Errors are like spiders. You only see one, but you know there are many others. According to one of my friends, you are never more than two feet from a spider at any time, no matter where you are, even in Antarctica.

Copyeditors are paranoid about errors. As they should be. I’m doubly paranoid when I’m doing a copyediting test because I know that there are errors that were introduced on purpose. These are unnatural errors! You tend to get an idea about the kind of errors people make when they are scientists. ESL scientists often forget to include articles. American scientists forget what tense they are supposed to be writing in. Everyone uses “discreet” wrong (shout out to commenters from yesterday).

But the word “exposured” will be used rather than “exposed,” which at least I can tell by reading it closely. Or, and this was my favorite, tumors were said to be diseases. No self-respecting scientist, no matter what her original language, would ever make that error. That’s an undergraduate error. But since I have no actual knowledge about the field of medicine, I am that dumb undergraduate. I have to pay attention. I’ve got to catch the error if I want the job.

One of my early bosses told me that errors often occur near other errors. And the eye often flies to one obvious error and misses all the little ones on the way. So read extra carefully around errors. And look out for spiders. Don’t kill them, it’s bad luck.

How do you keep track?


10 responses to “Errors

  1. And, yes, this post is probably riddled with errors as I have not had enough coffee yet. Point out typos or awkward usage at your own peril. Although if it’s errors of thinking you have a problem with, have a field day.

  2. I have become batshit crazy obsessive over errors in my book. I must have read it 30 times before submitting it and each time I found more and more errors. Then the final proofread came back with 14. 14 fecking errors. My nerves are just about gone.

    I think I should give up the writing and figure out how to have a radio blog. But then I’d spend all my time chewing on my foot and apologizing for calling Rush Limbaugh a slut.

    • May I first say that it makes me happy that you use the phrase “batshit crazy,” as it is one of my favorites.

      There are ALWAYS errors in the final proofread. Just make sure the cover is correct.

      (Never call Rush Limbaugh a slut, he’d probably enjoy it.)

      • My boss cranks up that horrible windbag’s show every afternoon. I make a point of shutting my office door and turning up some indie music just to voice my rebellion.

        I can’t keep track of all my mistakes. That’s why I’m saving my dimes for you.

  3. I never keep track. If I did, I’d crawl under my covers and never get out. To that end, when I see a spider in my home, I never think there are more. If I’m concerned about all of God’s creatures, I capture it and let it out to my backyard. If not, I crush it with a quick swipe of a tissue. In both cases, however, I think it exists by itself. In my mind, it was born alone and will die alone. It would paralyze me to think otherwise.

  4. I have a kid who has been obsessed about my death since three and has recently projected this fear onto spiders. I kill them with no regret and still he will wake at o’dark-thirty for a spider check of his bed.
    I take no prisoners with my errors as well, and yet still I’m never more than two feet away from one, most times less.
    (Spiders can live free in the basement, garage and outside, but if the kid sees one, well, it’s the spider’s own damn fault for not hiding from the light.)

  5. I just finished reading The Clothes on Their Backs – paperback -a few years old. I saw several errors and it made me nuts. Don’t get me started on the Kindle.

    • Oh I know. The kindle books are so filled with errors and weirdness. My publisher tells me that she went to an industry conference not long ago and a big wig Harper Row guy said that on average every published novel has 9 errors. Cripes where was that standard when I was a doctor.

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