My colleague Tom sent me a link today about the recall of a 245-page book that had more than 90 typos and grammatical errors. “That’s just one error per three pages,” he joked. “What’s the big deal?”
All kidding aside, I felt truly awful for the author, for Princeton University Press, and especially for the “inexperienced copy editor who failed to do the job properly.” Ouch.
Here are two dirty little secrets about publishing, though: 1) Mistakes happen. All the time. 90 is ridiculously excessive, but I seldom get through a book without finding at least one error. 2) It’s seldom any one person’s fault. Everyone—from the author, to the “inexperienced copy editor,” to the publisher—shares some responsibility for the ultimate quality of the finished product. A single inexperienced copy editor is never (should never!) be entirely to blame.
So, if typos are 1) inevitable and 2) communal, what are we to do? The only advice I can offer is that the more important a document is, the more people we should involve in its review. That’s one of the many reasons I appreciate my colleague Tom, who happens to be an extraordinary proofreader.
In honor of Tom—and proofreaders everywhere—I offer these humble sacrifices: