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How Much Does Editing Matter to You
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nana wrote:
I think eding is very important. My husband and me are both big readers and we agree that grammer and spelling mistakes jerk us out of the story. Its just lazy, on the part of author's and the publishers. If you don't have a basic understanding of English, your in the wrong job.

I had to look twice (and more) at your statement before I realized that you intentionally wrote it that way, Nana. I was reaching for my highliter, thinking this was a test. Laughing
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1369

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I’ve been meaning for months to find a contact address for Baen to report copy-edits, partly prompted by the large numbers in the Grantville Gazettes and partly by seeing a 1632verse author posting on these boards. This thread finally prompted me to sign up for Baen’s Bar long enough to find an email address. I just sent them a 13-page email with all the copy-edits I have logged for Baen books since I started keeping my copy-edit log.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
I’ve been meaning for months to find a contact address for Baen to report copy-edits, partly prompted by the large numbers in the Grantville Gazettes and partly by seeing a 1632verse author posting on these boards. This thread finally prompted me to sign up for Baen’s Bar long enough to find an email address. I just sent them a 13-page email with all the copy-edits I have logged for Baen books since I started keeping my copy-edit log.


Thank you. The regular copy-editor for the 1632 series, who is excellent, is so backlogged on books (novels, more profitable for Baen) that she hasn't been able to do the Gazettes before they go on-line.

For the Gazettes, can you do us a favor by sending a duplicate of your 14 pages to goody1shu@cox.net. That's Paula Goodlett, the editor for the Gazettes and Jim Baen's Universe. Her other e-mail at 1632.org has been malfunctioning for a while. She can fix errors online at grantvillegazette.com but not in the downloadables from Baen webscriptions, because someone else in the hierarchy puts those up.

Thanks in advance.


Last edited by veasleyd1 on Fri May 30, 2008 7:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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MarianneM



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 374
Location: Houston, Texas

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 4:17 pm    Post subject: Yes, indeedy, I care about editing. It matters. Reply with quote

As a lot of you know because of my many rants, I made my living my entire working life as an editor and writer, and so did my husband. And, like dick, I dislike the deterioration of copy-editing and copy-reading in today's novels of all genres. It's now been three or four generations since the NEA decided that it wasn't important to teach English grammar and usage in "grammar schools" [which are no longer called that anyway] because the children could learn proper grammar and usage at home. Actually, they can't if their parents don't know correct grammar and usage. I tend to think the decision was made because teaching "by rote" learning is boring for the teacher and it is therefore hard to hold the interest of the students. Do it anyway. It's important.

At this point, however, it has become more than boring, if a former high school teacher thinks that "I could care less" means the same as "I couldn't care less." As someone pointed out earlier in this thread, it just flat doesn't mean the same, and this teacher gets a big fat zero on her test paper.

There's an eccentric English lady who's with me on this. She worries about punctuation. She wrote a short, funny little book called "Eats, shoots and leaves" [misplaced commas can change the whole meaning, can't they?] and goes around with chalk in hand, correcting incorrect English on signs. Good for her. If I were younger, and more agile, and living in England, I'd join her.

But correct grammar, thoughtful choices of words, and a knowledge of how to diagram sentences, are extremely important to writing clear prose. And darn few copy readers and copy editors know how to do this. [Yes, it's permissible in casual copy like letters and emails to start a sentence with a preposition, in case you're wondering why I did.]

My house is strewn with dictionaries and style books. We use them, my husband and I, even though we are now in our eighties, because we enjoy the ongoing beauty and mystery of the English language in all of its aspects. We still make mistakes in copy when we write articles or essays. When we were editing magazines, we could read and reread copy until our eyes crossed and yet some rascally typo or other error would miss our eagle eyes and creep into the published magazine. It happens. But we feel indignant that many schools aren't even trying to provide their students with knowledge of grammar and usage, and many of those students will be handicapped in the job market all of their lives because they don't have the tools to express themselves correctly and vividly.

Most authors know this, and most of them edit and reread their own copy many times before it is submitted to the publisher. Jayne Ann Krentz, a former librarian, has fewer editing and copy-reading errors in her books than a lot of authors. So does Jenny Crusie, and I could name quite a few more. The first line of defense against grammar and usage errors is the author himself or herself. It is my feeling that many times the publishers hire the latest B.A. graduates in English Lit. to do this very important job, and sometimes that's a mistake. They think they know everything at that point in time. Didn't you, when you had your shiny new diploma in hand? I know I did, until I found out I didn't, and got some humility.

I know it may be unfair to blame the NEA for this egregious mistake in planning. But I don't blame the English teachers in grammar schools and high schools. There are only so many hours in a day, and much of the curricula in schools is imposed by the powers-that-be in the school administration. So, to be fair, I'm going back to the top authorities here. It's your fault, NEA guys. Pretty soon we're going to have to set up secret English classes after school for bright people who want to learn to "write English right."

There. I feel better

MarianneM
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1369

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can give an example of American education in English language. I graduated from high school in 1972 and from college in 1976, so a lot has changed since I took any English classes. The only English classes I took through high school were mandatory. The confusion of “lie” and “lay” came up in a discussion on a romance list a few years ago, with a member from Germany having a better understanding than most of the American members (including me). If I had ever clearly learned the proper usage in school I had long forgotten it, so I pulled a few dictionaries and style books (which I tend to collect) and made sure I understood the correct usage. Since doing that three years ago I have noticed a lot of lay/laid errors (since most fiction uses past tense).
This was my post to that list a bit later:
Lay vs. Lie

I occasionally indulge myself with an order from Oxford University Press. I got a shipment from OUP today that included The Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words. Thinking of a recent thread here, I decided to see what it says about lay vs. lie. Here it is:
“lay 1 v. (past and past part. laid)
USAGE: The verb lay means, broadly, ‘put something down,’ as in _they are going to lay the carpet_. The past tense and the past participle of this verb is laid, as in _they laid the groundwork_ or _she had laid careful plans._ The verb lie, on the other hand, means ‘be in a horizontal position to rest,’ as in _why don’t you lie on the floor?_ The past tense of this verb is lay (_he lay on the floor_) and the past prticiple is lain (_she had lain on the bed for hours_). Thus, in correct use, lay can be either the past tense of lie or the base form of lay. In practice many speakers make the mistake of using lay, laying, and laid as if they meant lie, lying, lay, and lain. Examples of incorrect use: _why don’t you lay on the bed_ (correct form is lie); _she was laying on the bed_ (correct form is lying); _he had laid on the floor for hours_ (correct form is lain).”

So we have lie, lying, lay, had lain (be prone) and lay, laying, laid, had laid (put down).
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MarianneM



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 374
Location: Houston, Texas

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 10:31 pm    Post subject: grammar and verbs ... note to Mark Reply with quote

I always admire you, Mark, for your curiosity and tenacity in finding out what you want to know. I love your word lists too. Last year I bought two paperback texts which I think you might like. One is "Common Errors in English Usage" by Paul Brians. He also covers the lay/lie thing because it is one of the most persistently irritating mistakes to grammarians. The book is only 250 pages long, but it is packed with clear, useful information, and I advise any grade-school or high-school teacher who wants a quick, clear reference to show his/her students to get a copy. It's not expensive.

The other is equally good, I think. it's called "The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature" by Elizabeth Kantor, Ph.D. It, too, is paperback and only 277 pages long, including index. This book was not expensive either. I got them both through Amazon, delivered to my door, which is an advantage to me as I age.

MarianneM
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2498

PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yea, verily, MarianneM! I would opine, though, that linguists are more to blame than the NEA for the shift away from teaching grammar of the kind you discuss. When linguists decided that spoken English is the "true" language, grammar as you and I know it ceased to be important. They forgot that, when one is speaking to another person, it's quite easy to clear up misleading syntax. They chose to ignore the fact that written English requires more sophistication in its use than spoken English. Linguists, for example, will say that "I couldn't care less" and "I could care less" are equal for they are uttered with the same tone. If the phrases are spoken, I suppose they're correct. It's only us curmudgeons who think written English as important or more important than spoken who object.
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melann



Joined: 28 Apr 2007
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I graduated from high school in 1986, and diagram sentences we did, right up until graduation. I know perfectly well I need a refresher, but some of it has stuck with me. I'm not qualified to be a grammar nazi, but I can usually manage subject/verb agreement and a few other things.

As I entered the working world, however, it became obvious to me that others had not been so fortunate. I am daily appalled at some of the things that pass for professional business communications. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling all seem to be completely random at times. I understand that people make mistakes. It always irritates me to re-visit something I wrote and sent out, only to find an obvious error that I should have caught, but it can happen to anyone. Some of the finer points elude me, I know, so I try not to be too harsh on others, but good grief! Is it too much to expect the basics?

In my last job, I figured out that part of the problem is an over-reliance on spell-check software. A co-worker didn't grasp the basics of spelling in conjunction with context and failed to realize that the software couldn't do everything for her. She was prone to send out memos full of interesting word choices. It was a mystery to me how she could consistently produce memos full of correctly spelled words that had nothing to do with the subject of her memo, or even with each other. I caught her one day typing her memo and then using the spell-checker to clean it up. She just chose the first word on the list presented as being the best matches for what she typed, with not a care in the world as to whether that word bore any relationship whatsoever to the subject of her memo, much less her sentence. Given her poor spelling, the spell-checker didn’t stand much of a chance anyway.

She finally sent one that implied it was from both of us (she was senior to me, but we worked together at essentially the same job). The memo in question was even more incomprehensible than usual, and I do NOT enjoy being perceived as completely illiterate. I informed her that if she were ever again inclined to send out a memo from the both of us, I had better be given the opportunity to correct it first. After that, she always printed off anything she wanted to send out and gave it to me with a red pen so I could "fix" it. I went through more red pens than I would have believed possible before I left that job.

I have a similar situation with my boss in my current job. She knows better than to send emails to certain people without having me (or another co-worker) review them first. Anything more formal than an email always comes to us for review. She has the same reliance on spell-checker software, but she’s more prone to sentence fragments, subject/verb disagreement, and adding or omitting the “s” and “-ed” on words. She knows this, but she’s content to let someone else review her work rather than try to improve her own writing skills.

The down-side of all this is that now I’m prone to spelling errors in my own documents due to a reluctance to use the spell-checker software! I think I’ve become somewhat paranoid about it. I prefer re-reading my documents and finding the errors myself.
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1369

PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have participated in threads bemoaning poor editing and production values as long as I have been online. Such participation was one of the reasons I started keeping a log of errors I noticed in my recreational reading. A log gives me an objective summary of how many errors I’m actually running into. This is an issue in some error threads because of complaints about specific publishers or formats or changes over time.
What I record in my Typos.doc is the errors I notice while reading fiction for pleasure, not deliberately proofreading, so I strongly suspect that the actual error counts for most books are higher than my counts. With that caveat, here are a few conclusions from looking at my log.
I have recorded error counts for 847 books since I started keeping my log, so I believe my sample is large enough to trust my conclusions.
On the question of quality of printed books vs. ebooks, there are a few different ways to look at my numbers.
I have recently been rereading the Liad books in ebook form and my last previous reread was of printed versions. For the 5 books where I now have counts for both forms, ebook errors were more in every case: going from 4 to 5, 4 to 13, 1 to 4, 2 to 15 and 2 to 33.
Since my error log is not deliberately for use by anyone else, and stopping to log errors interferes with the flow of reading, in a few cases I have stopped logging the errors in a book when I saw that there were going to be a lot. 7 of those 12 cases have been ebooks.
Of the 847 readings logged, I noticed zero errors in 214 books. 165 of the 847 are ebooks. I noticed zero errors in 13 of those books. So the clean percentage is 25% of total books but only 8% of ebooks.
Taking the averages of the error counts, for all books the mean is 3.12 errors and for ebooks the mean is 5.92 errors.
I saw 10 or more errors in 71 books (8%) and 36 of them were ebooks (22%).
Every way I can think of to look at it, ebook editing definitely shows as poorer than printed book editing.
Sorting by publisher, I don’t see any print publishers with especially bad error rates except for Red Sage (the Secrets anthologies). Zebra has more books with high error counts than some publishers, but also has clean books, so the picture there is mixed. Harleqin did offend with their Heyer reprints in recent years, introducing many errors that were not present in earlier editions.
I read more recent releases than old books, but there are enough older books to partially address the question of whether editing is getting worse over time. Taking averages again:
1960s or earlier: 3.42 for 19 books
1970s: 3.73 for 15 books
1980s: 1.93 for 46 books
1990s: 3.58 for 117 books
2000s: 3.06 for 637 books
(I excluded the Harlequin Heyer reprints since I keep my log by copyright year rather than edition year, and the few ebooks that were so bad I only estimated their error counts.)
This suggests to me that the general level of editing may not have declined as much as we sometimes think and that a subset of books with really bad editing may cause the impression of declining standards.
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kspears



Joined: 11 Apr 2007
Posts: 376

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 9:01 am    Post subject: Book recommendation Reply with quote

Recommendation for all of you grammar afficionados:

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

Great book
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1369

PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2008 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This thread prompted me to email Baen Books and the editor of the Grantville Gazette, as well as submitting a long list of errata to the Sony help site. Since I didn’t hear back from Baen & couldn’t tell if the email ever got through, I recently started a thread in the Publisher’s Podium section of Baen’s Bar. If anyone here also hangs out there look for “Errors and editions”.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2008 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
This thread prompted me to email Baen Books and the editor of the Grantville Gazette, as well as submitting a long list of errata to the Sony help site. Since I didn’t hear back from Baen & couldn’t tell if the email ever got through, I recently started a thread in the Publisher’s Podium section of Baen’s Bar. If anyone here also hangs out there look for “Errors and editions”.


Do you want me to check with Toni and Paula as to whether they got your material? Paula had surgery three weeks ago and was sort of out of touch for a while.
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1369

PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know Paula G. got my email because she responded. It was Baen I wasn’t sure about, but I know from responses that they have now seen the posts in Baen’s Bar.
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Em



Joined: 30 Mar 2007
Posts: 189

PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2008 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marianne wrote:
As a lot of you know because of my many rants, I made my living my entire working life as an editor and writer, and so did my husband. And, like dick, I dislike the deterioration of copy-editing and copy-reading in today's novels of all genres. It's now been three or four generations since the NEA decided that it wasn't important to teach English grammar and usage in "grammar schools" [which are no longer called that anyway] because the children could learn proper grammar and usage at home. Actually, they can't if their parents don't know correct grammar and usage. I tend to think the decision was made because teaching "by rote" learning is boring for the teacher and it is therefore hard to hold the interest of the students.

I had stayed out of this thread because, too often, I feel as if I'm beating a dead horse when deploring the ever lowering standards of grammar and vocabulary in so many books. I'm not talking about styles of writing, just basic usage. ( I was also reluctant to discuss this topic because, after complaining about editing mistakes, I also couldn't help dreading making one of my own thereafter while posting! )

While not having as much longevity as Marianne, I totally agree with her that our educational chickens have come home to roost! I have labored in academia for many years, in a field that requires much writing. Every year seems to bring more grammatical and analytic deterioration among the young people I interact with, as well as in the more the general area of public discourse, journalism or literature. It is hard not to sound like some elderly curmudgeon, but I see it every day all around us. In just one foray around town, I saw a sign in a business for "Personal Only", heard a professor on the radio say that, "Me and my colleagues believe..."etc. etc. I'm sure that we all have myriad more examples.

But the original question posed was whether editing mistakes annoy readers--and boy, do they ever as far as I am concerned. What sparked this posting was this passage in a book I am presently reading:
..."Another explanation could be boredom. Nottingham is a quiet town compared to London. We have few diversities here...Chin up and eyes wide, she turned to look at him. "Am I a diversity, my lord?.."
I agree that sometimes these things can be amusing, but one can't help but wonder--like Marianne--aren't there any copy editors in these publishing houses that can spot stuff like this? Too often, they take me right out of the story, sometimes amused , other times massively irritated.
I suspect that, given the reliance on the use of computers, texting, spell-checking, and other electronic short-cuts, complaints like mine will soon be considered totally antiquated. Too bad...
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Audrey



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 194
Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your mention of bad grammar in areas like journalism reminds me that recently I was watching a reporter on a local station (nearby but a city of about a million people) interview a bystander. As the story started, my husband and I looked at each other and said, "Did she just say bystandard?"

Sure enough, just then there appeared under her picture the line where you usually see the person's name and perhaps job description, only this time it said "By Standard". I am not kidding.

So, while I'm no professional and I have to admit I don't notice things nearly as much as some of you do, I still think that the standard has become too low in professions where you would think they would know better.
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