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Whatever happened to proofreading?

(25 Posts)
mimismo Sun 23-May-21 12:40:55

I'm currently reading a lot of ebooks because I can't afford to finance my reading habit, but the quality of the writing is terrible. I know a lot of errors creep in because the format of the book is changed by a computer, but why can't a human skim the new version as well and correct these errors? Often an 'm' slips in instead of 'th'. The book I'm currently reading has ''Th' for 'I'. It's gradually driving me back to paper. Mind you, at great expense I bought all the Georgette Heyer romances around 15 years ago and while those of the 1998 edition are fine, the 2005 edition is terrible, with many spelling mistakes. It goes so far as to change the name of one character and make a nonsense of the page/plot. It also changes Dower House to Dover House, again making a nonsense of the page.
What has happened to proofreading?!!!! I'd volunteer myself but no-one seems to care.

Baggs Sun 23-May-21 12:46:42

I have volunteered at work to proof read, correct spelling mistakes, and slim down turgid policies and procedures. In fact, since I have to sign a document to say I've read the often ridiculous things, I've started to write editorial corrections on them in pencil already.

The worst fault though is their excessive verbosity. You can often reduce two A4 sides of rubbish to two sentences.

Septimia Sun 23-May-21 12:47:01

I agree - lots of typos and other errors in the ebooks I read. I spend a lot of time, especially with certain authors, sending in reports of mistakes.

I've just taken a subscription to a - printed - magazine which has really interesting articles. Most of the articles in the latest edition are really badly written, especially with regards to punctuation. What are the editors doing?

A while ago I tried to read a book from the library which was recommended by a friend. I couldn't get past the first few pages as the grammar and puctuation made it almost unintelligible.

25Avalon Sun 23-May-21 12:48:05

There isn’t a book that’s been printed that doesn’t have at least one error somewhere. Having said that there do seem to be a lot of errors these days probably down to predictive text altering what you have typed and computers not knowing the difference between there and their. Spelling doesn’t seem to be a strong point these days and neither does pronunciation- I would be embarrassed if I mispronounced some words showing my ignorance.

ninathenana Sun 23-May-21 12:52:49

My brother was a freelance proof reader and has worked on some very technical reports. He's retired now but I think I remember him saying that your average publishing company no longer employ P.R.s

Witzend Sun 23-May-21 14:15:01

I’ve done proofreading for a major publisher - galley proofs of whole novels. It’s very time consuming - I used to have to put a ruler under each line, otherwise it was far too easy for your eye to skim and miss things. Especially for a quick reader like me.

But TBH I don’t think the quality of editors is what it was, either. They mostly have a degree in English, but it would seem that you don’t necessarily need to be able to spell to achieve one of those any more.

In a fairly new and enjoyable novel I just read, the blurb about the author stated that he was an ‘alumni’ of the University of X. Yes, I know that’s not strictly English but I winced anyway.

SueDonim Sun 23-May-21 14:23:14

I’m enjoying a murder mystery historical novel right now. I was astonished to find that people on ships of the Dutch East India Company in the 1600’s said ‘Okay’ to each other! confused

Witzend Sun 23-May-21 14:31:04

Not proofreading, but I once had a good laugh to read a review of a romantic novel set (IIRC) on the Welsh Borders in the 11th century.
The reviewer praised the ‘authentic’ dialogue! 🤣
Though to be entirely fair it was in an American publication, so the reviewer would perhaps be less clued-up than a native of our shores.

MerylStreep Sun 23-May-21 14:38:10

Most of my working life was in the printing trade ( machine & hand sewing)
I think the last time I saw a proof reader was in the 1970s.

silverlining48 Sun 23-May-21 14:44:23

I often forget to proofread emails etc and posts until after I have pressed send. Then I spot all the mistypes ...I think this iPad is rogue as whatever I type it does what it likes.

kathsue Sun 23-May-21 15:03:17

Letters from school containing grammatical and spelling errors used to really annoy me. What chance do the children have if the teachers can't write a decent letter.

M0nica Sun 23-May-21 15:05:44

minismo The problem with the rrors in ebooks has nothing to do with proof reading, well only a tiny bit, and everything to do with the software used to turn a lot of books into electronic format.

New books are prepared on computer and the same file goes to both the printer and forms the electronic versions, but most books were written and published before this system came in so the books only exist in printed format.

What happens with these is that the books are scanned onto the computer from a paper copy, using OCR (optical character reading) software, which can and does make mistakes and these versions are certainly not proof read,

A classic example are the novels of Georgette Heyer, someone mentioned her up thread, which are still very popular. She died in the early 1970s so all the electronic versions of her books are based on scanning a paper copy of the novel and any mistakes the OCR software makes will be left in because these files are certainly not proof read.

It gets worse when you download the, admittedly free, books available from Project Guttenburg. These books have all been made accessible thank to eager volunteers, who read books and then scan them so other people can do so as well. they are using home compyer systems and the quality of the OCR software is very variable, and so is the quality of the scans.

PaperMonster Sun 23-May-21 18:14:32

Strangely enough, this week I have visited the website of a new children’s magazine where the proofreader is actually credited. I’m reading a book to my daughter that hasn’t been proofread and I’m not sure if it’s Aunt Mary Maria or Aunt Mary Marie!!

I proofread our departmental literature at work, but I cringe at one of the contracts that has been put together by an outside organisation, but which we use, as it’s dreadful!!

I’ve also spent this past week proofreading a dissertation for someone with Dyslexia. I love proofreading!

BBbevan Sun 23-May-21 18:19:22

I have just written a book and am in the process of proof reading it. I am on my 5th read through, and still finding errors. I swear they grow overnight. Not an easy thing to do

MerylStreep Sun 23-May-21 18:32:05

A compositor would never read his ( there weren’t any hers 😯) own work. The thinking was obviously that they had set it so therefore less likely to spot a mistake.

CraftyGranny Sun 23-May-21 18:43:49

I am just looking at a leaflet lwft by United Utilities letting me know that they have EXHANGED my water meter!

CraftyGranny Sun 23-May-21 18:44:36

whoops, didn't proof read that did I

Aveline Sun 23-May-21 18:48:14

My first proof reader turned the whole book into American English. It was horrific and took a lot of work to restore it!

Lin52 Sun 23-May-21 18:56:50


My first proof reader turned the whole book into American English. It was horrific and took a lot of work to restore it!

I can understand that, have just read an e book, supposedly set in Sussex, by an English author. There are so many Americanism in it , it made me quite dizzy as to where this place actually was, sidewalk, homicide, police lieutenant, poor work, glad it was free. Guess it was copy read by a Mac, 😃

sodapop Sun 23-May-21 21:43:48

I find it so annoying when I'm reading and there are spelling errors or wrong words used. One or two are acceptable but more than that and I lose interest in the book.

Savvy Sun 23-May-21 22:11:50

I can't comment on ebooks as I don't read them, I like paper books, but I have spotted several errors on news websites too. Even the BBC who are supposed to have a minium standard for written English, have articles littered with errors.

I read an article on the poor whale that was stranded in The Thames and it changed from a minke in the main report, to a humpback in the caption beneath the photo.

I do wonder if its sloppy editing or just laziness.

absent Sun 23-May-21 22:32:52

It is much easier to miss a mistake when proof-reading on screen than doing so on paper. However, I suspect that there is too much reliance on spell checks etc. and not enough professional checking.

Btw if you really want to know how demanding proof-reading can be, try knitting or crochet patterns.

M0nica Mon 24-May-21 07:45:33

I think the whale was originally identified as a humpback, but later this was changed to it being a minke whale. News is very fast moving and the photo and caption would be linked, so if the pciture was used in another bulletin the caption would go with it.

A lot of news content will have been spoken by someone into a microphone into voice recognition software, which, like OCR is not perfect.

For over a decade DD worked as a television subtitler, mainly doing live subtitling for news and live events. When she started doing it, she first had to spend 6 months 'training' the software to recognise her voice and how she pronounced words, but with a live event, if the software gets it wrong you have only a few seconds to correct it and if it still gets it wrong, too bad, it is on everyone's screens.

Some of her stories of the voice recognition software getting completely the wrong end of the stick have now entered family foklore.

grandtanteJE65 Tue 25-May-21 11:56:51

Hiring a person to read proofs is too expensive.

Another point is that books are commonly printed wherever it is cheapest - for years various British publishers had their books printed in Czechoslovakia, as it was then. That didn't matter if the proofs had been read by two proof-readers and the author, but those days are long past.

I imagine e-books are similarly prepared where the costs are lowest.

We all know what happens if you rely too heavily on Microsoft's spell checker, don't we?

Probably some readers never notice all these mistakes, some cannot spell themselves, others don't care. That leaves all of us who do care and obviously give up reading books published by firms that make too many mistakes.

M0nica Tue 25-May-21 12:39:40

Nowadays a publisher will have produced one computer file for a publication and that will be sent to the printer and be printed without any further processing. The same file will also be the source of the digital version. So where it is printed is immaterial.

Text does not need to be typeset, so no errors are introduced at that stage. In fact the author has probably submitted the text to the publisher as a computer file.

I edited a learned journal for quite some years. Everything from editing to proof reading was done by volunteers, albeit some of us had publishihg experience. We had a whole team of experienced proof readers and proof reading took a long time - and mistakes still got missed. The cost of proof reading, had we been paying for it , would have run into thousands.

The problem with many magazine articles, is, as suggested, the excessive reliance on spell checkers, but also often the junior staff given the job of preparing the text for publication do not know much about the subject of the article.

I picked up a house magazine in Smiths once,that had an article about fireplaces in old houses and mentioned the 'bressumer', which is the big wooden beam you see going across the top of the fireplace in cosy old country pubs. The article had been run through the spellchecker, which not recognising the word had replaced it with something entirely different that had absolutely no connection with fireplaces and was absurd in context but the junior concerned had done nothing about it because, presumably, she knew nothng about the subject of the article. The magazine was printed - and the editor had to publish an apology in the next issue, because so many people contacted them about the ridiculous mistake.