I’d hate to see the unedited version

Traditional publishers promise quality: you can be sure that when you buy a real book it’ll be properly edited. Increasingly I’m finding that isn’t the case. For example, I’m reading the current Peter Robinson paperback (Watching The Dark) and there are jarring typos and comma abuse that really shouldn’t have made it through the editing process.

This is a real sentence:

The place was busy, a popular destination for the post work crowd on a Friday, but a lot of people liked to stand at the bar and relax, so they found a quiet round, copper-topped table looking out onto the market square, which was in that in-between period after work, so few shoppers were around, but after play, so the young revellers hadn’t arrived yet.

5 replies on “I’d hate to see the unedited version”

Completely agree. I was reading one a while back, written with vernacular Scots dialogue (which as an immigrant like myself made it a wee bit harder going in the first place with all the specialised vocabulary (it turned out that most of which revolved around alcohol it’s fair to say))… add to that bizarre punctuation and typos and it was enough of a nightmare that I gave up on it after four chapters. Shame because the story itself was actually developing well, the writing was good – the typing was bloody awful though.

Yeah, vernacular can be difficult to get into, whether it’s Scots, Shakespeare or The Wire. But if the quality control’s off too then it becomes a real slog.

I don’t mind the odd typo but there were quite a few problems in that book (and I’m not picking on it particularly; it’s a trend I’ve seen a lot recently, so for example I put down one crime novel because I felt I was being machine-gunned by question marks! So many question marks! Every line of dialogue ended with one! For fuck’s sake!). The problems aren’t just typos but repetition (someone’s eating a “delicious” meal, and takes another bite. “It was delicious.” Well, yes, duh), dialogue that feels as if someone is fast-forwarding the scene and really odd sentence structure. The book felt rushed, both in terms of the writing and the editing, and that’s a shame because it was a typically good story. Robinson is a superb storyteller.

I’m not claiming to be any better, of course. My point is that writers mess up, and editors are supposed to catch them messing up. Increasingly it feels like there are fewer and fewer people doing more and more work to tighter and tighter deadlines, so of course errors are going to creep in.

Stop! Right! There! With! All! Of! Those! Exclamation! Marks! That! Does! My! Bloody! Head! In! :)

There is a case for owning (and responsibly using) a thesaurus, but you are allowed to occasionally repeat any given word – you don’t have to use a different synonym each time because you then get more and more obscure every time you go to use the term and it all feels like a game of “Just a minute”.

Anyone writing something for others to read (even when it’s a report for work) should at the bare minimum employ someone to do some proofreading though – even if it’s just John Q Random off teh interwebz who goes nuts when he sees trypos (sic) and jarring sentence structures. It’s incredible how many glaring errors you can find in an allegedly author-checked manuscript.

Oh and remember – when you think anything you read is awful… every Jeffrey Archer novel has been through up to 16 redrafts and edits by his own admission. Can you imagine what the first draft is like? :)

Oh, absolutely, repetition has its place – repeating “said” is often better than giving it “he spat”, “she exclaimed”, “he seethed” and so on, although just cutting out the “said”s is often better still. But repeating description is often redundant, I think.

One of the problems with non-professional writers IMO is that the end result, especially in business, is too verbose. You end up with massive tracts that take hundreds of words to say something very simple, and those words are often management bullshit. My latest pet hate is “surface”, as in “we surfaced the issue with the CEO”.

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