Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Typos and editorial errors

I've come to accept that books published in the last decade or two, both in print format and as ebooks, will have typos in them. It's not entirely surprising with ebooks, since the transition from print to digital seems fraught with typo-traps, and there doesn't appear to be the same amount of time given to the publishing of ebooks that's usually given to print versions. You expect more of print titles, I think, but even these nowadays seem to have more typos in them that I've seen in books published in earlier decades. Even books published in the distant past, such as the 19th century, rarely have typos.

I've just finished reading Elly Griffiths' second Ruth Galloway murder mystery, The Janus Stone, on Kindle. It's a good read, the characters are well-drawn, and the mystery has enough red-herrings in it to keep from guessing what's up until well near the end. However, there were a number of typos in it - mostly words missing from sentences - as well as formatting issues, where there were paragraphs that proved to be unnecessary to the material in hand.

Many years ago I read a fascinating book on the man who edited most of F Scott Fitzgerald's books. This was Maxwell Perkins, a man also credited with getting Hemingway published as well as bringing Thomas Wolfe's books into a readable form. The book about him was, I think, Max Perkins: editor of genius by A Scott Berg.

Perkins didn't just take the manuscript and publish it, he assisted the authors to clarify details, tighten structure, make good decisions about changing things for the betterment of the book, and much more. He was more like a patron than an editor.

I mention Perkins because he's always seemed to me to be the epitome of a good editor: a man who could see faults in the overall book that eluded the writer himself, but also a man who would nit-pick and refuse to let anything faulty go by. He and Fitzgerald had some serious arguments about the latter's work.

By contrast, the editor of The Janus Stone - Jane Wood should have picked up one major error, which I presume is also in the print form.

One of the characters, a Catholic priest called Hennessey, says, "What about the Holy Ghost? The most important one of the trilogy as far as I'm concerned." This statement is repeated a second time later in the book, when Ruth Galloway remembers him saying it.

I thought at first it was a clue that Hennessey wasn't who he said he was. No Catholic priest - indeed no minister of any Christian denomination - would ever call the Trinity the 'trilogy.' Quite apart from the fact that a trilogy relates to a series of three things, usually of books, but occasionally of other art forms.

Hennessey,however, is definitely a priest, and therefore is hardly likely to use the wrong word in this instance.

I know from my own experience of publishing ebooks just how hard it is to pick up every error - missing words are far more common than misspellings. But errors relating to well-known information should be picked up long before the book goes out into the world.

Galloway, as a character, is very prone to dismissing anything to do with religion. But surely Griffiths, although she has some wry things to say about Christianity in the course of this book, isn't so opposed to religion that she would put something so completely wrong in the mouth of one of her Christian characters.

Bring back Max Perkins and his ilk, I say!





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