On average, there are fifteen spelling or grammatical mistakes, typos or formatting quirks per published book. To get to this average we include some self-published books that are dire, some absolutely perfect ones (rare) and the vast majority that have between five and twenty such problems.
Can we improve this? And how do we get to even this level of what is, after all, mainly correctness? There is more right than wrong and we want to keep it that way.
Rule of three
As always, we get three people involved. Once we have a camera ready script we invite three people to read it:
· The original writer
· The original editor
· One other
Interestingly, all three will uncover roughly two thirds of all mistakes and the rest will be things that they alone have noticed.
We go for the camera-ready script as sometimes new formatting errors creep in as we convert to the print file.
Can’t see your own errors?
This is always a problem for the writer and indeed for the editor. They read what they expect to read and don’t see the mistakes. However, the script looks totally different now and this gives some objectivity.
This also helps. We have to force ourselves away from the preconceptions we have about the text in front of us. We need to examine every word carefully. As we do that, though, something quite interesting happens. We really do see the text differently. This is has happened recently with one of my own texts and indeed one I’ve edited for another writer. I’m pleased to say, especially in regards to the latter, that I was delighted with the text and felt as if I was reading it for the first time.
And I found fifteen mistakes ten of which the author had also spotted.