Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Copyeditor's Worst Nightmare

Forgive the gossip. But the Princeton University Press last week recalled a book because an "inexperienced copyeditor" allowed it to reach the shelves with over ninety errors in its first few chapters.

I'm not sure if Princeton UP meant that their "inexperienced" editor would have done better work if he or she had five more years on the job, or if "inexperienced" is just a nice way of saying "inept." But besides being an embarrassment to the press and the author, the story illustrates what is often overlooked. Editing is both a skilled trade and an aptitude.

The author, Peter Moskos, had an interesting response to the story. "Certainly I tried to find errors… and failed (and my spelling does suck—embarrassingly so). And while I do think I’m pretty good at proofing other people’s writing, it’s nearly impossible to proof any writing if you already know what it is supposed to say. Even after some errors were pointed out to me with the specific line in the text marked, I still could not find about a quarter of the errors. The mind sees what it wants to see."