I’ve just spent a productive month or so revising one of my books for a new edition, due out later this year. I wrote the book four years ago, and a lot has changed in the field (coeliac disease – ie a severe form of gluten intolerance) in that time, which has involved a lot of work to update.
That I expected. What I didn’t expect was to find the mistakes in the first edition. Not because I consider myself flawless (anything but), but because books go through editors and proof-readers, then come back to you for another read once typeset, and with several sets of eyes involved in the whole process, you’d think any bloopers would be picked up.
One minor example concerned this string of words, about information printed on a food label which “… many people ignore, or misunderstand, or both”.
‘Both’? It’s impossible to misunderstand information you have ignored. Four years after I wrote that line, I read it again and it made me stop in my tracks. It’s not a biggie – I imagine some would barely notice it (none of the editors did, after all) – but the fact that I must have read it dozens of times during the whole process of putting the book together, and didn’t pick up on it, really amazes me.
Editors – who miss mistakes too – do not expect flawless material every time. But you know that moment when you’ve written, read, rewritten, read, read, reread and reread yet again and can’t face rereading any more – and so you just send the article to your editor so you can get your life back again?
Most of us will recognise the feeling, but if you can, and you have the time: walk away from the article or chapter and go work on something else – for at least several days. Keep your marbles, and come back to the piece - for one final, considered, careful read-through - when they’re settled, and not still rattling around, clamouring to escape.
And if you can’t, and you don’t have the time: then send the darned thing off. Life’s too short.
We all make mistakes. And we all miss having made them. Work at minimising them - it's what this blog is all about - but not always so hard that your bottom comes off, and your marbles roll out of it.
What mistakes did you make which you only discovered much later?
Labels: Editors, Mistakes, Reading, Revision/Editing