Happy Monday. It’s time for Did You Know.
We have been seeing a lot of discussion on social media about errors in books. Did you know pretty much all books have errors?
I’m glad you asked.
Copy-editing—checking spelling, punctuation, grammar, ect.—is an involved process done two ways: human editor and editing program.
Human editors are human, and humans, by nature, are statistically prone to error. The longer the manuscript, the more likely an error will be missed. For this reason, human editors will read through a manuscript more than once to catch any errors they may have missed in prior read throughs. Even so, human editors have a saying:
Shoutout to the errors that made it through self-editing, content editing, copy-editing, and final proofread. We are inspired by your dedication and tenacity, and we hate you.
The exact wording tends to change, and often includes expletives, but the sentiment is timeless.
Statistically, something is going to get through, maybe several somethings.
Editing programs are based on specific algorithms and are not particularly designed for fiction. The programs generally do not understand nuance or style, and some have not been updated with current trends and rules. Programs always make mistakes in editing fiction.
Which brings us to the other consideration: the reader.
Some readers notice small errors more than other readers do, and that is true for many reasons that have nothing to do with intellect. Many times, it has to do with how said reader reads. Readers also need to take dialect into account. In addition to the many dialects in the US, there are several other countries where English is spoken and spoken differently, and those countries may have multiple dialects. One needs to know where the author hails from because punctuation, spelling, and grammar may vary. Last is the infrequently considered fact that the rules of punctuation, spelling, and grammar do change. This is a part of the evolution of language that is often talked about, and it is decided by the current powers that be in a given year. Editors follow those guidelines and changes, most editors follow those guidelines and changes, but the average reader may not know about changes until months later, if ever.
Even so, pretty much all books have errors. So unless you are seeing a lot of errors in a book, you are likely seeing the statistic that haunts editors in the wee hours of the morning after a draft is complete.