frequent they cast doubt on the author's command of language, of course, that's a different matter. What bug and baffle me are obvious mistakes in otherwise good books by bestselling authors from major publishers. Have standards and/or staff budgets fallen in recent decades? Or am I falsely remembering a nonexistent golden age when novels were more thoroughly edited? Nowadays, it's a refreshing pleasure to read through an entire book without once muttering, "Where was the editor?"

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

No comments:

Post a Comment