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An author's eye view

Posted on 20th July 2011

Steve Morris is an author I have made acquaintance with via Facebook and Twitter (the joys of social media) who not only writes great short stories but also teaches maths and science, does outreach teaching for ill students and works as an examiner. In this week's blog, Steve talks about the need for editing and proofreading of all work, not just for his books prior to publication but for all material that the public will read.

Just like having to repeat that punch line of a joke after you er...oh...no ...er... fumbled it, or hitting a bum note in that so very crucial guitar solo, there is no escaping the irreparable damage caused by word errors. Duff words just don't have a good effect. Proofreading needs to be done properly. There is no excuse for any other approach to it.

If you think about it properly, you are unlikely to spot your own mistakes, no matter how many times you read through them. Your spell checker will be of no help either as it often won't spot anything wrong with a random sentence of words as long as they are spelled correctly.

I have worked with professional colleagues even near to retirement who have lifelong misconceptions over spelling and homophones. To me these errors stand out like the proverbial sore one, but to them, they are perfectly correct. I must annoy people too with mine. I have several words that I still to this day cannot spell no matter how many hundreds of times I have checked and double-checked the spelling. I don't lose too much sleep about it because I am human and not a machine.

Ask a professional to read through your work. Not just any professional, though. Hire someone who knows what they are doing.

Imagine how embarrassing it would be to be caught out by one of your own students pointing out a typo or a missing word. Not just any missing word, but one on the very first page no less! And a crucial word at that. I don't need to imagine this because it has happened to me. Having escaped my eyes, the PC knew no better and the pesky little rogues went on to evade the eyes of two or three more people. And that's just in the classroom.

Triple checked and admittedly not the first time it has happened to me, it seems only that after a week and with copies packed and despatched in every direction do you sit down and have a quick flick through your own paperback. Only then do you get that sinking feeling. Slap bang in the middle of a page and just about as obvious as it could be, is my glaring error. Just where were they hiding when the text was being read through word by word?

I have learned my lesson and now use a professional proofreader, but fortunately the press were kind to me. They liked "In All Probability" perhaps because it was different and due to modern P.o.D methods, thankfully there were no pallets to pulp.

I have collected antique books for many years and I own books published from the seventeenth century onwards. There were no spell checkers then. There was no word processing, PCs or typewriters. Neither were there errors in the text. Times have changed.

Steve Morris is the author behind two volumes of short stories "In All Probability" and "Jumble Tales". The coffee-break stories twist on themes of fate, chance and destiny. His stories have been included in various magazines, anthologies and journals. For an up-to-date review of Jumble Tales, click here.

Written by Kate Haigh.