32 Comments

  1. Back when this strip was written (in 1998), copy editors still existed, and their impending demise was not that obvious.

  2. Andrea: A few people at my workplace still have to carry them when they’re on-call for high priority emergencies. (Or at least, they had to a few years ago, I doubt things have changed.) The idea was that they might turn off their cell phone in a movie theater, or ignore the call if they were in the middle of something else (e.g. driving). But they had to keep the pager on all the time, and drop eveything else if it went off.

  3. I work in a hospital and some of the teams use pagers in addition to cell phones- for the reason above. You can turn off the cell phone but can be reached in an emergency. Also- I do copy editing on the side- free lance. THERE will always be people who need someone to catch the mistakes in THEIR writing before it goes public; THEY’RE most appreciative of the help. 🙂

  4. OMG, that’s awful. I couldn’t finish the first paragraph (not that it actually has paragraphs). I realize (by scrolling up to see the “about” section) that it was apparently written by a 12 year old, but it looks like it was (supposedly) finished by her during her senior year of HS. I can’t believe that she didn’t have better writing skills to re-vamp the story by then.

    But your point is made, anyone can write anything and self-publish these days.

  5. Yes, technically the Eye wasn’t self-published, but in a fanzine (a bare step up). The web site Smashwords is a self-publishing outlet with some . . . amazing works.

    I must confess that in another forum I mocked one the authors there until I read her bio and found that she is literally mentally ill (schizophrenic if I recall). I felt bad about that. Not that she was likely to see the posts but I removed them after I found out anyway. Apparently the writing (or typing as she puts it) of the stories is important to her.

  6. When I was a proofreader, I discovered that professional writers often DON’T know spelling and punctuation.

  7. I’m currently reading a fantastic series (romance) – with execrable editing. Not only does the author not know how to use spell-check, or uses it without confirming its corrections, she keeps trying to use vocabulary she doesn’t actually have. And…this is professionally published (small publisher, but still). The most annoying part is that _despite_ the constant errors throwing me out of the story, I still love it – the writing is that good! I really wish she’d get someone decent to edit her!

  8. @ jjmcgaffey – My most extreme “typesetter & proofreader from Hell” experience was in reading Herbert’s first “Dune” novel. Understandably, the text had to be reset for the paperback edition, but the linotype operator was either incompetent or drunk. The proofreader discovered and corrected only about 2/3rds of the errors, and the publisher compounded that problem by replacing the entire line of type for each error, using a point size that was minimally smaller than the rest of the text. The result was so awful that I never tried to read anything else that Herbert wrote. And yes, I know it wasn’t the author’s fault, it’s just that his writing style was already somewhat irritating, so navigating around the corrected and uncorrected typos completely spoiled any remaining enjoyment of reading the story.

  9. As I’ve been using e-books a lot lately, I’ve been introduced to that new class of error, scan errors. Many older works only had printed versions (at least remaining) so they get scanned in with an OCR.

    These are peculiar errors that from the OCR misreading on character as another (‘i’ and ‘l’ are common) or merging two letters to form another. Most would be caught by a pass with a spellchecker, but sometimes it makes a correct but different word.

  10. “The best writing comes from rewriting.”

    If that were true, then the best reading would be graduate theses, and this has not been my experience.

  11. “The best writing comes from rewriting” is not incompatible with “The worst writing comes from rewriting.”

  12. @ Brian in StL – Good OCR software should be able to handle standard ligatures(*) such as “fi”, “ffi”, or “fl” by default, and a capable spellchecker should be part of the algorithm (at least as a switchable option). This may not be standard for the cheap versions package with all-in-one devices, but one would think that a publishing company would be able to invest in something better than a supermarket scanner.
    P.S. Before the most recent reform of German spelling, one of the well-known rules made it illegal to split “st” for hyphenation at the end of a line. The (archaic) reason was that in the old “Fraktur” fonts, “st” was a ligature, and the typeslug could not be severed.

  13. Spellcheckers can certainly catch many errors. If, however, the word is valid in its own right then it might not be detected. Example, the scanner misreads an ‘n’ as an ‘r’, so ending up with “far” instead of “fan”.

    I didn’t make any extensive list of the cases I saw, although I think I mentioned some in a usenet post that I haven’t been able to locate, so without looking over the books again I can’t provide any concrete examples. I guess you can either believe that I saw these or not.

  14. @ Brian – I didn’t mean to doubt you in the slightest, I’m quite sure that there are plenty of error-filled e-books out there. It doesn’t bother me so much that a publisher would not (or could not) invest in a capable OCR system. As you so correctly pointed out, even the best spellcheckers are powerless when the “mistake” is still a legal word. What I find more disturbing is that no matter how the text was digitized, a reliable publisher should have had each book (electronic or otherwise) read by at least one person before they are released,
    But that was exactly the whole point of this discussion from the beginning: publishers are sacrificing their commitment to quality for short-sighted monetary reasons.

  15. Brian in STL – I do a lot of scanning to get rid of stuff (Muzzleloader magazines which is somewhere over 70% ads that are no longer needed, so I had husband mark which articles – 2-3 per issue apparently – and am scanning the articles into the computer and getting rid of the magazines. Also he will be able to read the articles again if he wants and will be able to make the print larger to see them.

    I have not found any errors in the scanning – just bad transfer of photos,due to the low resolution of the scanner in grey scanner.

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