I’m an editor. Once upon a time, I was a copy editor. I like words. I heart grammar. I think good grammar is important.
Sometimes, my friends tease me about this. Some people think that I critique every email they send, searching for misplaced modifiers and other grammatical errors.
I don’t. Not really. I read emails as emails, short, fast missives fired off in rapid succession. Grammatical errors are going to happen and I’ve made my own share of them. While I really do like the grammar to be as perfect as possible, I understand, overlook, and am not bothered by small mistakes in emails.
I do, however, have a problem with numerous errors that an intelligent editor should have caught. See, last night, I was reading a book. A book published by a large publishing company. A book with errors, and not just grammatical ones. See, when you read a book and you know the area being described you know how the names of cities and towns should be spelled. You know that it’s Campbellsville, Ken., not Campbellville. And then just a few pages over from that mention, there was the use of the word “emended.” To be fair, “emend” is a word, but it’s a verb, only a verb, and there aren’t really adjective forms of it. In this novel, the word “emended” referred to a set list, as in an “emended set list.” You can emend a set list, but if you’re using the word to describe a set list you’ve corrected and changed, the word you’re looking for in “amended.”
And I’m not going to lie: I found a pen and corrected these mistakes right in my paperback copy of Crazy Heart.
It kind of put a bad taste in my mouth to find several mistakes in the span of three pages, but I’ll keep reading. My advice to the publishing world is this, though: we often tend to think that a good copy editor or fact checker is a dime a dozen. That’s not true. Find good people who care about the language, grammar, and have pride in their work, rather than thinking you can hire anyone and teach them to be a copy editor.
In the meantime, I will be reading books with my editing pen in hand.